Voices of Native Youth

Why You Shouldn’t Tell a Native Youth to Stay in School

Have you ever had someone tell you to stay in school? How did you feel? According  to a friend of mine, an adult told her to stay in school and it made her feel pressured. She had to push herself to work hard and improve her grades. When the adult told her to stay in school she felt that if she didn’t, she would be a failure.

Finishing school is great, but having the pressure put on you is too much. There are reasons why native youth don’t finish school. Some may have experienced abuse and some may have trouble keeping up with their education while caring for family members. Maybe other family members could help care for their younger siblings or grandparents then they could continue their education.

Native Youth need their education to succeed in the future. It really bothers me when middle-class white people tell me to stay in school. Especially when they don’t understand how education is on the Reservation, our personal problems, and the family responsibilities we have.

Reservation Schools

People don’t realize how hard it is to live on the Reservation and to get a good education. According to Rebecca Clarren in an article entitled “How America is Failing Native American Students says, “American Indian and Alaska Native students are more likely to be suspended then any other racial group, with the exception of African Americans.” If they are suspended they will miss out on some of their education. The longer the suspension, they more days they’ll miss. Suspension makes you feel hopeless and at risk because you are suspended and falling behind.

According to the same article, “The high levels of poverty on Native American Reservations do create barriers to educational success.” If the white people knew how hard it is to live on the Reservation, then they would understand. Instead of accusing us of not wanting to succeed, white people need to understand the reasons behind our behavior. Native Americans we are capable of proving wrong those who misunderstand our abilities to achieve.

Depression and Anxiety Create Barriers to Success

Most white people don’t understand how personal problems can keep Native youth from succeeding in the future. Thirty-nine percent of American Indians adolescent suffer from depression. According to Aisha Mays, MD UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine, “A lot of teens don’t get help for the depression they have.” When teens don’t get help for their depression it can cause harm or lack of self-worth. They need support when going through depression

Jerald G. Bachman, Patrick M. O’Malley and M. Brent Donnellan in a study entitled Adolescent Self-Esteem state that, “self- esteem relates to demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity and, to a lesser extent, gender, and age.” Of course race/ethnicity causes lack of self-worth because of how Native youth are being treated.

Nobody should be feeling overwhelmed due to their ethnicity and race. In other words, People need to realize that Native youth feel sensitive about their stories and speak to them in ways that don’t condescend or make them feel put down.

Native Youth Caregivers

Taking care of family members can effect a Native youth’s education. What many people don’t realize is that Native youth feel pressure from their families to help care for younger siblings or older relatives while the parents work.

Here's why one student thinks you shouldn't tell a Native youth to stay in school. Her reasons and solutions might surprise you. #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #educaiton #success #graduation #mentorship

According to an article from the American Psychological Association, “as many as 1.4 million U.S. children age 8 to 18 are caring for a parent, grandparent or sibling with a disability or illness.” The article goes on to say that “Many of these young caregivers are from low-income, single-parent households.” For instance, young caregivers want to remain in school, but caregiving affects their education.

When young caregivers are in school their ability to concentrate drops, their mood changes, and they want to drop-out to care for their siblings or parents. Young caregivers might not achieve their goals or have a career in the future. According to Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD, of the American Association of Caregiving Youth, in a 2006 poll funded by the Gates Foundation, 22 percent of young adults who dropped out of the school for personal reasons cited family caregiving as their primary motive.

Youth should have support from other family members so they can keep up with their education. For that reason, people need to realize that Native youth are putting their lives on hold to care for their siblings or grandparents. People shouldn’t assume that kids just drop out of school because they want to.

We’d Like to Succeed: Here’s What We Need

Native Youth find it difficult when white people tell us to stay in school when they don’t really know how hard life is for us. Some say Native Americans can’t succeed, but we can prove them wrong. It would help if instead of people telling us to ‘Stay in school,’ they would ask us ‘What can we do to help make it possible for you to stay in school?’

Instead of telling Native youth to 'Stay in school,' adults should ask, 'How can we help make it possible for you to stay in school?' #education #nativeyouth Click To Tweet

White people don’t understand we put our lives on hold for our siblings and grandparents because we have that connection with them. If white people understand what we go through every day then it would be easier for us.

Thalia loves to read and she hopes that her love of reading will help her when she finishes high school and studies to work in the medical field.

Native Youth Shouldn’t Drop Out of High School

Just because a kid doesn't know what they want to do when they grow up doesn't mean that they should drop out of high school. #graduation #success #nativeyouth #dropout

Native youth shouldn’t drop out of school and give up on their futures. Some kids think it is cool to drop out, but really they are making it hard on themselves. School may be  hard, but leaving school will make it even harder to achieve what you want in life.

