It’s difficult to look at the nations children without mixed feelings-we take a great pride in them, and know they are a continuation that we shall remain.
We should have an acute sense of responsibility and dedication to their well being also -place an emphasis on what is better for them than for ourselves.
A part of these mixed feeling is knowing the inequities they will face, the poverty, lack of employment opportunities, housing conditions, inadequate healthcare, and too often dysfunctional parenting.
Perhaps the most damning of considerations is the knowledge that some will fall prey to sexual or physical abuse, some will take up drugs and alcohol, join a gang, father or birth a child who will grow up in a single parent home, perhaps the same as they did.
Such things aren’t peculiar to us as a people-they exist in every demographic, but to my way of thinking it is somehow more egregious, a greater injustice, when it occurs among nations that once epitomized self reliance and independence in having been stripped of such things and made vulnerable that the vulnerability of their children is enhanced by conditions and behavior that contradict every principle we claim and once characterized us as a people.
A behavior and conditions that can be addressed, and should be addressed by us, not outsiders. The fact that they aren’t has given rise to the power and influence of governmental agencies like child welfare.
Our children were always seen as a communal responsibility -their welfare a priority, yet somehow silence is the new code, a neighbor or neighbors intervention is no longer correct.
The voice of true elders has fallen on lean times, unless an internet talking point is to be made-likewise the voice of our women, though through their own efforts that is changing.
When it comes to talk of what is needed and the finances involved we all have an opinion about that, and it usually comes down to a grant or some form of external funding-but what we might be well advised to consider is the potential revenue source characterized by what is spent on drugs and alcohol twenty four seven three hundred and sixty fives days a year on every rez in this country.
I have no way to calculate that but it must be enormous, and I am in no way suggesting we legalize and tax alcohol sales-that’s like throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out.
I read something a while back about a “broken window syndrome”-it speaks to the effect of degenerative communities, broken windows, vacant buildings ,litter, and the impact they have on communal values and the incidence of crime and addictions.
How they become a breeding ground for such things- it made sense to me, and I believe if someone has money to spend on alcohol or drugs it would better spent to purchase a pane of glass and repair that window, or fix the holes in the wall, repair the door, clean the yard.
I’ve noticed in doing the kind of work I do that when a person cleans their own yard, repairs or repaints their house it serves as an incentive for others to do likewise, maybe in a way shames the neighbors into doing so. I’ve worked in the high rent and the low rent districts and it seems to be a shared commonality.
But whatever the motivation is neighborhoods improve, people seem happier and more at ease, and children have a better foundation, a more secure environment.
I can’t think of a single reason why the same wouldn’t be true on the rez- when you have a commitment to such things tolerance for grafitti, gangs ,beer cans and wine bottles dwindles. Same for crack houses and criminal behavior.
I refuse to accept any excuse that a person is an alcoholic or drug user because they are a victim, or because they are unemployed, the mere fact that they have money to purchase such things implies they have the same money to do something better with it. Or if in being a victim it is better to further victimize yourself and those around you.
I don’t deny that conditions can influence such behavior, but it is about choices, and each individual is responsible for the choices they make.
The most important thing we as a people can do is to parent in a beneficial and consistent manner-if we do that the face of our communities will change, we will change. A change that is sorely needed and a responsibility we need to honor.
As adults we may speak at times of having a broken heart- as adults we are better equipped to handle it-our children can neither handle or deserve to have their hearts, spirits, or bodies broken.