By Patience Harjo | Muscogee Creek and Pawnee | grade 12
In my eighteen years of life, my parents and grandparents have imparted so much knowledge to me. As I have grown up, I have learned the difference between right and wrong. I learned how to respect others, when to abstain from harmful substances, my traditions as a young Native woman, and why I need to further my education. There are four elements that are important to Native people — not just during our ancestor’s time. They are relevant in our lives today. All of these values are what our ancestors utilized and these values are connected to each other. Each value builds upon one another, and without one, the sequence is incomplete. These elements are: brain power, physical power, spiritual power, and Indian power!
Although brain power is a force that needs to be developed, no Native is without this inherent and basic skill. Without brain power, no tribe would have ever known how to create homes for their families and feed or clothe them. So many years later, we still use brain power in our everyday lives. Our brains are used to further our education, not just tribally, but also academically. In this time, an education is what is important for us to obtain. This is where we use our brainpower to care for ourselves and our families. This is what helps us feed and clothe and take care of our loved ones. Living in a 21st century world requires me to continue with higher education if I want to have a career that I can be proud of. A career I can use to help myself, my family, and others.
The second element is physical power. I believe that we must take care of our bodies in addition to all the other elements in order to be in top shape to help our people achieve greatness. This includes abstaining from alcohol, drugs, and unsafe sex. Our people lived sober lifestyles because they believed that was the right way to take care of their bodies. We should be exercising our bodies for good cardiovascular health. The healthier our bodies are, the longer we can live to help our people. There are many physical outlets that can help us hone our brain power and develop strength, not just physically, but mentally as well.
The differences that we see in each other are like a glue that can hold our people and our tribes together, because we are all working together to create opportunities and open doors for those who want to pursue their dreams.
In my Pawnee language, the word for heavenly father is Attias Tidawihut. Attias has led and guided our people throughout the generations. The Pawnees were led and guided by the stars. We look at the creation of Attias and marvel at its beauty. How much more do you think he has invested in us to complete our earthly tasks and help our people? We are his showmen. The differences that we see in each other are like a glue that can hold our people and our tribes together, because we are all working together to create opportunities and open doors for those who want to pursue their dreams. We are spiritual people, who listen to the voice of the Creator. Spiritual balance, the third element, along with brainpower, and physical discipline is of the mind-body-soul connection that I strongly advocate and believe in.
The fourth and last element is one that we cannot deny, nor ignore. From the color of our hair and the shape of our cheekbones to the rich shade of our skin — but being Native American is much more than skin deep. It is rooted deeply in our hearts, in our desires to serve the people that we come from, and in our traditions that we carry with us from place to place. We are beautiful and special in each of our own ways, never to be hidden or ashamed of who we are. As much as we would like to change the atrocities of the past, we cannot. However, it helps shape us into the people that we are today. Native people continue to thrive in a modern world. Is there opposition? Yes. Are there hardships? Yes. However, it is in our blood to continue to press onward and to not give up in the face of adversity.
We are beautiful and special in each of our own ways, never to be hidden or ashamed of who we are.
An important person in my family is my great-great-grandfather, Ralph Weeks. In Pawnee, the word for grandfather is Uppit. My Uppit Ralph utilized all of these values to the best of his ability. He was an educated man and had a degree in law. He was one of the very first Native American attorneys. He was a strong believer in the Creator. He worked for the United States Government as a scout, so he had to keep his body in shape. He respected his culture as a Pawnee man. He gave a speech to a group of teachers and students from Pawnee Indian School in Pawnee, Oklahoma. He encouraged the students to continue to pursue education. He said, “I wish to encourage every Indian child within the sound of my voice to press onward…Press forward, press onward, children. Do not be discouraged.”. He will always be a source of strength for my family and me.
Brain power. Spiritual power. Physical power. Indian power.
We are strong, we are resilient, and we have purpose.
Weeks, Ralph J. “A Comparison of Old Times and New.”