Parents should help keep their kids in school, they should talk to them and show them that they care. For example, my friends and I finished the same elementary school, and when the time came to move on to high school, they only went the first week or didn’t go at all. Yes, there are times they wished they had stayed in school, but now it’s way too late for them.

According to an article in U.S. News and World Report, 23% of high school dropouts say that lack of parental support and encouragement, which made it easy for them to drop out. Yes, it’s true your parents still love you, don’t think they don’t. Parents  want their kids to have the life they never had (or the one they turned away from). Now they try to help their kids, but they see their kids have followed in their footsteps. It’s very hard for my friends’ parents to see them struggling then they could have been in school.

Your Friends Can Drag You Down

Some kids drop out because they hang out with the wrong crowd of people. They don’t know what to do after they get out of high school, so they just don’t go. They never even think about graduating, but they think their parents are just going to keep giving them money. I wish my friends hadn’t dropped out; maybe they could have been sitting right by me and finishing high school in 2019.

It’s sad it all had to come to an end because almost all of my classmates from 8th grade have already had a child or two. They have no job, so they ask their moms or dads for money. I see my former classmates struggling and living in hardship because they chose not to go to school and they tried  to live life on their own.

Too Late?

What’s going on in kids’ minds when they think about dropping out? Some friends told me that if they had a chance to go back to school, they would go for it. They realize now that they had potential. People don’t realize that they can do so much more than they think they can. They can push themselves harder than they thought possible instead of making the choice to lose out on opportunities.

Most of my friends talked about what they were going to do in high school, but they gave up on their goals. They had big dreams of becoming this and that, but because they dropped out of school, their dreams died.

It's important to stay in school because school can give you the tools you need to make a living. #nativeyouth Click To Tweet

When they dropped out they had to live with their parents and depend on their parents for money. It’s important to stay in school because it can give you the tools you need  to make a living. Now my friends struggle more than ever trying to provide for their own kids and themselves. They had big dreams, but they have let their dreams die because of their choice to drop out.

Marklynn Whitehair is a proud member of the Navajo tribe. when she’s not sleeping or drawing in class, she thinks about home and her family. But most of all, she thinks about her horses. She’s in high school and loves to play sports and spend time with friends.

Why You Shouldn’t ‘Dress up Like an Indian’

Our Tradition is not a Joke

Have you every dressed your kid up like an Indian for Halloween because it looked cool or funny? The problem with dressing up like a Native is that most Native American kids get confused about who they are when they see white people trying to pretend they are Indians.

Danny is proud of his Native heritage, and he'd like to urge non-Natives to think before they dress up like an Indian. Find out why. #Regalia #costume #Nativeyouth #nativeamerican

What you don’t understand is that it’s very offending and disrespectful to Native Americans. When non-Native people dress up like Natives it causes identity problems for Native Youth, it perpetuates the problem of distinguishing between a costume and regalia, and it makes Natives feel like they are the butt of a joke.

When non-Native people dress up as Indians, it causes identity problems. According to Jovannah Poor Bear-Adams, her son experienced an identity crisis when he attended a Vacation Bible School program where all of the kids wore headbands and feathers as part of the ‘Indian’ theme. Danny questioned his identity as an Indian because he never dressed like that.

This story notes that one Native American boy felt confused when he saw non-Natives dressing up as Natives, but he knew he was Native and didn’t dress like that. Therefore, if one Native American boy question if he was Native, imagine how many other Native boys and girls question the same thing. 

In fact, on western T.V. shows, Indians are always the people stealing and killing people. Therefore, Native kids may not want to be an Indian because they probably think that all Indians are bad. As a result, people will think that all Indians are bad guys. As you can see from these examples, when non-Native people dress up as Indians it causes identity problems for Native kids.

There’s a Difference between Costumes and Regalia

When non-Native people dress up as Indians they might not know that Natives consider their traditional dress to be regalia. You dress up in a costume to become something else. People wear regalia, on the other hand, as a part of important ceremonies. Indians do not wear regalia every day. Therefore, if non-Natives wear Native-looking regalia, people will think Indians dress weird and do it for fun, when in fact, we don’t. 

According to an article in HuffPost by Robbie Couch, “Most cultures prefer not to have their rich history reduced to drunken pageantry.”

George Nicholas, in an online article for The Conversation says, 

“For me, as an anthropological archaeologist whose career is very much focused on heritage, I draw the line when the use of an aspect of someone’s heritage is used without permission, or in inappropriate or unwelcome ways that cause cultural, spiritual or economic harm.”

George Nicholas

When I dress up in my regalia, I wear it to honor and represent my culture. Selling ‘Indian Costumes’ can cause cultural harm. Therefore, people should not wear Indian costumes because it puts a bad reflection on our culture and heritage. People shouldn’t dress up like an Indian when they don’t know the difference between regalia and costumes.

