Finding Our Way Home Through Healing Trauma


It’s that time of year that many healing ceremonies are happening. I find myself contemplating where home is. This month, I’m 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 – 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. I’d hoped I’d be safe.  Unfortunately, my unhealed pain would follow me. Life continued to teach me lessons, I’d be a victim in abusive relationships and sexually assaulted.

When I began to believe there wasn’t 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 – 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 ‘life changing’ 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. I’m 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 didn’t yield to me.  She wanted me to find my place in the world. 

It’s 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 Mother’s 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 we’ve 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. It’s always been steeped in hope. It’s 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.

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