Dear Indigenous teenager:
We need you. You truly are the future of our People, our Nations and our Culture. You are at your first crossroads between a child and adult, standing there often uncertain and yet full of the potential for greatness. Your choices will matter a great deal to us.
Our traditional stories are full of teachings for you. We have the trickster showing you the pitfalls of the world and often what not to do. We have the leaders and the pathmakers with lessons on the good road of life full of positive choices. We, human beings, are often somewhere in the middle. We all make mistakes. The point is to learn from them and keep going with one small good choice at a time. Those small choices lead to big results in the future. Remember there is always time for a course correction, to make a new choice.
Your Nation wants to know what choices you will make for your future and for our future. We need you.
Will you choose to get your education and serve as a doctor taking care of us as we age? Will you become a biologist and protect our water quality? Will you become a lawyer and advance our rights, protect our treaties? Will you learn our traditions and teach them to your children and keep our ways alive? Will you participate in our ceremonies and keep our spirituality strong? Will you be a parent who puts your children first and carries on our Nation?
Or will you develop a drug habit and force us to intervene before you take your life or the life of others? Will you be a defendant in our courts for harming the tribal society? Will you spend your life receiving aid and assistance, draining tribal resources? Will we have to go to your funeral and cry over the loss of a life with great potential? The choices in front of you are made one small decision at a time and we pray that you make good choices honoring your life as one of us.
Will you let us cheer you on in your achievements in the tribal community and all of society? Will you join us as an adult to help your Nation, another Indigenous Nation or the larger world? We are waiting for your answer by watching your actions; and always, always remember – we need you.
The greatest gift from the Creator is the life we live. Make the most of who you are. You were born for a purpose and many purposes over the journey of your life. There are only so many of us in our Nations. You are rare, unique and special. You were born for a reason and you matter a great deal to those around you.
When things get hard, as life will from time to time, remember that seven generations ago, prayers were made for you to be born. Our traditions tell us that we are in a healing phase for our People and that our youth will bring back the strength of our Nations. Your ancestors are watching you with pride and your future grandchildren are counting on you. We pass our traditions, our ways, and our pride on from generation to generation. You are here now with so much to look forward to and we are cheering you on.
(Wambdi Awanwicake Was’teWin)
Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate
Angelique W. EagleWoman, (Wambdi A. Was’teWinyan), is a law professor, legal scholar and has served as a pro tempore Tribal Judge in four Tribal Court systems. As a practicing lawyer, one of the highlights of her career was to serve as General Counsel for her own Tribe, the Sisseton-Wahpeton (Dakota) Oyate. She graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Political Science, received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of North Dakota School of Law with distinction, and her L.L.M. in American Indian and Indigenous Law with honors from the University of Tulsa College of Law.