Voices of Native Youth

Japanese Poetry Meets Navajo Writer

A Few Haiku for You

Last year as part of our English class we learned how to write different forms of poetry. Haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry, often talks about things found in nature. We went outside for inspiration in writing our haiku poems.

A haiku poem has five syllables in the first and third lines, and seven syllables in the second line. It doesn’t have to rhyme, which makes it easy to write.

A Perfect Day

Sun is shining bright 

Cold wind blowing on my face

A nice perfect day 

A Navajo writer tries her hand at a Japanese poetry form, proving that we can all learn from each other and embrace our differences. #poetry #haiku #nativeyouth #navajo #ownvoices

Tree in the Ground 

The tree is so green

With the bark brown as chocolate

Placed firm in the ground

A Navajo writer tries her hand at a Japanese poetry form, proving that we can all learn from each other and embrace our differences. #poetry #haiku #nativeyouth #navajo #ownvoices

The Best Place to Be

Very colorful 

A playground filled with children

The best place to be

A Navajo writer tries her hand at a Japanese poetry form, proving that we can all learn from each other and embrace our differences. #poetry #haiku #nativeyouth #navajo #ownvoices

Try it! Your (Japanese) Poetry Could be Featured Here!

If you’re a Native youth, we’d love to invite you to submit your poems to Voices of Native Youth for publication on our Creative Natives page. You don’t have to limit yourself to Japanese poetry, though.

Your pieces must be original. If we accept your poem for submission, we’ll need you to send us a short bio (tell us where you live, your tribe affiliation(s), your hobbies, and anything else you want the world to know). Just limit your bio to 100 words or less. Please also send us a clear photo of your face so we can feature you at the end of your post.

Send poetry submissions to: poetry@voicesofnativeyouth.com.

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.

What Happens When Drugs Take Over Your Life?

Do you know anyone who had potential and ruined it with drugs? My math teacher almost ruined his life with drugs. He told us what happens when drugs take over your life.

My math teacher (a veteran who likes to tell us stories to teach us lessons) told us the story of how when he got out of the army he turned to drugs and alcohol. He said, “Drugs distract you from reality.” He had goals after the army, but once he realized that drugs weren’t helping him achieve his goals, he quit using them. Now he’s a math teacher.

Drugs are bad for Native Americans because they contribute to poverty, cause health problems, and ruin Native American lives.

Drug Use Contribues to Suicide and Poverty

Not everyone realizes what happens when drugs take over your life. Before you experiment with drugs, read this. Hopefully it will change your mind. #drugabuse #nativeyouth #nativeamericans #poverty #health #ownvoices

Drug use by Native American youth contributes to the cycle of poverty. According to a report for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 36% of the Native Americans or Alaska Natives who died by suicide had legal intoxication rates. Another study cited in the same paper, “In a small 2007–2010 studyof White Mountain Apacheyouthages 15-24, 64% were “drunk or high” when they died by suicide, 75.7% were “drunk or high” during a suicide attempt, and 49.4% during suicidal ideation.” Suicides don’t just have an emotional toll on the family, either. Familes suffer financially as well.

Depression and substance abuse combine to form a vicious cycle that leads to suicide. According to DrugAbuse.com, “Using drugs impairs decision-making abilities and physically impairs people. This is a deadly concoction when on the job. In fact, 10-20% of American workers who die at work have a positive result when tested for drugs or alcohol.”  In other words, if you start using drugs and alcohol, you won’t live up to your full work potential. All in all, drugs don’t help you with a job, or your future dreams. Drugs contribute to poverty and suicide. 

When Drugs Take Over Your Life, They Take Over Your Family’s Life, Too

Drugs can ruin Native American families. According to Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, Inc. “Every single person in an addict’s immediate family (and at times extended family) is affected in some way by the individual’s substance abuse. Addiction impacts a family’s finances, physical health and psychological wellbeing.”  When parents use drugs, their children will likely follow in their footsteps.

Addiction would be more likely because the relatives and other family members that also had it in the past. So you would have to suffer from that as well. It also states in casapalmera.com, “Drug addiction runs through families, perhaps in part for genetic reasons, and in part due to environmental influence. If you have a blood relative who is addicted, especially a parent or full sibling, you have a higher risk for drug addiction.” In short, drugs can ruin families because drugs come with a cost of damage to families. Also, a family history of drug addiction puts Native youth at risk for becoming addicted, too. Families could break apart because of drugs. 

