We have powerful voices and stories that need to be heard. Check out the stories below from youth throughout Indian Country and be sure to share your story today!
I’ve been on the heavy side for as long as I can remember. I didn’t mind it when I was little and neither did the other little kids in my pre-schools or kindergarten class, or first grade class because what little kid focuses on another kids appearance? For the first six years of my life I lived in a small town where all the kids went to the same school from elementary to high school. I was a happy, carefree kid that had many friends and loved meeting new people. I never met a cruel person when I lived there. But that changed when I moved to the city. Going from a small town to a big city was a huge cultural shock. The kids at my new school weren’t as welcoming like the ones at my old school. I didn’t transfer in the middle of the year, I finished first grade at my old school so I had a fresh start the new school year. My second grade teacher was really nice and welcoming but the students, they were more standoffish than anything. I didn’t understand why I played by myself during recess when the other kids played with each other. Even at a young age, they had their own groups that carried over from first grade and younger.
I didn’t make my first friend until the next year in third grade. We were seated next to each other since our last names were next to each other in the class list. Hers being Saeed and mine being Spencer. She was (still is) an excellent drawer at a young age. We first started talking when I complimented her drawing and she offered to teach me how to draw the same character. After that we were (still are) attached at the hip.
The depression didn’t set in until I got into middle school. It’s been my dream to attend this all girl private school so I took the entrance exam and got accepted. My parents couldn’t afford it, but since I was the baby of the family, they somehow made it happen.
It was just like second grade all over again except this time it was a bit worse. The girls came from rich, white, suburban families and I came from a middle class, inner city family. That kind of created distance between me and the other girls, not to mention the girls grew up with each or went to the same elementary school and back then I was a tomboy and was all into skater shoes while they were into skirts and dresses.I never heard anything rude, but I saw the judgmental stares and how they excluded me a lot. The only thing positive about this year was that my niece was born.
Middle school was when I started to self-harm. I always wore long sleeves or a hoodie to hide the cuts. At the end of the year, my parents have transferred me to a public school that my older sister attended. At that school I heard the insults. The “fat ass”, the “how are you and Brandi related? She’s pretty, you’re not”. I heard it all. The self-harm got worse, but I did make one friend.
Middle school soon became high school and in ninth grade my older sister found out about my self-harming. She told my parents and we sat down and had a talk. There was a lot of crying. After ninth grade I started to focus more on making myself happy, I made more friends and a drift happened between me and my first friend. I believe she didn’t like the idea of me being happy or making new friends, but then again she did have separation issues. She later became clingy, texting my sister or mom to find out where I was or what I was doing. We slowly became distant.
Our friendship was strained, but we still manage to hang out and talk with each other. That was until our junior year that she got a boyfriend. In our junior year, our friendship was only being held together by dental floss. One wrong move and that would end it. I was happy that she found someone and was happy because she deserved it, but our conversations soon became one sided where I had to send multiple messages just for her to send a one word reply. Her boyfriend later inboxed me and told me to stop talking to her. I didn’t listen and kept talking to her.
It wasn’t until the middle of our junior year where our friendship fell apart because of him. He started a fight on Twitter, where I immaturely fought back. He somehow got my friend on his side and she basically told me to never talk to her again. So that’s what I did. I left her and her boyfriend alone and grew closer to my other friends.
I never talked to or about them, but her boyfriend seem to make it his sole purpose to always start trouble with me and it was always over Twitter. Our last fight, he told me to kill myself. But I clearly didn’t listen because I wouldn’t have written this if I did. That didn’t bother me as much as the fact that she told him basically everything I told her. That hurt because I never told anyone any of hers.
But now, I’m happier. Her boyfriend now lives in Florida and they aren’t relevant in my life anymore. I no longer care about what people think about me. I’m no longer scared of wearing certain clothing like dresses, skirts, tanks, and shorts. I reconnect with an old friend and life couldn’t be any better. :)
Khani Priest SanPoil and Arrow Lakes, age 17, is from Washington .Khani is passionate about supporting her friends. I wanted to share my graduation speech:
Hello good morning, my name is Khani Priest. I am SanPoil and Arrow Lakes. My mom is Khristy Covington. My dad is Monte Priest. My maternal grandpa is Leo Covington. My maternal grandma is Marilyn Denise Covington. My paternal grandpa is Tex Priest. My paternal grandma is Donna Jane. Before I began, are there any kids here who live on the reservation? Lets hear you. Good, now I want to dedicate my speech to you all. So listen carefully.
My life has been full of struggles; since I was born to the present. I have experienced the effects of alcohol on a family. I have experienced the effects of drug abuse on a family. I have survived the violent yelling matches and fights between parents. I was raised by only my mother after age eight. I grew up living in four different houses in four different areas.
I started at Lake Roosevelt High school my ninth grade year. Before that I went to Omak Middle School, and I went to Paschal Sherman Indian School for my elementary years. I went through one of my biggest challenges so far when I lost my grandma towards the end of my eighth grade year and I was never the same. She was my best friend and my greatest role model. My ninth grade year was tough. I was suffering from depression and had no one to lean on. I came really close to committing suicide. I then lost my dad in August of 2017, right before my senior year began. I know many of you including my fellow classmates have faced similar challenges. I am reaching out to all of you today, and I am going to try and make you understand that life is worth living. Your education is worth striving for. Life will get better; the trial will pass, and you will come out on top. I know this from experience. I can assure you, you are not alone. Reach out to me, your family, or friends. Share your story with one person; one single person can make a difference in your life. Know that you're not as weak or timid as you might think. You have had the, strength to survive this long, there is no use to throw that precious time away. You are loved by someone and you have the strength and courage to face all your challenges. We, as Native Americans and young people, are made to persevere.