My Heritage is Not Your Joke

When non-Native people dress up like Indians they think it’s a joke. Take, for example, the costumes you can find on Amazon. Native Americans respect their regalia and traditions. In other words, Native Americans don’t like when their culture is shown as a joke.

Native Americans get offended when people call their regalia a costume. My uncle tells about an experience he had in college when some classmates dressed up as Indians and ran around with bows. The college thought it was funny, and everyone laughed. They didn’t know the students’ actions were disrespectful. People shouldn’t wear “Indian Costumes” and make fun of our regalia when it’s not a joke.

These reasons explain how we feel when non-native people dress up like Indians: We feel the disrespect. When non-Natives dress up like Indians, it makes Native kids question if they are really Native Americans. Companies need to stop making “Indian” costumes because it very offensive to Native people. 

Now you know. Native Americans don't like it when you dress up like an Indian. It's disrespectful. Click To Tweet
Danny takes pride in his Navajo heritage. When he’s not in school, he enjoys bull riding.

Have Something to Say? Learn How to Speak Up without Offending

Do you sometimes feel like you aren’t being heard? As a Native American young woman, I feel that I’m not being heard at times. But I feel with more experience I can learn to become more outspoken. I also think that other Native youth can learn how to speak up and explain their point of view, too. These few suggestions can help you grow to become more outspoken: follow protocol, avoid needless conflict, and use social media as a resource.

One way of being outspoken for Native youth is to follow protocol. According to WikiHow, you should follow three steps when you want to speak up on a controversial topic.  The steps listed are find your voice, interactwith others, and be effective. Following these steps can be a bit difficult at first, but these steps can help guide us on how to speak up for ourselves.

Why Speak Up at All?

Outspokenness can help you voice your opinion on something that you feel strongly about. My English teacher, Anita Ojeda, says that in order to promote civil discourse, we have “to have an intelligent conversation with others without offending someone who may have different views from you. You can’t change peoples’ opinions, but you CAN give them new information that helps them understand different viewpoints.” This is important to becoming outspoken, especially for Native youth. Being honest and polite can keep conversations going. Using a civilized manner toward others is useful to becoming outspoken and is also following protocol.

Things to Avoid

When following protocol there are also some things that you may want to avoid. Ojeda cautions against “letting your emotions take control.” When your emotions take control, you might say something that you later regret. Another thing to avoid is an outburst of things unrelated to your topic or your position.

In order to use social media wisely, one should use proper grammar and not have any random, unprofessional outbursts. This goes for all social media platforms. When using social media, look for any errors before posting. Be sure that the topic you are presenting is relevant, necessary and appropriate. In short, following protocol helps avoid going off-topic and reduces the possibility of huge uproars on a public figure’s lack of education.

Check out these questions to ask yourself before posting something on social media. Click To Tweet

Speak Up and Join in Conversations

If you have something important to say, you might want to learn how to speak up effectively in ways that don't offend and win people over to your side. #ownvoices #socialjustice #outspoken #speakup #nativeyouth #nativeamerican

Although social media may be full of false information, I believe it can be a great way of sharing ideas and thoughts on things. You can use Twitter, for example, to share your opinion. Native youth can use it to help raise awareness regarding their lives on the reservations across the country.

Social media can help build self-confidence. Instagram can help people connect as they talk about their aspirations and goals. When you connect with other people with the same goals and mindset, you inspire each other to reach your full potential. Social media can benefit our generation by encouraging users to be outspoken and connect around the world. 

I think that Native youth should be more outspoken about their opinions. Using civilized manners toward others is useful to becoming outspoken, and good manners follow protocol. Following protocol is important because it helps avoid going off-topic and reduces any conflict.

Using social media can benefit our generation by encouraging users to be bold and outspoken. Therefore I think it is important that Native youth share their opinions and be outspoken about it. 

Cherie is a member of the Navajo tribe. She loves music and all things Korean. One day she hopes to become a psychologist in clinical counseling or a forensic psychologist. Her peeves include listening to people chewing and popping gum loudly, and seeing people touching her belongings.

Successful Native Americans Have a Growth Mindset

The Path to Success Takes Determination

Native Americans go through hardships but can still be successful in life. Non-Natives judge when life isn’t easy for Natives, but we can still succeed by overcoming difficult obstacles. We don’t have a lot in life, but there are opportunities we can take. Life is not easy for Natives, but we can succeed because we have examples of Native Americans that have became successful in life because they have a growth mindset. They took paths to get where they are now, and even though life is hard, they manage to conquer those difficulties.

'Successful Native American' is NOT an oxymoron! #growthmindset #nativeamerican Click To Tweet

Some people think that the term successful Native Americans is an oxymoron, but that is not true. For example, Jamie Okuma is a successful Native American that has her own clothing line and business. She graduated from high school and college, leading to her success. Okuma took classes aiming for her goal of designing and creating art. She started by selling her work at a couple of markets, and now her work is displayed in museums and art institutions. 

