DOB: 3/16/63; Western South Dakota. I thought about the spiritual walk. My people have what is called the good red road. That’s where, you know, red is power, you draw strength from red — the color red. It has some parallels with other religions. There’s a road, there’s a walk, there’s a way.
I was born in South Dakota, in a spring blizzard, at an old town snowed in. Well, my mother, she almost died when she had me. Had to take her out in a snow plow to a hospital. So that’s when I was born, in a snow storm, springtime.
About my childhood. Today it’s fine. There are parts of my childhood that I can’t remember, that I blotted out somehow. I don’t know why, but basically I had a pretty happy childhood. Both my parents taught us good values and morals: treat people right and not to be a basic asshole with people. So my childhood . . . I am the youngest of five. I don’t know where to start. I could start with growing up around Christianity, and how that affected me today, or where I am at today, spirituality in general.
My Dad is an Episcopal minister in a church. He had us — me and my brother — working as altar boys when we were about ten, eleven, twelve years old. And I really hated doing it. I didn’t like putting on these robes and getting up there. I wanted to be doing something else. Then I don’t what it was I wanted to be doing.
It wasn’t what my Dad was doing, it was some other sort of spiritual direction. I know now I’m walking in that direction.
I don’t know where it goes, but I guess with Christianity I still have questions about, what to believe in, what path to walk. There are many paths. I don’t want to sound righteous, but I don’t know the path. I guess there is no true one. But back of my mind sometimes there is one true one. But I guess there is one true one for the individual, but it’s something I think about daily, what is it?
I was growing up, I grew up around my extended family, which we would call the Tiochbiyee. I am really close to a lot of my relatives, I have many relatives. We share, we share everything. I did a lot of my using with a lot of my relatives. So I’ve seen a lot of them die because of drugs and alcohol, I didn’t see it then. I knew that something was wrong. I blamed it on other things, not on the root of the problem.
I guess looking back, I grew up in two different worlds. One was, I grew up in a small city in South Dakota, in a neighborhood where there was — we were probably the only native American family and the rest was non-Indian. So I learned how to adjust at an early age. How to handle myself with people.
Then on weekends we would go back to the Reservation. Then I had to adjust to the way of life on the Reservation, which was extremely difficult at times, but after a while you get used to it. Going from a good safe happy life into poverty on the weekends, it was, it made me think about people. People shouldn’t live in poverty.
My childhood, I just can’t remember it. It was after the head injury. I draw a blank every time I think about it. I remember good times. But I don’t remember any of the bad times. I was in the hospital for like a month when I was in the fifth grade. and I was always in pain, and so I would always want to get shot up with Valium. After a while I was liking it and even when I wasn’t in pain, I told them I was in pain so they’d shoot me up to make me feel good. Thinking back, I wonder about that.
So after that I guess it was until junior high, where I was always around drugs and alcchol, well, mainly drugs from my older siblings. I knew what it was, I was kind of scared, what would happen if I would freak out or something. So I never tried it until I was maybe fifteen. My brother came home, he was out partying, and he comes home, he’s feeling pretty good, he calls me over into his room. So I go over, he says, “Let’s get high, I’d rather get you high than your friends get you high first.” Well, it makes sense, that’s where I started.
So I do what any kid does, be crazy, get in trouble. I was building up a lot of defenses, where I’m from, I guess from the balances I was trying to keep one was trying to survive in society and in the Reservation, you have to sort of build up some sort of defense to live. Defenses being not saying much, being a man of few words, being a sort, kind of put on sort of being bad, angry guy. I don’t want to say anything that’s going to turn on you. In that, mistrust people.
I was basically a loner . . . I had friends but I was a loner. I wouldn’t stick with any group. I tried to go to many groups, whether it was people who used drugs, or drank beer, people that were radical, meaning people that were in the American Indian movement. I hung with them people a while. I was more angry and I had to stop and look at it. It wasn’t what I was really angry at. I was angry at other things, so I left that group.
So I was a very confused person when I was around nineteen. It was around that time the court ordered me to go to treatment, a treatment center for mainly alcoholism. I went. It wasn’t too bad. I came out, I was kind of gung ho, yeah, I couldn’t drink any more. The minute I got back I started looking for drugs. I didn’t drink for a long time, hey, I’m all right. But I still felt the same. I felt this old anger coming up, this feeling, I was feeling closed in again. I stopped talking to my parents, and I was going back into myself.
