Trying to balance the many demands of being a high schooler has left Darryl Lazare Jr. with little time to learn the language and customs of his own people.
Lazare Jr. is a junior at Massena High School in Massena, N.Y. He plays saxophone in the band, goes on McDonald’s runs with his friends, and plays the video game Call of Duty — which he even dreams about. He enjoys math and science, mostly because it comes so easily to him, he said.
He grew up as part of the Mohawk tribe on the Akwesasne Nation, the only Indigenous Nation that cuts across the U.S.-Canadian border. At his parents’, the house is in Canada, and the backyard is in the United States.
Lazare Jr. doesn’t know as much about the Akwesasne culture as he would like. He can’t speak Mohawk and doesn’t attend many festivals.
But he would like to to learn or at the very least he plans on making his children learn and carry on the culture.
And while he loves and values the freedom and family that enveloped him on the reservation, he wants to get out. “There is no room for achievement here,” he said.
Through a Promise Scholarship, which pays for first-year students who are certified citizens of one of the Haudenosaunee nations and have “resided on one of the Haudenosaunee nation territories for a minimum of four years,” Lazare Jr. could go to Syracuse University.
But he doesn’t know what university he wants to attend yet, or exactly what he wants to study, though engineering is a possibility, the 17-year-old said.
Lazare Jr. often takes refuge on the Saint Lawrence River where he fishes with his grandfather.
Lazare Jr. says the water isn’t very clean after years of companies dumping their waste in the river. Thus anything they catch is less desirable and many people in the community refuse to eat the fish.
But Lazare Jr.’s grandfather will still eat the fish and also brings them cooked to community elders as a sign of respect.
The importance of community and family is prevalent throughout the Akwesasne nation, where sometimes whole families will live on one street for generations.
This story was originally published at TheNewsHouse.com.
Lauren Miller is a rising junior studying photojournalism in the Newhouse Visual Communications program. She was previously an assistant video editor at the Daily Orange and is currently home in Chicago for summer. Follow her work at @laurenmiller.jpg on Instagram.