I am talking to you not only as salutatorian of my class, but also as a Native American student who has carved her own path. Everyone up here, behind me today has gone or is going through their own trials. We are still here, which means we are still fighting. We will continue to fight until we succeed. I, along with the rest of this class, will show you youngsters how it's done and we will set the example and prove anything is possible. I challenge all of you to face down your trials and walk/run/jog your path courageously. I will also leave you with a secret; you are not alone. You have people encouraging you from the sidelines, whether you know it or not and I will be· the first to admit, I am cheering you on.
Thank you for listening. And thank you for coming to celebrate our milestone with us today. Limlimt.
I don't look like a native. So when I tell people I am Cherokee they act surprised. There were alot of people around me that were negative about it. They would wonder why the culture was important to me if i was "barely" Indian. It was starting to get to me. I thought to myself I am Indian. It was the culture I grew up learning about at home, it inspired my personal style and my outlook on life. When I went into college I changed who I surrounded myself with...people who were positive and liked me for who I was. I started to realize that nobody knew myself better than I did, and in my heart I felt Indian; nobody could take that away from me and no one will. I know my family history and I'm proud of it. I am proud to be a part of a culture and a people that has endured so much. "If you have one drop of Indian blood in you, then you are an Indian." Cheif Black Elk.
-Lacey Bowles (Cherokee), age 22, is from Kansas and is passionate about her animals :)
When my grandma makes fry bread and asks me to help her, I go to the big bowl of flour and run my fingers through the soft, silky white flour. I see her
come back with a pot of warm water; I put my hands in, feeling how soft it is one last time until she pours in the water. I start mixing with my hands;
at first it feels almost gooey and slippery. As I keep mixing, it turns really sticky until my grandma has to add some more flour to the mixture. I
look down at it; it looks really soft and a little bit lumpy on the top, and has a very light beige color to it. I’m a little sad I have to take my
hands out…. But I do. My grandma gets a lid from under the sink and lets it sit for about 15 minutes.
When my grandma uncovers it, it smells like dirt after it rains. She takes a small piece, kneading it until it gets a little bigger than her palm.
She then starts flipping it back and forth on her hands in circular motions. I stand next to her watching; every time she flips it, I can still
smell the scent of rain, as a slight breeze goes across my face. As she does that, she asks me to get the lard and a frying pan, and to heat up
the pan with some lard in it. I do as she says; when the dough is ready to be put in, I can hear the crackling sounds of the grease. When she puts
in the dough, she leaves it until the bottom of it turns into a crispy golden brown; as it cooks, I can smell it cooking into perfection. When
it’s done she comes back and slowly flips it on the other side; as she does it, the scent gets stronger.
When it’s done, she takes it out, carefully putting it in a bowl while making some more. I tear off a small piece. I hold it in my hand, feeling the warmth on my skin; I take a bite, feeling how soft it is on the inside and how crispy it is on the outside. When she’s done making all the fry bread, the whole family comes to the table, waiting to be dished out some mutton stew with a piece of fry bread. Everyone is laughing, talking, smiling, and having such a nice time. Even the smallest things like making meals can make everyone so happy.
-Lauralyn (Navajo), age 14, is from Sawmill AZ and is passionate about volleyball, and frybread :) I love BTS. I have a best friend named Maddie.
I go to school at St Michaels Indian School and I have three cats Pepper, JoJo and Bonnie.
The most revolutionary week of my life, the days I grew the most, was at Standing Rock. I had the chance to watch the grandmothers laugh together, the babies run and play around their tipis, and all of our men sing together at the sacred fire. I felt so proud to be indigenous, and I knew that I would do anything to protect and lead my people when it's time. I learned to love my roots and who I am, and I was blessed to have the ability to learn how to act as an integral part of my community.
-Lexine Salazar Tsalagi (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Anikwi Clan), age 18, is from Denver, Colorado and is passionate about being a protector, prayer
woman, and young leader for my people.
Growing up, I was that shy kid who kept to myself and was terrified to speak in front of the class during presentations or to introduce myself. I used to think that I didn't matter or my voice couldn't be heard. But after attending the Futures for Children Youth Leadership Summit in ABQ, New Mexico I learned to break out of my shell, talk more, and find my voice. I had the opportunity to talk with other youth around my age, learn about other cultures besides my own, make new friends, and gain the knowledge on how to become a leader. By listening to the different Native American guest speakers, participating in the workshops, and getting involved, I found that we as native youth did matter, had our own voices, and have the power to make a difference. Seeing all of the problems that go on in my tribe, I want to get my voice heard, along with other youth to help make a change in our communities for the better. If it wasn't for the support and guidance from the staff of the Futures for Children organization, I would probably still be that shy kid who was afraid to get involved and break out of his comfort zone.
-Roger Beyal (Navajo), age 19, is from Brimhall, NM and is passionate about being a voice for Native youth, and teaching others about his culture and traditions.