Cheyenne River Sioux
I am proud to be Native American because it’s who I am.
It’s the essence and the core of everything I feel, believe, and experience. It sets up my world view, how I react, communicate, and connect with everyone across the world. It grounds me in the very soil we stand on. I know that for generations my ancestors have been here and the fact that I’m still here and my children are here despite everything that we’ve gone through as a people really makes me proud to say that I exist, I’m healthy, I’m happy, and I’m very proud to be a Lakota.
Lakota culture means to be honest and humble and to recognize everyone in their humanity and as my relative on this planet. I try very hard to do my best everyday and realize that I am part of a greater whole and that together we’re stronger. Those values ground me, my family, and my community. They help me make decisions everyday and remind me to be who I am instead of what other people think I should be.
We talk about the great spirit or the great energy that connects us all and I believe that exists. Time and existence is not a straight line, but more of a kaleidoscope of interactions. So for me death is just another state of being. It’s not a location. My mother passed away recently and I believe she is still here with me and will continue to be with me and my children. She’s just in another state of being. Death is not an ending at all in my mind, my heart, or my soul. It’s just a new existence that we should not be afraid of.
My belief about dying is that once my spirit moves onto the next plane I don’t need my body anymore and if someone else could benefit from what I leave behind I would want them to have that opportunity. I made the decision at a very young age to be a donor and I told my parents about it so that they would know if something were to happen to me. I truly believe that we’re all relatives and why wouldn’t I give something to help my relative.
Donation is something that my husband and I have talked about. We have it in our health care directive so there’s no question from family or friends about what to do. I think everyone should have a conversation about donation with their loved ones and don’t just assume people know what you want for when you pass on.
Learning that there are 62 Native Americans waiting for a tissue or transplant of some sort makes me want to get tested and see if I’d be a match if they are needing something from a living donor. It also really emphasizes the need to have these conversations throughout our community. I know there are some spiritual beliefs where the body needs to remain whole and I respect that completely, but for those who don’t share those beliefs or would consider being a donor it’s something that I don’t think we talk about enough. It’s something that we should discuss with both our young and our elders so that those 62 people can meet and find a match and continue living.
When I think about organ and tissue donation it really just makes me think what a beautiful gift that is – particularly for someone who has passed on to continue their presence by helping someone else live longer or live a better life. That’s really a beautiful thing.