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Nick-izms
Weíve Got A lot In Common
Tuesday, October 11 2016
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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This month, Iíd like to write about an issue that Iíve been trying to figure out how to write about it. Iíve lived and/or worked in Phillips Neighborhood in South Minneapolis for 22 years and it has changed. What has historically been the heart of the Native community in Minneapolis has changed. There is a large number of African people settling into the neighborhood. †

Letís start here with an Oxford dictionary meaning: Xen-o-pho-bi-a,† NOUN Ė intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

I sat with this issue for a while now. I wanted to make sure my perspective was not xenophobic. After thoughtful reflection and prayer, Iíve come to this conclusion Ė I donít know enough about our new neighbors to have an intense fear. I truly want to know more. Iíd like to figure out a way that we can coexist in our community together. Iíd like them to know the truth about our histories and our stories. We really do have more in common than we donít.
I was going to title my column this month, ďHow Neighborhood Revitalization, a Refugee Crisis, and White Liberals changed the heart of the Minneapolis Native community, for better or worse, To Be Determined (TBD).Ē† I chose not to because it was filled with judgment. As with my other columns, I want to explore a topic and encourage conversation.

Iíd like to encourage you to walk down the street in South Minneapolis and youíll see how itís changed. Iíd like to suggest that you shop in the Phillips neighborhood and youíll get a sense of how much itís changed. When I moved here in 1994 the neighborhood was filled with Native businesses, agencies, and faces Ė Anishinabe, Dakota, Lakota, etc. Back then Native people filled this neighborhood.

Iíve learned by listening to the stories and being a part of this community that many of the Native people in the neighborhood were part of the US Indian Relocation Act of the 1950ís. Many of the families moved here and stayed. There exist several generations of urban Natives that maintain this vibrant community. Heck, AIM began here and a call to Native activism was and is still born here.

Now, I walk out in my neighborhood and see beautiful African faces. Women wearing hijabs. Men dressed in formal American clothes or ajabari. Oftentimes, I see their wide eyed wonder. Itís exciting to see people find a home here. Yet, under all of this mixing is confusion.

I often wonder what Africans are told about Native Americans during their transition here. I am beginning to get a sense that what they are learning isnít good. I suspect they are taught the ugly American ideas about Native people.
One day, as I shopped, a little African kid tried to kick me. The Mother didnít stop him. She said something to her son in their native tongue, but that didnít stop him from give me a disgusted look. Lately, as I grocery shop, the African women are more openly rude to me when Iím there. The African men assume Iím a woman with my long hair, then upon their discovery give me stank face then loudly groan their unhappiness.

In my conversations with the African cab driver, Iíve learned they donít know anything about the Native community theyíve moved into. Iíve stopped smiling at strangers anymore. Iíve tried to befriend Africans, but Iíve not been successful, and itís confusing because Iím a pretty friendly person.

Yes, Phillips is filled with many, many social service agencies, nonprofits, and poor people. But what is forgotten is that Native people are still in trauma, or recovering from trauma. Everyday a Native person has to demand, or fight for our own recognition.

Unfortunately, when someone from another country with trauma is introduced into this neighborhood then we accidently bump into each otherís pain, so to speak. A simple interaction that crosses language, values, and beliefs can lead to mistrust and confusion. My boys donít go to the neighborhood Boys and Girls Club because itís not a safe place. My boys have to maneuver their way home because the racial tension is thick in the neighborhood.
Iíd like to encourage people to learn more about one another. Africans and Native have a lot in common. We are displaced people just trying to find our place. We are tribal people. We have our own customs.

Ultimately, Iíd like to see a conversation occur amongst and between the Native community and the African community. But, who is going to start it? Who is expected to begin these conversations?† Them? Us?
I love my neighborhood. Ultimately, I'd like our neighborhood be safe place to be; a place where we honor each other; and a place where we respect one another.

Education and the white world
Friday, September 09 2016
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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This month, Iíd like to talk about education. In the past, Iíve been a big supporter of going to college, but a few decades and several degrees later my opinions have matured. Iíd like to share my educational journey.

My tribe paid for me to attend college, but they didnít have a job for me when I returned. As a young person I was confused. My Elders talked about going to college and encouraged kids to go to school. They spoke of school and college as though it was salvation. Yet, when it was time to go home as a college educated person, they couldnít find a place for me.

Over the years, upon reflection, Iíve learned what changed, I did. A college education changed me. I was indoctrinated into western thinking, values, and behavior. Ultimately, I changed too much. I didnít sound the same. I thought differently. My attitude reflected the oppressive white society that surrounds the reservations.

