It ain’t easy being Indian… and unintentionally hurting feelings

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By Ricey Wild
News From Indian Country April 2012
 
Writing this column for nearly 14 years now I have always been careful not to call anyone out in particular lest there be hurt feelings and they want to beat me up. This does not include the public cast of characters that are always in the media; them anyone can talk about. Well darn it, in a recent column I was writing about my job, and that ‘an old misery’ had it before me. People said that person only had the job of documenting the Rez cemeteries because they couldn’t get along with anybody else. I got a good response for that column. Fans wrote, called and one even said it was my best one ever…well, not according to some very special and important people in my life.

I had been out from work because my back, which was injured this past fall, was worsening so I was medical leave. When I finally got back and checked my correspondence I had the sweetest, most nice non-harshly worded angry letter from my friend Christine. She wrote she was disappointed that I would call out our mutual friend Leroy out, that he didn’t deserve what I had written and that I was rotten (my words) for doing so. I wrote her back immediately, first that I was NOT referring to Leroy as the old miz, and I feel awful for having unintentionally hurt his feelings. I told her who I actually meant and Christine said, “Ohhhh!” She knows of the person, the real old miz.
 
First off Leroy, I apologize. It did occur to me after the column was published that you might take it to mean you; I assure you it is not. You are not a misery at all; I cherish our friendship and the time you have taken to impart your knowledge, wisdom and sharing funny stories with me. To be very clear, you’re the last person I would ever accuse of being an Old Misery. Gawd knows Rezberry has way more than its share and you, Leroy Defoe do not qualify. Mea culpa, or in today’s parlance, my bad.

Many moons ago (ay!) when I was in seventh grade, new to the city, new to the school, new to the hierarchy of said school. Phillips Jr. High was in the Big City and had about one-third Indian kids from all over enrolled there. When I lived up North I attended a school with mostly white kids even though there are three large reservations around the town. Okay so here is me, all country, chubby, insecure and lonely in my new surroundings. I tried to stay unnoticed but that was not my path.

One day I was innocently walking along, no, actually I was skipping class and hiding by the gym when one of the baddest, meanest girls came toward me with her Hate Posse in tow. Becky had this triumphant look on her face as she approached, my knees were shaking. She came up to me nose to nose and said this, which I have never forgotten, “I heard joo was talkin’ about me!” in the thickest Rez accent ever. Becky then slapped me a good one across my face, and satisfied by that she left.
 
That incident was not my first experience of bullying but right after that I got me some friends, tough little Indian kids who were street smart and savvy. And bad…very, very bad. So of course I had to come with it right? I was awful! I bought in to the ridiculous notion that being cool is all that really mattered and my grades? Not so much. I ran the halls, skipped school, I smoked my first cigarettes, I learned how to get drunks to buy beer for us and for all that I was plunked in to a program which was run by former prison inmates. The idea must have come from that iconic 70’s movie “Scared Straight” as in don’t do what I do, do as I say.
Fortunately for me I did get out of there but not before joining a girl gang, we called it a gang, more like a group really…there were only three of us and we did it so we had each other’s back in case of a fight. I have the tats to prove it.

The reason I’m sharing this is that I care. I know there is extreme pressure on kids to join a group, to fit in and be cool. I went through that, my son went through it too as have many other young people who know better. Your Antie Ricey says to yooz; be yourself. Don’t allow anyone else to define who you are. And study, dangit! We need you kids to sustain our Nations.

Above all have love for your own selves, you deserve it. BTW-I love yooz too.
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