“… the only one treated worse than a White kid on the rez is probably a rez dog.”

You ever think about White kids who grew up on the rez? I think about their thoughts on Dances with Wolves. In that movie the White cavalry man was portrayed almost as a hero of Natives. He befriends the only White lady in the tribe, he gets initiated through a buffalo hunt. He goes to battle with the Sioux, and ultimately gets accepted and lives among the tribe. Everyone knows that is the most unrealistic story (other than him leaving at the end), and I think White kids on the rez know this more than anybody.

I thought I had a difficult time growing up as a dark urban Native in a predominately White neighborhood. The only thing harder than being an Urban Native in a White school is being a White kid on the rez… And if we’re honest, and maybe it’s just anecdotal for me, the only one treated worse than a White kid on the rez is a rez dog. I think it’s much harder for White kids who grow up on the rez. Let’s face it, the rez can treat anybody that is from outside with a little hostility. Even if you are Native. Even if you’re from that tribe. Even if you grew up on the rez but are a hybrid Native (aka only half). And White kids on the Rez get the wrath of centuries of pent-up aggression from the past centuries of colonization from some kids on the rez.

Now, if you grew up on the rez, think about that one White kid who you grew up with. You know the one, maybe he had sandy blonde hair, some sunburned skin, maybe some cargo shorts, and maybe wearing a Metallica shirt. Those kids got beat up, made fun of, and often never reached the phase of acceptance. You never knew them by their first name, because everyone just called them White Boy or White Girl. More than likely they left the rez the first chance they could, didn’t look back, and may even resent their childhood. It’s not everybody, but what I’m saying is Dances with Wolves is just as unrealistic for White people as it is for Natie people.

But I don’t feel sorry for the White kids who grew up on the rez, because they got something I wish I had. I wish I got to grow up on my rez. And in some cases, I imagine those White kids feel some empathy. They got a first look at what colonization did to our Native people.

Overall, I think deep down the White kids probably want to be accepted but after years of struggle realize it doesn’t happen. Or at least for most. The best you can hope for is a few friendships. So if you are that White friend from the rez who stuck it out, feel fortunate to have seen the world through someone else’s eyes and I hope you made some good friends from the experience.

4 Replies to ““… the only one treated worse than a White kid on the rez is probably a rez dog.””

  1. I was a C31, living on the Rez. Got beat up and picked on regularly on the school bus. When I complained to the bus driver (a distant cousin of mine) she glared at me in disdain, and ordered me off her bus. I was the “apple”…red on the outside, white on the inside. It got so bad that I put my foot down and demanded that my mom drive me to school. To this day, I am still looked at with disdain and treated not as family, but as an outsider. Its taken a lot for me to find grace, to forgive and find peace. But, mom still lives on the Rez, and is also treated poorly, despite giving years of her life in support of native health care and supporting the elders. When I hear her stories of their abuse, of their neglect of her needs, it brings back all that pain and hurt. I agree with the writer…the worst persecution I’ve faced as a person of Aboriginal descent has been from my own people.

  2. @Albert I fought a lot, because my parents travelled to different reservations preaching, and Native kids from those areas didn’t always accept me for whatever reason. Especially in the White Mountains. But I appreciated the experience though and wouldn’t change anything. I made a lot of good friends through the process too, and I enjoy going back to those areas to speak, etc. But it’s the original reason I wrote the piece, was because I saw the White kids get it worse, and the ones who were half Native or not from the reservation get bullied. I have an understanding of historical trauma, and it makes me look at the issues with a different perspective. My hope is that we as Native people
    can get educated and start thinking more critically about our complicated relationship with Whites, other minorities, Natives with mixed ethnicity, etc. Thanks for sharing your experience! I know they probably weren’t the most pleasant memories for you.

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