I am a lover of cardigans and wear specs in a contact lens kind of world. On the outside I look white. However I am anything but. I am the daughter of an Irish Ojibway Indian and a German. Greatful to be raised in the traditions of the past and strong enough to make a difference. A difference in the lives of reservation kids. Working hard to abolish mascots and raising awareness of Native American culture and history. This is my path and it is one I walk proudly on.
Walking this road can be hard some days. It is not easy, the stigmas of the past still present in the modern world. Living with the knowledge that my Grandfather was taken from his mother. Why, because someone believed “Kill the Indian, save the child.” He was robbed of his language, his hair cut, and his buck skins traded in for rough cotton clothes. He was told “you are no longer Red Squirrel. You are now Clifford Raymond.” My Grandfather was forced to believe in a bible that he didn’t understand. His way of life was no longer.
My grandfather was lost in the western way of life. He like most Indian’s turned to the bottle. Inside he found comfort and the pain it started to fade with each sip. He managed to marry an Irish woman, fathered 13 children, and tried to run a farm. Farming wasn’t his thing he had more kids than he could care for. Yet, he did the best he could. Thats what any lost Indian does. When they aren’t knee-deep in the bottle they do the best they can to survive.
Indian people are resilient. They can make nothing into something and still believe in a better day. I am part of the seventh generation. Our ancestors predicted that the seventh generation would unite the people and bring change to the land. We are doing that. Change is rising each day. Each day a child on the reservation chooses education over a life of addiction. With each diploma, with each child who comes back and makes a difference. Who leads their reservation into the modern world. I am a part of that change motivating our youth to seek college and to change the world around them. Teaching ACT prep to the students via Skype and in person. Often meeting in the school or casino banquet halls. These kids are our future and words cannot describe how bright it is. Offering kind words and parenting skills to parents during visitation monitoring sessions. Lending an ear to a battered woman and whispering it will be all right into a child’s ear.
They may be broken, worn out, and down on their luck. However these are my people and I will be damned if I turn my back on them. I am who I am because of my ancestors who died in the name of justice. My great uncles started the first Indian run news paper in the 1920’s called the Tomahawk. To this day it is the oldest Native American run paper in the country. My other great-uncle was the first Indian to be appointed to the bench. Serving as a federal judge. He is my inspiration and the reason why I love the law. My great great Grandmother is chief Skywoman the only female war chief of the Ojibway nation. Her blood runs through me and her legacy is the reason I am here. She believed in a better day where her people would be free.
That better day has come and the time is now. I am living proof that times change. I am proud to be a biracial woman and proud of my Ojibway heritage. The Ojibway people ground me, their stories entertain me, and mostly they remind me to fight for what I believe in. To never give up and to walk the red road. A road lined with tears and broken whiskey bottles, one that only Indians can tread upon. That is the road I chose. My Grandfather suffered and endured so that I could achieve the American dream. I owe it to my Grandfather to stand tall and help those around me reach that dream.