Henry Red Cloud, member of the Lakota Souix tribe, grew up in poverty and is another example of a successful Native American entrepreneur. He became founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises. He started his business in 2004 with degrees in sociology and cultural ecology. His renewable energy business is the only one believed to be owned by Native Americans in the U.S. In short, Native Americans can be successful.

Dangerous Detours

Life is hard because we don’t have the full support we need. For example I have a family member who has no dad. Her mom and older brother got into drugs and alcohol, and are not usually home. Therefore, this has affected the way she lives and thinks. She had no good role models, and because of this she dropped out of school and is following her family steps. As a result she doesn’t care about her actions and how it effects her and others around her, she finds happiness in the “high” she sees in drugs and alcohol. 

Jovannah Poor-Bear Adams, a Lakota Sioux, has experienced a life of hardships. For instance, she went through abandonment from her family and emotional abuse. Her dad went to prison, so she was missing her dad for part of life. While growing up she also had no food and money. Despite the hardships she went through, she graduated, went to college, has a family of her own, and she is the vice-principle of a school for Native American students. Most people experience challenges throughout life that make it hard to succeed, but it is still possible to overcome them.

It’s all about Growth Mindset

Society might think that the term 'successful Native American' is an oxymoron. It's not. With a growth mindset, Native Americans CAN succeed. #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #success #growthmindset

Keeping a positive growth mindset and making the right choices can help Natives become successful. My auntie kept a positive mindset and made good decisions growing up. She and her husband remodeled their own home, do their own business, and help others.  My auntie saw how her family drank and it affected them. She didn’t want that lifestyle for herself, so she finished school without doing any drugs or alcohol. Imagine if she did start taking drugs and alcohol, she wouldn’t have had a good future. Her life is good because she made good decisions and took the right path. 

Brandi Charley, who is a full Navajo, claims that by setting goals and staying focused on those goals you can be successful. She also credits having the right mindset and being confident in yourself. Brandi grew up with her family drinking around her and doing drugs. She didn’t have the best models while growing up, this caused her to follow their steps.

Brandi managed to stay in school and finish high school. She eventually stopped drinking and and doing drugs. Once she set a goal to become a model, she kept what she wanted her mind. She is still pushing herself to achieve her goals. Today she is a model in Phoenix, AZ, and has her own YouTube channel that shows inside her work and her life. Clearly, to be successful you have to aim for your goals in life and make good decisions for yourself that will have a positive effect on you. 

Yes, Native American’s CAN Succeed!

These examples explain and prove that although life can be hard for Native Americans, we can still manage to become successful. There are examples of Native Americans that have became successful despite the challenges. It’s possible to overcome the hard times in your life and become successful. Having a positive growth mindset for yourself and following the right path that will be beneficial to your future will help a lot with achieving your goals.

There ARE opportunities for us Native Americans, we can become successful even though we don't have it easy growing up.  Click To Tweet
Heather Dixon is a Navajo high school student who wants every teacher to give her a watermelon when she graduates from high school (or a pet fish).

Before You Down That Energy Drink, Read This

Why Energy Drinks Are Bad For You.

Energy drinks are bad for you because they can affect your mental health, lead to obesity and diabetes, and cause long-term physical harm. Some of the people who die from too many energy drinks had overall good health before the drinks messed with their hearts.

Who needs energy drinks? Maybe no one. Before you get in the habit of drinking them, maybe you should read this! #energydrink #diabetes #obesity

That can of Red Bull or Monster may look good, but the contents could affect your mental health. According to Patrick Allen, energy drinks can cause a concern for mental heath, as well as cause insomnia, and dependency. 

Students might down a Red Bull as a juicing-up source to stay awake late and night and get ready for tests. Then from there it gets worse. They get addicted to the taste of the drinks and want more. As a result of not knowing the dangers of too much caffeine, a teenage boy who drank a large Mountain Dew, a latte, and an energy drink over a 40-minute time span collapsed at school. He later died from cardiac arrythmia. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a lethal dose of caffeine for an adolescent is anywhere between 200-400mg per day. The young man who died had consumed about 400mg of caffeine in just 40 minutes. No one knows why he drank so many caffeinated beverages in such a short amount of time. Most likely he had no idea that drinking that much caffeine could kill him.

Energy Drinks Contribute to Obesity and Diabetes, too

Another reason why energy drinks are bad for you is that it can lead to obesity and diabetes. Most of the common energy drinks have an unhealthy amount of sugar. In particular, an 8.4-oz can of Red Bull has about three tablespoons of suger. Doubtlessly, if consumed daily, that could quickly lead to obesity. The two main ingredients in energy drinks are caffeine and sugar. 

