WHAT ‘REZ LIFE” IN MY TRIBE TAUGHT ME – A BORN & RAISED URBAN INDIGENOUS – ABOUT ‘LOYALTY’ by Damon CorrieTweet
All through my life …from age 6-16… I was the kind of child that created loyal circles of friends around him, but for some reason I was always a bit of a fanatic when it came to this word ‘loyalty’, at least compared to my friends, don’t get me wrong, my school pals (of ALL races) exhibited a great degree of loyalty to me – just as I exhibited to them, we pranked together, we plotted ‘organised mischief’ together, and we got bloody fists and faces fighting together against other groups of boys, but the one thing we NEVER did – is snitch on each other (some of us got multiple detentions, corporal punishments, even suspensions from school – but we never ratted out each other) …..and we NEVER forgot that our friendship meant more to us at this time in our lives than anything else.
That is the glorious part of my childhood I shall never forget….and a close second was the relationships I had with various young ladies, as I was always the ‘heart-on-his-sleeve’ kind of guy….I once had a crush on an older girl who was very popular (and what older girl at school likes a younger guy anyway), obviously I was rejected and it did not feel nice at all…..so when other girls my age got up the courage to let me know they had crushes on me, I remembered how it felt to be rejected – so I did NOT do the same to them, and I agreed to date all of them (not all at the same time of course), some were not physically attractive to me at all, but I decided to get to know the person inside that they were, and found that many who look beautiful – have very ugly hearts and minds, and many who were not deemed to be beautiful in looks – actually were very beautiful people in their hearts and minds.
However, this fanatical sense of loyalty did not die in me as the years rolled by…it merely became ‘out of place’ in the very superficial ‘modern western society’ most of us who live OFF the tribal lands discover to be firmly entrenched in the minds – and what is left of the hearts of others in these self-described ‘civilized’ societies.
It was only by living ‘on the Rez’ of my own tribe – on and off for the last 23 years, that I FINALLY found a place that did NOT have a superficial society, my fellow tribesmen & women by and large do not ‘pretend’ to like anyone….their loyalty is not a theoretical or abstract one, it is as REAL as the sun, the river, and the jungles of our homeland.
It was through actual incidents that occurred there – that the kind of loyalty I was always looking for and feeling in my heart for those I love was revealed to be still in existence.
Just off the top of my head I can recall this – one of many incidents here that will illustrate what I refer to….these were life & death situations that none of us gave a second thought to, we just acted out of loyalty to each other and it was as normal as taking a breath of fresh air….
One night, during Chief Ernest Dundas’s first year of rule in the 1990’s, my ex-soldier eldest brother-in-law’s young children (4 little girls and 4 boys) came knocking at my parent’s-in-law’s house door in the night waking us up and our infant son (as traditional custom I moved in with my wife’s family when we married), we opened to find the children crying and trembling in fear….3 assault rifle armed non-native men in military uniforms had just kicked in the door to their home (which was on a lonely trail heading to the river away from the village center where I was), the armed men were looking for their father (one of my right-hand-men) who was not at home at the time (this was during the time that a certain Government Minister had threatened to have me killed – so I can only assume this was an assassination attempt of one of my principle military trained inner circle members who protected me), I grabbed the ONLY weapon in the house at the time (my father-in-law’s old shotgun) and the 2 shells he had – and I ran over to the Chief’s house which was just about 100 feet away from ours, Chief Dundas and I went alone in the night to try to track down these 3 armed men (as we did not know if they left from my brother-in-law’s house and were still at large in our village looking for my brother-in-law to finish him off) who appeared (by their boot tracks) to have hastily retreated to the river and made good their escape in a boat (now this MIGHT have been due to the fact that I was shouting in different voices as we were hot on their heels in the dark – to make it seem – if they heard us – as though a large crowd of well armed tribesmen were ‘gaining on them’…in my fake conversations ‘various men’ were shouting excitedly about ‘who would get to kill or torture these 3 men first’ lol)…..there was a party in the village that night and all the other men were at this event having a good time – and unaware of the danger in our midst, the Chief and I were the only men around to respond immediately in defence of the tribe…..and with one old shotgun and 2 bird shot shells, IF we had encountered these men, it is quite logical that he and I would have been riddled with bullets and killed (hopefully only after erasing one or more of these would-be assassins faces and taking one or more of them down with us) ……but LOGIC had NOTHING to do with our decisions that night, these crying and terrorized children were MY nieces and nephews and the cousins of the Chief’s wife, their father was MY brother – and three strange men were in our village trying to kill him, it was my DUTY to defend his life (he later did the same for me more than once), for Ernest – he was the Chief of the tribe and he HAD to take charge, even though we were the only men who COULD respond immediately – and therefore we HAD TO…..a man’s sacred duty is to defend the lives of the other members of his family and the tribe collectively….not to run away and hide from potential death.
The Lakota’s of North America have a saying…’Hoka hey’….which means ‘It is a good day to die’….few people can wrap their minds around that expression, but that night was my first ‘Hoka hey’ moment….I faced a situation that demanded of me that I take responsibility for the time and circumstance in which I found myself, and ACT in a fearless and honorable way, and be ready and willing to lay down my life for those I love. THIS is what it means to say ‘It is a good day to die’….for had I died, my spirit would have faced my ancestors with pride for having died trying to do the right thing….and my children, wife, parents, siblings etc…would not have had any reason to feel shame or embarrassment over the manner in which I died. THIS is the kind of society I feel most relaxed in, sure – it has more danger than a comfy urban living, but THAT is not what matters the most to ME….i’d rather live the rest of my life on the Rez where I know human beings are GENUINE and not always paying you lip service with ‘loving’ words that are ultimately meaningless when put to the test….and where there are hundreds of others ready and willing to lay down their lives for me – just as I am ever ready and willing to lay down MY life for THEM….and THIS – is something priceless to me that I value above all else in human society….for I have seen how humanity has become devoid of true & selfless human beings, and the majority think only now of self-preservation – at the expense of any and all else…..and I want no part of that illusion any longer.