So that went on for another three years, and I moved to the Reservation, and stayed there for three years, and I was just dying there. I was dying real slow and I knew it. A few times I thought of ending it. I own some guns, they are back home, and I thought of using one of these guns. I was sitting down spacing it, and I was looking down the barrel and stroking the gun, looking at the bullet. I came to my senses — this is going to make a mess, blood all over, I’ll wait.
So I put the gun away. Made me really think about what the hell am I doing. I’m not working, I’m pretty much held up in this house, I’m not going anywhere. And I want to do things but I can’t. I don’t know what to do, what steps to take, this stuff is killing me. So what do I do? So I thought about the spiritual walk. My people have what is called the good red road. That’s where, you know, red is power, you draw strength from red — the color red. Inside you walk this road. It has some parallels with other religions. There’s a road, there’s a walk, there’s a way.
So I explored that balance. There’s a balance and an imbalance. There’s the emotions. I didn’t cry for years. And I guess part of me left when my grandmother died. She’s an old — she must have been about ninety when she died back in `82. When she died I think that’s when a lot of my childhood left.
When she died, my childhood . . . She was a good woman. When I think of good, I think of my grandmother. She was a Cheyenne woman. She was very wise. When I think of her I think of she kept things real simple. She tells us, don’t be using them drugs or don’t even drink, because that’s going to do something to you, it’s not going to be right. It’s real simple. Don’t use the stuff and all things will be alright.
And it’s true, when I was — must have been a little over two years ago — when I was, I just couldn’t take it any more, and I was willing. That’s when I was willing. I said this is it. And said this is it, so what do I do next? The next step for me was to find a job, to be responsible and feel good about myself.
Where I’m from that’s pretty hard. I was living out on the Reservation at the time and unemployment is ninety per cent. So it would be hard to find a job there, so I had to think about leaving this place. It was hard to leave, it was scary. By then I was dependent on people and places and stuff.
One day this letter comes in the mail and it’s about this program here in D.C., volunteer program. It sounded pretty good. What caught my eye was spiritual growth. Yeah, I said, spiritual growth. That’s what I need. So I put in this application and sent it off, and I pretty much forgot about it. And the next thing I know I got this reply, that they want me for an interview.
So I went to the interview, did all right, so they liked me, and so they invited me to come out. So I did. Just before I came, I was thinking, well, now I’ll be in this new place, I won’t have any drugs, so I’d better go get some before I get on the plane. So I looked all over the place and I just couldn’t find any. So what the hell, I’ll just go, I’ll find some when I get there.
I came to Washington D.C. So I decided I need to deal with life and just live today and don’t pick up or don’t drink or don’t use anything. So I was struggling with that for two weeks, knew that there were meetings out here. Someone was telling me that there were lots of meetings.
I knew they were around. I didn’t use or drink, but I was miserable as hell. So one of my house mates — she was sharing with me and I was telling her about my problem with drugs — she told me about her brother, this guy that used to use heroin, who was now a recovering addict. So I says, well I’d like to meet him. So okay, she gave me his number and I called him up.
So I met him at this meeting. He told me about this other meeting that was going on on Friday nights in Georgetown. Do did nothing, so well, maybe I’ll go. It took me about two weeks to get up enough nerve to go down there. So I went down there and there was many people. It was a good fucking meet¬ing, some real sharing from the heart.
It was real true, it was like this is it. I could relate. That’s when I admitted that I am an addict. I said I am an addict and I am powerless over everything after that, spiritual growth was happening, I felt good. I guess what I go by today, is that I’ll change my opinions if it’s right, I’ll change every day. It’s the way I think I’ll change. Because I look, or I examine it, I turn it over, I look for truth, in things, places, people.
I don’t know where I got that from, but I have to keep this mind open, let things in, and think about it, hold on to it a while. If I don’t like it I can just do something else. Looking back, I can just see how much I have changed. People I used to hang out with I don’t talk to today. I can remember what my reactions were then, because they were the same kind of reaction these people have. Today mine is more positive and calm, more at peace. And every day is different.
Even shows, like I used to be into these violent movies, shoot ‘em up and stuff, and I went there with a cousin of mine who was here for a while, and yeah, hey, let’s see this gory movie. So we went in and I came out, and I said I didn’t even enjoy that, I wasn’t even into it, I didn’t like it. It shows just how much I’ve changed.
I rarely watch TV any more. I used to watch it all the time. I don’t watch it. I just watch certain shows if that, maybe two or three hours a week, if that. I watch what I read in the papers. People can get swayed by words. I know I can. Words that are someone else’s opinion that’s not really fact, what I see the media is this thing they throw at you. I’d rather look at the facts and decide for myself what I believe in, not what someone’s telling me to believe in.
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