In 1994, I moved to Minneapolis and began to work as a Case Manager for Native people living with HIV/AIDS. At that time, death and dying because of AIDS-related complications was common.

In my first job, I knew everything, or at least that is what I believed for an eager 22-year-old college grad. I had a degree, so I was going to change the world and people. Oh, how I was wrong.

ĎWorkí never felt like it because I was where I was called to be. I knew that. I helped people know how to help themselves, or reconcile if they didnít want to. I connected people to resources.

I sat with people as they cried about their diagnosis and I sat with people as they grappled with their mortality. I sat with people as they were dying. I held family members as they grieved. None of this felt like Ďworkí. It felt like such a profound honor that these people would allow me an opportunity to share many of their sacred moments.

Early in my professional life I realized that Native people didnít fit neatly into the categories that I learned in college. Ok, this lesson was more like I tripped, lost my balance, and then crashed hard, face first, into the earth. The people I worked with (clients) taught me more about service and helping people.

Over the years Iíve learned to live on the edges of parts of the Native world and white world. Itís rather a lonesome place living in between. It gets lonesome living amongst people who view you as different because of your education. I learned how to be a chameleon to fit into a variety of places.

Donít assume that Native boarding schools are something of the past. Native people and schools and education have a complicated relationship, but itís changing as people heal from trauma. Historically Native kids were taken away from families and then sent to schools to become indoctrinated.†† Native Boarding schools still exist.

Recently I came upon a picture of me and my Mother at my graduation from college. I was getting my diploma for a Masters in Social Work. I remember this day well. It was the only time Iíve ever seen her in a dress. I remember as I walked across the stage to get my diploma I heard her. I heard her lone scream in the packed auditorium. It is always with her strength that Iíve gotten through the difficulties in my life. Her fundamental belief in me. Her being my champion.

Children rise up to what is expected of them. I expect a lot of my kids. Education is a must. College is expected. I learned to be involved with my kidsí education. I volunteer. I show up to meetings. I contribute my opinion. I stay engaged.† Part of my parenting is being involved with my kidís educational lives.

In the end, I fundamentally believe education can change the world. It has for me. I wouldnít change any part of my journey.
Be the change you wanna see in the world. Education really does create opportunities. It has been instrumental in my ability to grow confident, to have many experiences, and now it has created opportunities for my kids to travel the world.††† †

Ultimately, Iíve learned to raise my kids with a balanced view of the world. Believe me, I donít send my kids to school to learn how to be Native men or white men. I find those sacred spaces for them to grow myself. They get involved with Native issues. I have zero expectation that the Minneapolis Public Schools will teach them how to thrive as Native people. I have an expectation that their school respects and honors their culture. I have an expectation that issues of race are competently dealt with. Itís 2016, and issues of culture, race, and class need to be talked about and dealt with.

Finding Our Way Home Through Healing Trauma
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Itís that time of year that many healing ceremonies are happening. I find myself contemplating where home is. This month, Iím going to explore why I left the reservation. We all leave home for a variety of reasons.

I have many incredible memories of home. I was born and raised on Rosebud reservation in the rural south central South Dakota. I grew up between a couple of small communities Ė Two Strike Community and Spring Creek Community.

This month it's been 26 years since I left. After all these years, home still calls to me. I hear it. I miss it. I long for it.

I am beginning to understand I left for very selfish reasons. I left in search of myself. I left in search of someone to save me. I wanted to run away from the pain and misery of sexual abuse. I hoped to find solace someplace else, and maybe, just maybe, someone to save me.

What was I searching for? I was searching for something to make me feel complete. I longed.†I yearned for wholeness. I ran away from my pain.† I wanted to forget being sexually abused.†

Also, I was looking for someone to solve my problems, or soothe my emotional aches and pains.† I wanted someone to protect me. What I came to discover was that I was responsible for myself.†

I forged my way into a place that was far away from home. Iíd hoped Iíd be safe.† Unfortunately, my unhealed pain would follow me. Life continued to teach me lessons, Iíd be a victim in abusive relationships and sexually assaulted.

When I began to believe there wasnít a God and I was damned, heaven opened up. My beacon out of my darkness was the birth of my son and my grandson. My son was what I dreamed of Ė being a parent.† It is his perfection and his unconditional love that brought me back to life.†

Also, it was when the shell I stayed in became too painful. The shell I built around me to protect me. It is when I broke out of it. I grew.† I sought therapy. I changed my circle of friends. I avoided mean and hurtful people. I learned to protect myself and my family.

