I sat on our yellow school bus on the way to class. We passed by a grocery store, and I remember seeing “adults,” walking out of the stores with smiles on their faces like it was some kind of orbit gum commercial. And each time I looked through the window of that sweaty hot bus, I would be envious of those adults, and all their freedom.
They didn’t have to go to school and I wanted that freedom. Occasionally I would get a taste of that freedom from acting sick. But eventually I had to go back to school… and especially in the Spring because the standardized testing was coming. My Mom didn’t care about how I felt during those times, because she wanted our scores to count.
It was the Stanford nine test. My Mom would give me and my sisters somewhat of a pep talk about it. I remember one of the first pep talks she gave us. My sisters and I are sitting around the table talking and my Mom told me, “JD make sure you mark American Indian on there.” And because I was an inquisitive little kid, I said “why.” I can’t remember which sister it was, Joy probably. Joy interrupted and said, “it’s because people need to know that we’re Native American.” And my mom went on, “people need to know we’re Native and that Native kids do good on these tests. A lot of people think bad or negative things about us.” She went on, “they think that we’re not smart or dumb but I want you to prove them wrong.” One way my Mom saw us doing that was to make sure that people knew we’re Native American. My Mom went on, “Because you, Joy, and Camie, you are all are very smart. You’re going to out test a lot of these White kids. And I want people to know that Native kids did that.” It was my first lesson about having to beat people at their own game.
And so ever since then I’ve always marked American Indian. Although in reality, we’re in Mexican-American. But, I also see being Mexican the same as being Indigenous. So I just continue the cycle of writing American Indian.
But now that I’m freed kid from the bus imprisonment. I go to the grocery store during the day and I think hey, I’m a free adult haha. But I also remember what my Mom told me about making sure that people know I’m Native. And I think back to her pep talk on making sure people knew what Natives could do. And I remember that I need to outperform the stereotypes people place on Natives, and sometimes I have to do that playing their game. So I don’t let my grocery runs during the day go too long, so I can get back to work.