Drinking energy drinks sounds cool and all, but having to deal with obesity and diabetes later in life doesn’t. “Living the fast life” is a quick way to die, if you think about it. If you don’t drink energy drinks daily, you won’t have to deal with the weight of obesity (literally), nor have to deal with diabetes later in life. Therefore, if “the cool kids” pressure you into drinking energy drinks with them, it’s up to you to say yes or no.

To Sleep, or not to Sleep

One of the worst reasons that energy drinks are bad for you is that they can cause long-term physical ailments. According to SleepJunkies.com, long-term use of energy drinks (6 months or regular ingestion) may cause insomnia. The long-term usage effects of insomnia are: sleep loss, sleeping disorder, increased risk of hyper tension, diabetes, obesity, depression, increased risk of heart attack and stroke. 

I think getting insomnia is probably the worst you can get from drinking too much energy drinks. Although I don’t drink energy drinks, I wouldn’t even want to start because of what else I don’t know about them. After reading and researching all of this, (even though I only researched a small nugget of available information), I most likely won’t drink energy drinks just because of the effects of insomnia.

Saying, 'No!' to energy drinks could save your life and give you a better future. Click To Tweet

These are the three reasons that will help me remember that energy drinks are bad for me. They are bad because they can lead to mental health disorders, such as insomnia, and dependency. Even if someone tries to pressure you to buy an energy drink, think of all the symptoms that could happen. I also didn’t realize that those aluminum cans held dangers. I also thought that drinking more Monster would just give me more energy (not possibly kill me). On the whole, if I want a better chance at living a longer life, I’ll just say no to energy drinks.

Charles comes from an area that’s called Arizona, and he is a Navajo. He is mostly interested in mechanical engineering and sci-fi. One day he would like to travel to different countries.

The Importance of Good Role Models for Native Youth

How Important Do You Think Good Role Models are to Native Americans? 

Most people have heard about Ben Carson, the famous neurosurgeon. But not everyone knows about his early life. According to one article about Ben Carson, “The family was very poor and to make ends meet Sonya sometimes toiled at two or three jobs simultaneously in order to provide for Ben and Curtis.” He grew up in the ghetto but stayed focused every time he felt down. As Ben grew up, his mother played a great role of being a mother and providing what she could. She was always lifting her boys up when they needed it the most. His mother always encouraged Ben to do his best. Despite all they have gone through, Ben Carson became successful as a neurosurgeon. 

Parents don’t realize how important it is to be good role models for Native youth. Teachers and parents need to be good role models because their kids watch what their teachers and parents do, more than they listen to what they say. Parents and role models need to be aware of the burden of poverty, family influence, and family involvement.

The Legacy of Poverty

Parents don’t realize that their life of poverty affects their children. For example, my grandparents only finished eighth grade and some of high school.  They didn’t notice that their lack of education would set a poor example for my parents. My parents didn’t finish high school and it continued the cycle of living in poverty. Since my parents didn’t finish high school, it is very difficult for them to find steady work. Good jobs require high school diplomas and that was something my grandparents and parents don’t have. In other words, I am at risk to continue the cycle of poverty and dropping out of school. 

Negative family actions influence kids to repeat the same behavior. For instance, some of my relatives act violently, make bad decisions, and drink alcohol. Their examples have affected us younger ones to act in negative ways. Seeing our older relatives act this way makes it difficult for me to resist acting the same way.

Teachers as Role Models

Family members have the opportunity to act as good role models for Native Youth. One high school student explains how. #ownvoices #nativeyouth #navajo #nativeamerican

As a Native American woman, I’ve experienced some teachers who wanted us to be successful and some who didn’t want us to succeed as a person. In the fifth grade, I had a Native American teacher who would put students down because they weren’t focused enough. I personally think older adults, like parents and teachers, should show good examples to kids who want to become better people. I’ve never been shown a good example from my relatives, and I could be capable of not showing good examples for myself and younger family members.

Families tell their kids to behave in a certain way, but their actions provide a different role model. For an example, my family has always told us kids to behave ourselves everywhere we went. When we’re in school, my siblings and I act in a good way because my family want us to do well, but sometimes they don’t act the way they expect us to act. They don’t realize that since their actions speak louder than words, it could affect our behavior everywhere else.

Relatives push us to do our best and to be really focused on what’s in front of us, but when they use alcohol, it drags us down with them. It affects my ability to stay positive and have a good mindset when relatives put me down because it hurts me. My personal opinion: I deeply feel like my relatives should be the ones lifting me up and encouraging me to keep striving for what is good for us. But sometimes they are the ones that make us feel worse by putting us down. Sometimes I put people down and continue the negative behavior that I have seen, but that’s not who I want to be. 