The Health Risks of Drug Use

You could have health problems because of drugs or you could die. An article from americanaddictioncenters.com says, “People who struggle with addiction spend a great deal of their time intoxicated, on drugs, or trying to acquire more drugs; this means that they often neglect oral hygiene because they cannot afford a dentist or they simply stop caring about brushing their teeth.” You could have gum problems, which puts you at risk for heart disease. So, if you don’t die from the drugs, you could die from heart disease because the drugs make you stop caring for yourself. In conclusion drugs can cause gum problems, as well as heart and lung disease or worse.

Drugs will derail our dreams.#nativeyouth Click To Tweet

Native American youth may not realize how bad drugs are for them. Drugs will derail our dreams by making it difficult for us to finish school or hold a job. Drug use can increase the chances that will take our own lives. Drugs become addicting and could ruin families as well. Drugs could also give you other health problems. You could ruin your gums or increase your risk of heart and lung disease. 

In conclusion, drugs are bad for you because they won’t give you a job, they make it more likely that you’ll commit suicide, they become addictive, ruin families, and give you health problems.

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.

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.

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.

Native Americans in U.S. History Textbooks

Did you know history books give false information about Native Americans? Thousands of children open their history books and learn that Native Americans are “savages” (according to the textbook authors).

Native Americans are portrayed as outcasts and should advocate to make their history known because history books are not reliable, people think we are what history books call us, and at one point everybody was a savage.

A Lack of Education

History books are not reliable because they do not give enough information about Natives. According to a survey of the U.S. history books used in my classroom, there are 307 pages and only 10 pages talk about Natives. For example, the majority of the references talk about Native Americans being victims of the government, such as the time when Navajo people were forced to go on the Long Walk. The textbook fails to include about how the Navajo successfully regained their land.

Of course, there is no background information about the ‘savages’ nor about Native Americans. Children learn and are told that Natives were victims. Consequently, history books should provide more information about the culture of Native Americans before Columbus.

For instance, history books should be rewritten to provide more information and details about Native Americans so students can learn more. History books need to quit only portraying Native Americans as victims and giving false information. 

We aren’t Indians

People keep calling us ‘Indians,’ all because Columbus made a mistake. According to what I found in history books, Native Americans were the people Columbus found during his voyage. But because Columbus thought that he reached India, he called Native Americans  “Indians.” Therefore, people nowadays call Native Americans “Indians” as if we were from India.

People have called us all kinds of names, such as savages, Indians, outlaws, redskins, squaws, and braves. If people researched the meanings behind those names for Native Americans, they would discover that the names are not complimentary.

Schoolchildren learn about us by the names we are called, not about who we are as humans. #socialjustice #native Click To Tweet

As a result, children are learning about us by the names we’ve been called and not about who we are as humans. History books need to stop calling Native Americans by offensive names that people didn’t know the meaning of.

Savage or Civilized?

It might be time to take a hard look at your history books to evaluate them for one-sided history-telling. Native Americans were civilized. #socialjustice #nativeamerican #history

At one point in civilization, everyone acted savagely. The Bible gives evidence of people fighting, killing babies, and stealing from each other. Therefore, the Bible shows that characters acted savagely and acted the way they thought was right, but no one fills history books full of the savage acts of ancient cultures..

In general, it’s not fair that textbook authors call a group of people, such as Native Americans, savages while ignoring the evidences of civilization found among Native cultures. Likewise textbook authors shouldn’t ignore evidence of savagry among the so-called civilized cultures.

Chinampas are an example of Native Americans having more advanced technology than Europeans in the 1500s. Chinampas, which are floating gardens, showed that Native Americans problem solved and thought about their future to make it better.

Thus, Native Americans did not deserve to be called savages because they were more advanced than other civilizations. In other words, don’t call a civilization savage until you know its complete history.

End the Misinformation

Native Americans are not outcasts and should let their history be known. For example, history books only portray Native Americans as victims and give false information. This misinformation allows others to call Native Americans offensive names and make Natives feel as if they can’t speak up for themselves.

