‘I’m just very grateful for the memories that I have growing up on the reservation.’
“I grew up on the Shinnecock reservation and went to Southampton High School. Since the reservation was basically in the middle of Southampton, we had a community in and outside of school. So that was cool! We had our own academic advisors that dealt with just Native kids to make the living situation and transitioning easier. I felt included growing up, being that my community was looked at and acknowledged in our town. And that’s different, you know, not everyone can say that.
“I remember one trip that I took in high school I will literally never forget. I went to Quebec and we did a bunch of different stuff. The last thing we did before we went back home to school was visit a native tribe. It was such an intimate experience for me because when a member of the tribe was telling their story, by the end of it, I was the only student there that wanted to cry. It was sad hearing the stories about how they only can use their land for commercial things, like getting money, and the profit doesn’t just go to them…it goes to Canada. So, they don’t get to really use the resources they have for their day-to-day stuff.
… there was so much taken away from Native Americans, for it to be 2021 and to still have even a little bit, you know, I’m grateful even for the little bit of whatever we have.
“My family — and everyone in our tribe — can live on the reservation. They can’t. It’s basically a show-and-tell place. They don’t have a tribe anymore because they’re distributed all over the place. It opened my mind about other natives outside of America. For me, to have federally recognized land to come back to that can’t be touched, that can’t be taken away from us, is a blessing. I’m just very grateful for the memories that I have growing up on the reservation, like bike riding with my friends until the lights came up, our community gatherings, learning how to clam with your feet, berry picking and all that type of stuff.
“Especially because there was so much taken away from Native Americans, for it to be 2021 and to still have even a little bit, you know, I’m grateful even for the little bit of whatever we have. It’s less than some and more than others, but it’s something we could work on and do better from what we have. I love that about my tribe and my culture in this small community.”
Interviewed by Jay Max