We come to our Ďlife changingí moments at various points in of our lives. I did this when I was young. I had opportunities and people who helped me along the way. Iím grateful to my parents and my family who helped me heal. They endured hard conversations and truth telling, but they held on. †

We all have the capacity to change.† That was a belief that was cultivated in me. My mother encouraged me.† She soothed my homesickness and emotional pain, but didnít yield to me.† She wanted me to find my place in the world.†

Itís hard to leave the luxury of home. Home is safety. Home can be crazy.† Yet, home is familiar.†Home is filled with family and friends.†Home is filled with people that look like me, sound like me, and think like me. Yet, I left.††

Part of me is home on the prairie of South Dakota, I'm still sitting on my Motherís porch in Two Strike looking at the stars wondering about the world. The other part of me is here in Minnesota, I am amongst my chosen family and friends and live in the many beautiful communities I adore.
I left home a few decades ago to pursue school and a better life.†My parents urged me along.†They were my biggest cheerleaders.†They understood the struggle of growing up on the reservation. They wanted more opportunities for my life beyond the reservation borders. ††

At the end of my life, I want to look back on a life well lived.†I know this, my healing has helped my family and the future generations to come. My healing is bound to theirs. They will not bear the burden of my pain, nor the pain weíve inherited. My grandson and his children will be eager about the world. The future generations of my children will boldly meet the world on their terms.†

My story, parts of it, is a cautionary tale but most of it is filled with hope. Itís always been steeped in hope. Itís my story and my search for my wholeness. My English name is Nick. I am Sicangu Oyate. I am one of the Burnt Thigh People. Cetanzi† (Yellow Hawk) is the name my family has given me. It is the name my ancestors will know me as. Home is where I make it. It is where healing happens. It is where my heart is.

Freedom and Liberation
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Itís that time of year that we celebrate freedom and liberation. Iíd be anti-American if I say I didnít support this, but for Native people it is a further example of the treachery we endured in the formation of this country. Iíd like to take a different view on this and challenge ourselves to free ourselves and liberate ourselves.

As with most of my columns, I take a perspective of growth, development, and evolution, particularly mine. I donít ever ask anyone to ever agree with me wholeheartedly, but take what I write as a different viewpoint of the world. Take what you need and leave the rest. Thatís what good writing does. It inspires you.

Ok, freedom from the past. In my many years of work in social services, Iíve witnessed many people struggle with a difficult past. They are coming to terms with hurt they experienced. They are trying to understand why something happened in their life. They are realizing a new way of being in the world.

Itís been an extreme privilege and honor to work in the helping profession. I enjoy it. I learn from the many people that Iíve sat with over the years.

What have I learned and come to understand?† We hold onto to pain for too long. Sometimes we have to let something go. We cannot go back in time and have a different childhood experience, or force someone to treat us differently, or make someone love us.
I know for myself, Iíve held onto pain and hurt from my life. I sat with it while it festered. I allowed it to change me. Until one day, my therapist said to me, ĎWhy are you doing this to yourself Nick? All you are doing is wallowing in self-pity and feeling bad because your family didnít live up to your expectations. They are your expectations, not theirs.Ē Wham! †

In order for me to move on with my life, I needed to let go of how I believed it shouldíve gone, or what I expected from people. Duh! Yeah right. I spent many hours feeling bad while the people I felt slighted me were laughing, loving, and living their life. They had no knowledge of how their behavior impacted me. I was the one who was torturing myself. I was stopping myself from living a full life. I had a chance to laugh, love, and experience joy, too.

Donít get me wrong, people who have harmed you should be held accountable. If you have a legal action, then take it. If you have the type of relationship where you can talk with someone about they treated you, then do it.

I do have to share, Iíve been pretty lucky that my family has been helpful in my healing. Throughout my therapy, my parents remained available to me. They sat through some pretty hard stuff. They listened to my hurt and pain. They acknowledged and owned what they needed to. They understood for my wellbeing that I needed to reconcile somethings with them. Iím ever so grateful for that opportunity. Before my parentís died, we got a chance to grow together.

Ok, ok, ok, Iíd be remiss if I didnít tell you that this process is some pretty hard work. If you truly want to feel freedom from your past then youíll have to put in the time and look some ugly truths in the face. You will have to decide what you can tackle on your own, and what you may need a therapist for.

