Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised


jpeg_pic.jpgAs Native people, from a diverse world

views, we have a lot more in common than we don’t. ‘Am I Indian

enough?’, ‘Living in an urban environment and on the rez, am I

indian?’, ‘What is being Indian?’, ‘How do we reconcile our

painful histories so we survive, as a people?’

For a culture to survive it must

adapt. It must remain relevant with the sociopolitical community

constructs that enable it to survive. Twenty years ago I moved to the

Twin Cities; it was 1987 when I fell in love with The Cities. I was

a wide-eyed kid from the rural Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota,

on the end of summer trip for a college prep program, Upward Bound.

The Twin Cities pulsated with excitement and called for me to

discover it.

With the blessing of my parents and

the love of my family, I embarked on new opportunities and the

challenge of attending college at the University of South Dakota in

Vermillion, S.D. I would return back here to work for ValleyFair for

a summer when my love affair with Minnesota deepened.

The vibrant community of social

activism pulsated. I come from a family that is active in tribal

politics and understands how essential it is to be an active

community member. Once I completed my undergraduate, I dreamed of

Minnesota. The Twin Cities, the place where AIM began and their call

to action brought me here.

Little did I know that my rural

reservation upbringing would challenge me. Generations of my family,

as many Natives, grapple with assimilation and integration. Over the

years, through social activism and being involved with community, I

found myself being the lone Native voice at the table. Firstly, I

needed to define my voice, pull apart the childhood lessons with the

urgency of being in non-Native spaces, ‘speak when you are spoken

to,’ ‘don’t speak over people when they talk,’ ‘wait your turn to

speak,’ et cetera.

Ultimately for me, how do I remain

truthful to who I am as a Sicangu man and not become so ‘white’

that I leave my family, my community and my people. I’ve been lucky

that I’ve met incredible Anishinabe elders, Dakota elders, Ho-Chunk

elders and Lakota elders who guided me along my journey. I’m still

learning. I can remain being a Native person in a ‘white world.’

Living as a Native person in a world

that demands you become something that you are not, is difficult. The

looks, the comments, the politically correct comments I’ve endured

to be involved would tear at my sensitive spirit. I’ve learned to

hold on and hear people with my heart, ask questions, demand they

understand my worldview, and sometimes, wait patiently.

As my Uncle Randy Kills In Water would

say, “Is it ’cause I’m brown? Is it cause I’m Indian? Is it

cause I’m Lakota? Is it cause I’m Sicangu? What is your problem

with me?” All excellent questions that demand attention cause we

live in world that is getting smaller, but our Native voice is


Our voice is unique. Our journey is

ours. Our stories need to be told. Our people have survived, by any

means necessary.

Collectively, there is grief. It is

real. Until we speak about it and tell our individual truth about it,

then our individual and collective healing will be inhibited. When I

listen to my kids and look into their faces, I see across many

generations. We’ve survived thus far, we will continue to survive.

Until we speak our truth to the wind, claim our hurt, let it go,

forgive and transform ourselves … What will become of us as

individuals, as a people, as a Tribal Nation. The stories we were

told, as children, are coming true. Oral histories that were handed

down for generations.

Gitchi Mani do. Tunkasila.

Cetanzi – Nicholas “Nick”

Metcalf, MSW, a long-time community activist who has worked, lived

and loved in the Twin Cities community for over 20 years. Nick is an

enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, South Dakota where he

grew up. Nick attended the University of South Dakota for their

Bachelor’s in Science (Math/Psychology and received their MSW in

Family Therapy at Augsburg College. Nick has worked in non-profit

management throughout most of their professional career.


currently works for the Minnesota Department of Human Services and is an active volunteer on a variety of community projects and

initiatives impacting communities of color. Nick is active on the

Board of Directors for Minnesota Two Spirit Society, Rainbow Health

Initiative, South High School All Nations Program Parent Advisory

Committee and Minneapolis Public Schools Indian Education Committee.

Nick is an emerging writer/poet who manages a blog entitled,

“Nickizms” and shares his daily musings on their Facebook

profile. Nick’s first published piece can be found in the 2014 St.

Paul Almanac, “A Mother’s Hope.” Nick is a proud parent of a

two active teenage young men.