Native youth need good role models in order to succeed. Their families need to lead the way. #nativeyouth #rolemodel Click To Tweet

Actions Yell, Words Whisper

Based on my examples about my family, I still think families should be more involved in their children’s lives and should be able to be there for them in many different ways. I believe family support is important for Native youth. My family has lived in poverty, therefore, I am at greater risk of living in poverty, as I get older. That’s something I want to change as a person. Due to family influence, I haven’t gotten the chance to see with my own eyes what good family role models looks like. 

I have that power to show a great example to my younger siblings and show them what is good and to not act in a negative way. I also didn’t realize that God wants us to love everyone like he loved us, even if they are putting you down. Therefore, I want to become a better person and avoid the cycle of poverty. I want to provide a good role model for my younger siblings and avoid acting like the role models I’ve had in my life. I want to be the change in everyone’s eyes and show people that there is a bright side in life and that it’s not always about spreading negativity.

Aliandra has a Navajo-Mexican heritage. Her favorite things about high school are sports, doing math, journaling, singing, sleeping and taking photos. Her biggest goal is to become successful as a brain surgeon and for her voice to be heard in writing because sometimes it’s difficult to express yourself out loud. One of her pet peeves are BUGS and people with no fashion sense.

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Seems Impossible

Poverty and Native Youth

Native youth are subjected to all kinds of challenges and many hardships, but one thing is certain: poverty. It effects our Native youth in many ways. The reservation is full of the evidence of dysfunctional societies, from drunks to the chronically unemployed. The situation make Native youth feel helpless.

They are helpless because they are in careless and neglected environments. Kids who come from this environment look at themselves differently from other kids in modern society. What binds all of us like a silver cord is poverty, which many Native youth suffer from at this moment. Poverty is a horrible way to live, it gives Native American communities a poor economy, creates barriers to success, and the cycle endlessly repeats and starts over with new generations.

Kids live in poverty see themselves differently from other kids in modern society. #socialjustice #poverty #nativeyouth Click To Tweet

The Conditions of Poverty

One reason poverty thrives is the poor economy Native youth have to dealing with. My hometown is full of many drunks and unemployed people, because there aren’t enough jobs. I have alcoholic relatives who are unemployed and barely get by. There is little to no economic development on the reservation. For example, my community is building a new police station instead of a supermarket. 

Poverty creates more criminal activity. Two people I knew were recently shot and killed on the reservation. An article in the New York Times says that “310 reservations have violent crime rates that are two-and-a-half times the national average. Sexual assault is four times higher than the national average, and 43% of the Navajo Nation lives under the poverty line. While the national average household earns $43,000 a year, the Native household brings in almost half of that with $24,000 a year. Therefore, having a poor economy can affect the children in the poor communities that they and their families live in.

The other reason why poverty thrives is the environment that stops poor people from achieving goals. According to Partnership with Native Americans, the national average number of people with diplomas is 82% while the average for Native youth is only 69% (and only 53% graduate from Bureau of Indian Education schools).  Only 13% of Native Americans have college degrees. When people are in poor environments they struggle to learn about the world around them, the world beyond the Reservation. Bad schools, poor homes, violence, and people with bad influence affect Native youth in their surrounding environment.

Kids Can Adapt, but Should They?

Native youth can easily adapt to poverty and lose hope of ever having a better life. If a child is surrounded and raised in a bad environment, the more likely they can adapt and live with it when they are older. Parents on the Rez like to have fun, especially poor parents. But you can hurt your child by these careless acts such as leaving your young children home alone, or being emotionally distant when your children need you. If parents are aware of that their aciton will hurt their children, maybe they’ll think twice before acting this way. Adults need to think of the bigger picture, and possibly consider moving to a place where your kids will thrive and grow healthy.

The Failure of Governments

The system of self-governmnet on reservations contributes to the continuaiton of poverty. The Navajo and other Natives don’t improve or thrive, which perpetuates a whole new generation of people living in the cycle of poverty. Native governments and the national government should make lives better for its citizens. But both governments seem to be failing to do that for Natives. Sometimes Natives rely too much on the government and don’t put in the effort to succeed and thrive. But maybe that’s because no one expects more of us. 

A Native American high school student looks at poverty and how it affects him, his family, and his tribe members. His observations may surprise you. #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #poverty #socialjustice #educaiton

The Rosenthal Effect (also known as the Pygmalion Effect) shows that the behavior of other people can affect people around them. For example, if adults don’t expect much of children, the children won’t do much. Because of how the cycle keeps going it will continue unless we do something about it.

The way Native adults deal with poverty teaches their kids how to deal with it. And then those kids will pass it on to their children and the cycle of poverty will continue. Consequently, what kids hear or see can affect them and they will pass it on to their kids. We need to break the cycle that has bound us for future generations.

We need to do something about the poverty that affects our Native youth today. A poor economy can affect the Native youth that dwell in a poor region or area, creating a poor environment for Native youth. We perpetuate the cycle by what we do and pass on to new generations. 

