I was told, as a teenager, that if I wanted to have a successful future I would have to conform to what western society expected of me, that my perspectives and thinking were too bold, too honest, and that I was too up front about sharing them. Yet, in my heart, I felt that the opposite was true. That we can no longer afford to conform to a dominant culture that was denying us, on a collective cultural and on an individual level, the true freedom to be who we are. Historically, it involved conscious concerted efforts to eradicate our languages, songs, dances, spirituality, ceremony, and philosophy, as well as the taking of most North American lands. To this day, we are challenged to liberate our spirit, as well as our social, economic, educational, and political systems from practices of western domination and control. The saddest part to me though, is what it does to our people on an emotional, spiritual, and intellectual level. Many of us have to fight, within ourselves, to be able to feel good about who we are, while simultaneously fighting for the right to be in control of our destiny. There are too many of our people, young and old, silently suffering on the inside. Some are not aware of how generations of psychological, emotional, and spiritual abuse, coupled with the introduction of alcohol and drugs, work to keep our spirit down.
I consciously decided at the age of seventeen, as a high school drop-out, that I would follow the path that I was meant to walk in life. I did not know where it would take me, although I understood that I would have to face many challenges along the way. It has been nearly two decades since that time. I have come to understand that the major battles occur within ourselves, as we work to liberate our mind and spirit from ideas that limit our belief that something different is possible in our life and in that of our peoples. If I could climb the twenty thousand foot summit of mount Denali, the High One, and send a call across the world, that "the time has come for us to be free" and "it is okay to be who you are", I would do so. The truth is that vast numbers of people around the world are silently suffering as the dominant global culture entices or forces us to compromise fundamental values we believe in and change who we were meant to be; a unique beautiful person. So, my message is to sing your song, let it be heard, let no one suppress that which is uniquely you. If we live an authentic life, true to ourself, true to others, it will once again become both acceptable and a benefit to our communities and society. It just takes a few to demonstrate that it is possible. As an elder chief once mentored me, "never let anyone call us a poor people, while we are not rich with money, we are rich in the knowledge of who we are."

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