I want to see justice done for the young Lakota students from American Horse who were the targets of the demented behavior of drunk white men at the Civic Center last month. Many people are justifiably angry over this incident. But what about the similar alcohol related incidents happening on every Rez?
Right now there are children living in homes with adults who put them at risk. I think it’s safe for me to say that we are all aware that alcoholism is a scourge our people have not been able to completely overcome. We all know about the homes where children are often in harm’s way because of adults who drink alcohol, use drugs or gamble. Many children do not have enough to eat because of the adult’s addictions. Where is our outrage about that?
I realize there was alleged racism tied to the incident that happened at the Rush hockey game. Personally, I’ve learned to accept that most racist people will likely never change. Also, most racist people will probably not admit to being racist. Alcohol generally lowers our inhibitions. So when those men had had too much to drink, it was easy for them to utter their racist taunts.
Racism aside, you and I both know of children who have had beer or other alcoholic drinks spilled on them in their own homes. We might know of children who live in homes where adults are smoking meth or snorting prescription pills. Many children grow up watching regular drinking parties in their own living rooms. Some children are the victims of crimes which happen while the adults they trust blacked out or passed out because they had too much to drink. Why isn’t the media all over these crimes?
So many people say the children are sacred. But I have learned that this phrase is largely lip service. If we really believe our children are sacred, we would be doing more to help them have a better life. Our Lakota children deserve a happy life, free of the stress of living in a home with alcohol or drug addicted parents. They deserve a life where they do not have to worry about what they are going to eat for supper (if anything) or if there are any clean clothes to wear to school tomorrow.
The same level of outrage—which is being expressed over the hockey game incident—could be expressed over the conditions some of our children are living in on our reservations. I wonder what the children who live in alcoholic homes (where beer might be spilled on them regularly) are thinking. They may be questioning why no one is addressing the alcohol parties happening in their own homes.
Sometimes alcohol isn’t a factor in the abuse our children suffer. Last evening I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a few things. I noticed a man in the story who was not wearing a coat, even though it was very cold outside. This man seemed very friendly and was being very sociable with several other customers in the store. He seemed like an okay guy.
I often must remind myself to never judge a book by its cover.
When I paid for my groceries and went out the door, there were two small children standing outside the door. Neither one had coats on. I asked the little girl where her coat was and wasn’t she cold? She said no. Then the man with no coat on, who I initially thought was an okay guy, came out and started yelling the F word at those two little children.
All three of them got into a suburban to leave. I could still hear the man yelling obscenities at the two small children. Every other word seemed to be the F word. How much do you want to bet me that those little children will be using the F word regularly when they enter Head Start?
I could have confronted the man about his behavior but I didn’t. Too many times the bad behavior of adults is turned on someone who tries to intervene. He probably would have started yelling the F word at me. Maybe my behavior is just as bad as his because I chose not to say anything.
I wondered about that little boy and girl all night.
We have to do more to make sure our children are safe, both at home and while at public events. Our Lakota youth deserve to have a life free of intoxicated adults. They also deserve to have a life free of adults who regular yell the F word at them. I want you to be a sober role model for the children in your family. I also want you to think about the power of the words that spew from your mouth. The F word carries negative energy. We would do well to eliminate the F word from our vocabulary.
I pray for our children every single day. Last night I came home and burned cedar for those two little kids.