Therefore, to ensure Native youth have a good future we need to get rid of the poor environments, break the barriers that stop them at key points in their lives, and stop the cycle of poverty from happening all over again. We need this for a better future for all Natives. Natives didn’t just survive all these hardships to be taken onto reservations and remain in a poverty. We survived and we will thrive with our hope for the next generation of Native American youth.

Montez is a member of the Navajo tribe. He spends most of his time in classes, and when he isn’t doing school work, he’s thinking of his family and missing them. When he isn’t stuck in a classroom, he’s on the Reservation with his family.

Native Youth May Have to Pay for What They Don’t Do

The Effects of Alcohol on Native Youth

When I was little I would hear my family talk about alcohol and the way it made our family members suffer. I would constantly hear how bad it was from the people who would tell you to be drug free because of the conditions you would suffer if you used it. The things that they wouldn’t tell you was how much it began to hurt the people around the alcoholic in different ways.

As I grew up, I began to realize that I wish everyone would listen to the side effects that alcohol causes, such as the emotional problems, health problems like FASD, and financial issues.

The Emotional Toll on Native Youth

Native youth suffer from alcoholism because the alcoholics in their lives aren’t being a good role model for them. In one article it states that alcoholics tend to drink to try to ignore their problems. Children learn from their parents about how to deal with problems in their life. Children will learn that maybe if their parents are ignoring the problem and drinking and thus expecting it to go away, they should do the same.

In another article it says that children of alcoholic parents tend to deal with emotional and mental issues. I have a relative whose father drinks a lot, and now my relative deals with anger issues. The issues he deals with are caused by the overwhelming feeling that he doesn’t know how to deal with anything. He deals with his feelings of overwhelm by getting into fights.

Native youth may not have the role models to show them how to deal with life problems but that doesn’t mean that they will always struggle with, it just means they need help.

Toxic Homes Lead to Toxic School Experiences

Native youth pay the price for the mistakes and choices that the adults in their lives make. A Navajo student speaks out on the price that she may pay. #nativeamerican #nativeyouth #alcohol #choices #FASD #drinking #dropout #nativeamerican

Native youth are prevented from succeeding in school because of the toxic environment alcohol produces. When Native youth who live with a cycle of alcoholism turn to it themselves (or any other substance), they will suffer in school. Their grades will suffer, or mostly likely, they will drop out. A person who has a cycle of alcoholism or turns to drugs will basically suffer in school because of the drugs they’re using.

The cycle of alcoholism not only causes them to drop out or do poorly in school, it causes many more problems that hold them back from being successful. When a student begins to act violent towards their peers or adults in a school setting, they are given suspension or expulsion. Native youth are more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white classmates.

Being suspended or expelled causes Native youth to fall behind, another consequence of a toxic environment caused by alcohol. A toxic environment produced by alcohol could prevent Native youth from being successful in school because they are doing poorly in school, falling behind, or acting violently, which results in disciplinary measures that can cause them to fall even further behind.

The Financial Toll of Alcohol

Alcoholism affects Native youth as children not only emotionally and mentally, but financially, as well. Parents who abuse alcohol may blame their problem (and all of the financial problems that go along with alcoholism) on their children. Actions speak louder than our words.

For example, if we spend our money on alcohol instead of medicine, we show our children that we don’t care for them. When children are being shown that no one cares for them, it hurts them, it hurts a lot and causes them to doubt if their parents care for them.

But this isn’t the only way Native youth suffer. The other way Native youth have been shown to suffer is them having FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) which happens in 1.5 to 2.5 per 1,000 births among Natives, according to an article done by the Indian Health Services (IHS).

FASD can cause a number of disorders such as behavior, memory, and learning problems. Native youth don’t have control over these things because their parents decided to drink. The problems that may have affected them can cause them to suffer financially because they are looking for someone to help and they are angry at their parent for causing this. Alcoholism affects children by them being hurt emotionally, mentally, and because of their alcoholic parent or parents.

Before you drink, think about how your choice might harm future generations. #nativeyouth #nativeamerican Click To Tweet

In Conclusion

Alcohol affects Native youth negatively in many different ways. Alcoholics in the lives of Native youth have made them suffer with no role model to show them how to deal with life’s struggles. The toxic environment caused by alcohol makes students suffer in school. The alcohol that you drink will affect your children mentally, emotionally, and financially. Alcohol affects Native youth and makes them suffer.

Kerralyn is a Navajo girl who loves science and math. Her hobbies include reading, watching her favorite TV shows, and spending time with the people close to her. She wants to travel one day. Her pet peeve is being rudely awakened in the morning.

