Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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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 necessary.

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.

Nick 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.

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