When we talk about assimilation, we all share the same pain.
~Verlyn Long Wolf, Female Mentor
Oaye Luta Okolakiciye
Moving Forward in a Sacred Way
Youth Male Mentor
I’ve been in this position since August 2021 and I love it.
As far back as I could remember I struggled with mainstream systems of education. It was during my elementary years that was the most difficult for me. I was the only Indian in a school of 400 students. Fortunately, being raised by a Lakota matriarch, my grandmother, Margaret RedShirt and her daughter, who is my mother, Gracie RedShirt Tyon, Lakota values were instilled in me at a very young age. Both encouraged and supported me through those difficult times. When other kids would bully me because of my long braids, I was reminded of my Lakota identity and how important it is to know who I am and where I come from.
As an adolescent I found myself struggling again, which had to do with getting in with the wrong crowds, not feeling confident or supported in the learning environment I was in and experiencing normal adolescent growing pains and changes. I was pushed out of school, had some problems with drugs and alcohol and finally ended up going to court because of my actions.
I was fast approaching 18 years old and mom and grandma both thought I needed more structure. During a family meeting I was given two choices, that mom and grandma thought would help me in my transition into manhood, either go to the military or go live with UncleWilmer “Stampede” Mesteth. Not knowing what I should do, I asked mom what she would do. She told me that Stampede knows the Lakota ways and that I would benefit from his knowledge. She had already talked to him about it as I had also had a dream that I was on hanbleciya (a vision quest). This was of extreme importance and couldn’t have come at a better time. It is a right of passage ceremony and something that could guide me to the path I needed.
Upon arriving at Stampede's house he gave me two simple rules. The first was that I would attend Oglala Lakota College and the second, to get a job. On the following Monday after I had arrived, Uncle Wilmer took me to the Pine Ridge college center where I registered for Fall classes. On Tuesday, I had an interview for a part-time substitute teacher at Loneman Elementary School.
I can humbly and proudly say that I have been drug and alcohol free for 18 years. I received my Lakota Language Certificate to teach the Lakota language and I found purpose in my life. I am certain that many more doors will open for me, because of my commitment to living a healthy lifestyle, and through my Lakota ways and values, I have gained so much wisdom and healing .