You Need to Think Before You Speak Another Thoughtless Term

Thoughtless Terms Can Hurt Native Americans

Did you know that the thoughtless terms said about Native Americans can hurt? Many times, we as Native Americans are treated differently along with other minorities. But Native Americans often get  called thoughtless comments and are made fun of. People need to understand that their thoughtless terms can hurt Native Americans, because thoughtless terms can trigger a negative self-fulfilling prophecy, it can affect how Natives see their identity and culture, and it can prevent character growth in the one who utters it.

The Dangers of the Pygmalion Effect

People need to understand that their thoughtless terms can hurt Native Americans because words can create a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy. The Pygmalion Effect explains this process: if you think something will happen, you may unconsciously make it happen through your actions or inactions. It is the phenomenon whereby other’s expectations of a target person affects the target’s performance. For instance, when people think of Native Americans as drunks, then Native Americans are more likely to become drunks.

The old adage "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me," is wrong is so many ways. Your thoughtless terms CAN hurt people. #microaggression #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #prejudice #socialjustice

Alcoholism affects people from all walks of life. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 80,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the US. Statistics show that Native Americans are one of many groups with the most alcohol deaths.

Through the Pygmalion Effect, people’s thoughtless negative comments towards Native Americans can cause some Natives to identify themselves with the negative labels placed on them.

One of the thoughtless terms connected to Native Americans is the “drunk Indian” label and often we see posts and photos on social media about drunk Native Americans and people dressing as drunk Native Americans. Therefore, people really need to understand that their thoughtless terms about Native Americans can trigger a negative self-fulfilling prophecy for Native Americans.

Thoughless Terms Create an Identity Crisis

Speaking thoughtlessly can hurt Native Americans because casual words can affect how Natives see their own identity and culture. Calling a conversation among a group of Natives “a Gatherings of Nations” or “pow-wow” might do more harm than good.

Non-natives need to understand that a group conversation is NOT actually “The Gatherings of Nations” or a “pow-wow.” A “pow-wow” is a North American Indian ceremony that involves feasting, singing, and dancing. “The Gathering of Nations” is a large pow-wow that is held annually in April. Over 500 tribes from all over the US and 220 from Canada travel to the Gathering of Nations to participate.

When people call a conversation or hangout among Natives “pow-wow” or “The Gathering of Nations,” it shows a misunderstanding about Natives, their identity, and culture. For example, when an adult calls a small group of Natives ‘A Gathering of Nations’ then Native kids will call into question their own knowledge of their culture.

Non-Natives should be careful about using terms that make them feel as if they fit in or can relate to Natives when they really have no idea what they’re talking about.

Think before you speak. Words like 'squaw,' 'pow-wow,' and 'redskin' aren't funny. They show ignorance at best, and insult at worst. #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #microaggression Click To Tweet

What You Say Can Hurt YOU

People might not realize that using thoughtless terms can prevent character growth in the one who utters it. Prejudice affects the everyday lives of millions of people across the U.S. An individual’s prejudicial actions or opinion unnaturally forces on others (the targets of their prejudice) a false social status that strongly influences who they are, what they think, and even the actions they take.

Prejudice shapes what the targets of prejudice think about the world and life in general, about the people around them, and even the actions they take. Opportunities in life are lost and personal relationships are damaged when people act upon their prejudice.

When not acknowledged and confronted, prejudice negatively impacts the lives of not only the victims, but of those holding the prejudice. It can impose very dramatic barriers or invisible barriers on individuals. For instance, after the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Roosevelt distributed a number of executive orders, which were quickly turned into law, for the purpose of prohibiting any secret operations from those of Japanese ancestry who were living in the U.S at the time.

One of the orders gave permission to call certain parts of the country as “military areas” to keep Japanese people out of those areas regardless of their country of origin or citizenship status. This seriously impacted the rights of Japanese people who were living on American soil. Therefore, thoughtless terms can hurt Native Americans and prevent character growth in the one who is prejudice.

The Dr. Suess You Probably Don’t Know

Dr. Seuss (pen name for Theodore Gisel) is one of those who fell prey to the hysteria and prejudice. In his job as a politicial cartoonist, he published numerous unflattering cartoons of Japanese Americans and Japanese people in general. He later realized that his prejudice had clouded his good sense. Dr. Suess’ book Horton Hears a Who is an apology for his behaivor.

In My Opinion

These three reasons help people understand that their thoughtless terms can hurt Native Americans. Thoughtless comments suchs as drunks, savages, squaw boy, squaw, redskin, and wild indian can trigger a negative self-fulfilling prophecy for Native Americans. Thoughtless comments can cause Native Americans to question their identity and culture. The consequence of prejudice can prevent character growth in the person who is prejudice. For those reasons, people really need to understand that their thoughtless comments can hurt Native Americans.

Adrienna is proud of her Navajo heritage. She’s in her last year of high school and has started taking classes at the local community college.
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