Somewhere on the Rez, there is a very worried Mom

Sicangu teen girls participating in an awareness activity at Ghost Hawk Park in 2014

Sicangu teen girls participating in an awareness activity at Ghost Hawk Park in 2014

Summer is usually a time when teenagers will stay up all hours of the night and sleep in the next day. Summer is also a time when there is a lot more activity happening at night on the streets of our reservation communities. It’s a time when parents and grandparents tend to be more concerned about the safety of their teens.

Lately, I have heard of numerous incidents where teen girls take off from their homes to be with their friends. Sometimes parents will wake up to find their teen gone from the home. Many moms and dads will spend many frustrating hours looking for their teenager.

It’s really hard to be the parent of a teenager in today’s reservation society. Those of us who choose to live on the Rez have a difficult time keeping track of our teens. It seems as though our children reach a certain age where they will rebel. They will leave their homes without permission to go and stay with friends. Many will only return home when their parents locate them, usually after searching for many hours, days or even weeks.

There are parents who don’t really seem to care. They allow their teenager to come and go as they please. But when young people leave without the permission of a parent, it’s hard on the family. This is especially true when the mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandparent fails to locate the teenager. It’s even harder on the family when we have many adults on the Rez who knowingly lie to other adults regarding the whereabouts of their teenagers.

This happens a lot on my Rez. In fact, it was happening when I was a teenager. I remember one incident when I was a teen where a young lady ran away from her parents to spend time with her boyfriend. The police eventually went into the boyfriend’s home and searched the house. The teenager was nowhere to be found. Later, I learned the police couldn’t find the girl because the adult members of the house had lied about her being there. They hid her in a pile of laundry.

Incidents like this cause parents and other family members unnecessary worry. Especially nowadays when human trafficking is happening on a regular basis in areas near the reservations. As parents, I believe we have all imagined terrible things happening to our teenagers when we don’t know where they are.

Today, there is a whole lot of danger on the streets of our communities. Wannabe gangsters, highly addictive drugs, alcohol and increased levels of violence are common on my Rez. With all the terrible things happening now on our homelands, it isn’t right to put other families through needless suffering by lying about a teenager who wants to hide in your home.

Last week I listened to my tribal council discuss the problem of young people out on the streets after curfew. There is a lot of drinking and drugging going on within our young population. But what about the adults who provide alcohol and drugs to our young people? There are too many adults not being held accountable for contributing to minors.

There are also many adults not being held accountable for hiding minors from their parents. It’s not right for adults to cause needless mental and emotional anguish to other adults by harboring teenagers in their homes. How much information does law enforcement need before they can search someone’s home to make sure there are no runaway teens hiding there?
I also heard the tribal council discuss amending the law and order code to increase the penalty for curfew violations. Many people on my Rez would like to see the tribal council amend the laws to toughen the penalties against adults who knowingly and willingly hide teenagers from their parents. Adults who knowingly conceal teenagers from their parents should be charged with kidnapping.

Teenagers who run away from their homes and are hidden by adults is a big problem. The adults should know better. Those adults who are harboring runaways in their homes need to practice a little empathy. Think about how you would feel if it were your teen being hidden away from you by another adult.

You’re not a good role model when you knowingly allow a teen to stay in your home while the parents are frantically searching for them. I know many adults who do this and I have no respect for any of them because they cause other parents unnecessary worry.

I believe it’s criminal for adults to hide a teenager. In fact, their actions could be defined as a crime under the RST law and order code. They could be charged under Title 5 of the Criminal Code, specifically 5-20-1: Contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which reads:

“Any person who: (1) Sells or gives to or otherwise makes any alcoholic beverage available to a person under the age of 18 years; or (2) By act or omission, encourages, causes, or contributes to the delinquency of a person under the age of 18 years; is guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. It is no defense to this section that the person charged did not know or that the minor was in fact under the age of 18 years. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a Class B crime.”

On the Rosebud Reservation, a Class B crime carries a maximum penalty of a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), plus court costs. I bet the harboring of teens would stop if people had to pay $500 to the Tribal Court.

The adults on my Rez need to grow up and stop harboring teenage runaways.

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