It’s time to include information about Native American civilizations and European savagery in history textbooks so that schoolchildren learn a balanced history. It isn’t right to go around spreading false information and name-calling without knowing the background of Native Americans.

Shawnewa Dahozy is a sixteen-year-old junior in high school. She is part Navajo and part Hopi. Her interests include blogging, reading books, journaling, coloring, and hanging out with other people. She wants to let her voice to be heard through writing because sometimes it’s not always easy saying it out loud. Her biggest peeve is when people talk nonstop even when you ask them to stop.

Native Regalia is NOT a Costume!

When I was younger I saw other girls wear a Native American-themed dresses for Halloween. Their dresses had a fringe and at the bottom it had a blue zig-zag line. After seeing this, I asked my mom why my traditional dress didn’t look like the other girls’ dresses.

My mom simply said, “Their parents are idiots. Also, you’re Navajo and your dress will look different than the dresses girls from other tribes wear.”

People should learn the difference between a costume and regalia because not knowing the difference confuses kids; regalia has a purpose; and wearing our regalia is a part of our identity. 

Why You Shouldn’t Buy “Indian Costumes” for Your Kids”

Did you know when other people dress up as “Indians” it could confuse Native kids? According to Jovannah Poor Bear-Adams, a Lakota Sioux, her son questioned his identity as a Native American because he saw kids at a Vacation Bible School program where they had an “Indian” theme and wore fake war bonnets. Since he didn’t dress like that, he wondered if was really a Native American.

This story tells about one Native child’s confusion, imagine how many other kids are confused about their identity. No doubt other kids are asking their parents if they really are Native American.

My grandma argues that dressing up as a Native American can confuse all younger kids. For example, a young non-Native kid could get the wrong impression about Native Americans and think they are all the same because of an “Indian” costume.

As a result, that kid could tell a Native child that he doesn’t look like an Indian and ask questions that would confuse the Native child. In other words, people dressing up as ‘Indians’ for simple activities or TV shows could leave an impression on Native kids and might confuse them.

Don't confuse kids. Learn the difference between a costume and Native regalia. #nativeyouth Click To Tweet

The Importance of Native Regalia

Natives don't wear costumes (and they don't all dress alike). Three things you should think about Native Regalia before you 'dress up like an Indian.' #nativeyouth #nativeamerican #costume #poccahottie
photo by Cabel Bumanglag

Do you know how important our regalia is to us Native Americans? Mike Dangeli talks about that when his school had an ‘Indian day’ and the other kids said, “You should wear your costume!”

He went home he asked his grandma about the costume situation. As a result she explained how Native regalia told stories and history. Our regalia is important because is shares stories and we also use it in our dance groups.

The dictionary points out that a costume is something that a person wears when they are on stage or when a person dresses up as another person. Therefore, a costume is when you dress up as something you’re not.

For example dressing up as Spider-Man is wearing a costume because you’re not actually Spider-Man. All in all, our regalia is not a costume because our traditional wear is a part of us and defines who we are. 

The Role of Regalia and Rediscovery

Our regalia has a big part in helping us rediscover our identity. Anthony O’Neal acknowledges that every teen is trying to discover their own identity and how they fit into the world. Now imagine going to school and seeing a white girl dressed in a “Pocahottie” costum. What would you assume about Native girls?

I am a Native youth trying to find my identity. For example, I know I am Native American and I’m proud of my heritage. But people question my Mexican half. When people find out about my heritage, they comment on my outside features. “You’re not Mexican because you don’t have curly hair or the bright eyes!”

These comments lead me to question who I am.  All in all, teens or other young Indigenous kids are trying to find themselves and you’re not helping by dressing up as one.

Think Before You Play “Dress Up”

Native American’s regalia is not a costume. Doing simple things or just watching certain TV shows could confuse any child.

The regalia that Indigenous people wear defines who they are and you shouldn’t make fun of their heritage.

Teens or other Native kids are trying find their identity and the regalia plays a really big part in helping them understand their heritage. In short, it’s not okay to dress up as a Native American nor should you call regalia a costume because it’s important to us Native youth.

Isis is a small human being who is Navajo and Mexican. She’s an anime lover who likes pizza hot pockets. A pet peeve is when she sees someone’s shoelace tucked in and the other side is hanging out.
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