My Dad discouraged fighting, but I never got in trouble for it either. Let’s face it, fighting to protect, defend, and strengthen our tribe is a part of our Warrior Spirit. Beside the point, my Dad has a ton of scars from fighting. Including a large gash in his arm when he was cut by glass, a scar on his head from being hit with a pipe, and a bunch of other remnants of his early brawler years before becoming a minister. Because my Dad was a Christian minister, I also knew I was supposed to turn the other cheek, I just wasn’t good at it.
One of my first fights I remember was in Los Angeles county in the city of Bell Gardens. Some Natives who participated in the Urban relocation program that followed WWII found themselves there around the 1950s. In the city was a small Native church that was a sanctuary for Christian and non-Christian Natives who migrated to the area to find economic opportunities. My Dad was asked to go preach there one spring and, as always, my Mom, Sisters, and I followed along. While my Dad was preaching, I went in children’s church. There awaited this ginormous Native kid who stood about a foot taller than me and weighed about 20lbs more. I was 8-years old, and this kid looked like a Mack truck. He kept poking me for no apparent reason, and telling me a bunch of stuff I can’t remember. When service was over, my Dad was still talking with people. My sister Camie and I decided to wait outside for my parents to get done chatting it up, and as we were waiting, that humungous Native kid came back. We were around these pillars outside the church, and I kept trying to head back to where my Dad was, but he kept blocking the way. My sister stepped in, and said, “Leave us alone.” He didn’t listen, and kept poking me and then teasing my sister. I knew what I had to do.
I remembered my God brother who was a few years older than me was teaching me how to throw a real punch. He told me, “All you have to do, is pull your fist back as far as it can go, and then push your fist forward as hard as you can.” I don’t know how he knew, I don’t think he had been in a fight yet either.
But I could hear my God Brother’s voice in my ear, like he was my boxing trainer, “Pull your fist back, and let it rip in his face.” Well that kid came around that pillar about ready to poke me again. Only this time, my fist was cocked as far back as I could pull it, and with as much might as an 8-year old had, I ferociously threw my fist forward. It felt like a dream, and no sooner after my fist met his nose there was blood everywhere. I mean everywhere. I must have broken the kid’s nose. I was never more scared in my life than that moment because I knew I had really hurt this bully, and I understood I should have turned the other cheek. I decided my parents couldn’t find out what happened. I watched that bully try to hold a pool of blood in his hand as he headed into the women’s restroom with his sister. I was freaking out and wasn’t sure what was going to happen, because although my Dad never seriously punished me for fighting, he just got done preaching. So, I immediately went to my Dad, asked for the car keys, and contemplated driving away. Well I was 8-years old, and that made no sense. So I did what any 8-year old kid would do to avoid trouble. I fell asleep.
When I did wake up, we were at Denny’s. The pastor and his wife took our family out to lunch. During lunch the Pastor’s wife said, “I don’t know what happened, but there was a bunch of blood outside and in the women’s restroom.” I didn’t say a word, and just quietly kept eating my club sandwich in remorse. (I finally told the Pastor’s wife about this a few years ago… she didn’t remember, but I hope whoever I punched is okay). But now you know, don’t poke people.