Recently I saw this article about the beader who shot to success because Whoopi Goldberg wore her medallion on The View. She received orders and inquiries from all over. Unfortunately, the story was about how she failed to fulfill those orders.
While I would never presume to speak on behalf of an entire people, economic experience nor cultural background, what it did get me thinking about was how no one ever prepared me for success because no one (except my parents, of course) ever planned on me succeeding. Over the course of my 20s and early 30s, what I knew about success was that it never happened to me.
As living indigenous people, we tend to be written off by everyone else either by virtue of a living tragedy, cautionary tales of alcoholism, addiction and poverty, or by uninformed folks as greedy leeches who simultaneously steal government money while also collecting vast wealth at casino doors. There are, of course, variations on a theme but everyone in American society thinks we’re a problem to be solved or a problem too vast to be solved, but we’re never thought of as an asset to this society.
It took recovery from my own addictions to help me even begin to grasp the idea that I had a positive benefit in the world. It took me another five years in recovery to start using my experience in navigating successes, failures and status quos to leverage my identity as a disruptor and change agent.
Now success to me looks like making an impact (whether short or long term) and challenging pre-conceived notions of how we even define success. For the beader in Canada who is stalling for time, rearranging the truth and using every story in their story box to deal with the rush of admiration that no one prepared her for, my deepest empathies go out.
It’s hard to live as an indigenous person in a society that is committed to erasing us, putting us under glass or eradicating us. We never have enough patience with each other, we have plenty of criticism for one another and when our struggles are received with silence, it seems like we’re alone in the world.
When we internalize the reality that we are deserving of success, joy, love and compassion … and that our fellow indigenous folks are too, our healing journey has just begun.