Finding a therapist isnít only calling the clinic up and making an appointment. You have to meet with the therapist a few times before you decide if you want to work with them. Ask them lots of questions. Ask them questions about their professional experiences. Ask them if they are capable of helping you heal. If you feel comfortable with them, then stay. If not, then move along and find someone else. Remember, this is all about your own healing. Someone needs to earn the right to hear your story.

Liberation from past hurts is incredible. I donít harbor any ill will toward people. Of course, there are people in my life who Iíll never reconcile some hurt with. I decide who is in my life, or not. I am not required to have someone in my life who is harmful to me physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

At the end of the day, this is my life. This is my liberation. This is my opportunity to live my life to the fullest. I donít intend to look back on my life with lots of regrets,† I want to look back with incredible moments and profound memories. I want to say, I did my best and I lived. Yes, I lived to my fullest potential. Now join meÖ† †

Living a principled life
Friday, August 05 2016
 
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Itís that time of year for renewal. Itís a time to be reminded of our principles.†† For some of us, itís this time of year that we participate in our ceremonies. Itís this time that we put our worries away, give thanks, imagine possibilities, and be in awe of creation. Itís time for ceremonies.

What do I mean by a principled life?† Principled is defined as: a person or their behavior acting in accordance with morality and showing of right and wrong. Morality is defined as: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. Oftentimes, these are taught to us by our parents and our relatives. It is there we are taught how to conduct ourselves in the world and in relationship with others.

I have recently been learning about the 7 Anishinaabe Grandfather teachings. They include:
ē Nibwaakaawin (Wisdom): To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom.
ē Zaagi'idiwin (Love): To know peace is to know love.
ē Minaadendamowin (Respect): To honor all creation is to have respect.
ē Aakode'ewin (Bravery): Bravery is to face the foe with integrity.
ē Gwayakwaadiziwin (Honesty): Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave.
ē Dabaadendiziwin (Humility): Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation.
ē Debwewin (Truth): Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

As I sat and listened to an Anishinaabe Elders it dawned on me that the Lakota have similar teachings. I was taught many of these by my parents and family.

As I sat there in ceremony, it dawned on me that not everyone lives their life in accordance to these teachings, or participates in our ceremonies. There are parts of our community who are in survival mode, or caught up in addiction, or are afraid to learn.

What I know is that each time I meet a person, I give them the benefit of showing me who they are. Itís then that I decide if they are someone I want in my life. Iíve learned that not everyone should be in my life.
Not everyone lives a principled life. Shocking, I know, but for me it was a realization. Recently, I was fooled into believing that a family shared similar values as me, but they didnít. I mistakenly brought them close to my family and assumed they were my family, but they werenít.

Itís been a life of trial and errors as I learn that people have different values. Some people donít value family. Some people do not have any regard for others. Some people deliberately exploit people for their own personal gain. Some people are cruel for the sake of being cruel. These are the kind of people that I avoid.

Iíve come to realize that sometimes my disappointments are tied to my expectations of people. For me, these relationships are not how I imagine them to be. People arenít living up to my expectations. People arenít behaving how theyíre supposed to. Note, all of this is occurring in my mind.
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s I write, I struggle. I am reminded that I donít know how to give voice to my desires. The sound of my voice is unfamiliar. I fall back into myself. As I shrink into myself, I wonder, how dare I speak?† Who am I to give voice to what I need?† Who am I to give voice to what I want?† My words taste unfamiliar. Are these my needs and wants? †

Verbalizing my expectations requires confidence, or sense of agency about oneself. Confidence, itís a trait Iím learning. Oftentimes, I quiver in myself. Years of abuse, assault, and rape taught me to disassociate.

As a child, I didnít have control over who I was around because the adults oversaw this. It was confusing because our parents encouraged us to respect our Elders, but we were treated disrespectfully by some Elders. I later learned that they ainít Elders, they are just old.† †

As an adult, I choose who is in my life. It is my right to exclude people from my life. If someone tears at me, diminishes my light, speaks to me disrespectfully, then they have no place in my life or my families. Respect, it goes two ways.† †

I have a right to state if my needs are not being met. Yes, Iím learning to manage my expectations in relationships and disappointments. They are a bit unwieldy. Life is still teaching me how to live it.

s the summer is upon us, and for those who go to ceremony, it is that time for renewal, for understanding, for forgiveness. Iím not carrying any disappointments into my new year with me. Life is too wonderful and living is too beautiful. Iím taking clarity into my new year and a sense of renewal of our principles.

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