Some of us our bound to the disparity rates by proximity. We’re born into communities where tragedies cause trauma and we’re left to help, heal, and support those around us. And it happens far too often. One Cherokee shot this week, and another killed days later. Families losing loved ones to early death or incarceration. Not to mention the addiction, crime, and chaos that follows, leaving another generation of youth damaged, another generation of grandparents raising grandchildren, and another set of adults to repeat the same thing year after year.
I’ve been working to heal historical trauma for twenty years. And sometimes it feels like the problems that existed when I started my young career–in an all Native group home–nearly two decades ago still exist today. What’s changed? Brown bodies are still syphoned into a callous system meant to destroy us–not heal us.
When these tragedies hit close to home, it’s hard for me to not reflect a little harder and deeper about the issues. I seem to always be caught in this mental space where I’m looking for solutions–a new way to approach the process of decolonization. What we’re doing right now doesn’t seem to be working! The cycles aren’t ending. I keep seeing a new version of the old oppression. It has a new face, certainly, but the outcomes are the same. One Native in the dirt and another goes to prison.
My five-year-old daughter shouldn’t be asking me questions about death. I console her and do my best to frame my response in a way that she’ll understand. I redirect her because sometimes–in that moment–I feel like I don’t have the answers. Then I hold my first grandson in my arms and wonder, “Will he be dealing with the same issues 45 years from now?” Will he be holding his grandson and praying that his grandson will not become one of the victims? The way I prayed with mine yesterday.
Some of us can’t take off the disparity rates like turquoise jewelry and set them aside. We’re born here. Our grandchildren are born here. Seven generations from now we’ll still be here. And since I’m dealing with the same issues my grandparents dealt with, what does that say about our future? How many generations will cycle through asking the same questions over and over and over again? How many of our community members will we need to lose before we finally hear our ancestors calling us to live by one fire?