Many communities in the United States, including many tribal communities, have Gangs in them. And some of these Gangs have been around for a long time and over many generations. It isn’t surprising that many people in these communities find themselves (both male and female) having to make a decision about whether or not to join. While some youth make the mistake of becoming involved in a gang, most people, including many people who deal with some incredibly hard decisions in their life, choose not to become gang-involved.
When Gangs are all around you, it may seem normal to join. A person’s environment and the people in it can make it seem normal or natural to join a gang. It is really hard to avoid these temptations, especially when everything around you seems to point to the gang life, but there are other outlets such as sports, getting good grades, art, music, writing, learning traditional culture, getting a part time job and any other after school or cultural activity.
There’s always hope for the future. Sometimes we have a tendency to focus on what appears to be the positive or fun aspects of joining a gang, such as hanging out with friends, prestige and the feeling of protection. And we may not understand or we may choose to ignore, the negative side of the gang life, including violence and fear and substance abuse.
Sometimes finding hope comes in the simplest ways and in every neighborhood or environment – getting an A on an exam or even a C in a really hard subject; making the football team or getting a part time job; hanging out with a group of friends who will encourage you and believe in you for who you are and not for what someone expects you to be. It’s important to remember that the future holds great promise for each of us if we make good decisions along the way.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.
Special Thanks: Christopher Grant
National Native American Gang Specialist