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It began like this. I was a sheltered child due to various reasons and empathy of the highest regard. You see, I am the only son of my father and I have one full-blooded sibling. There were two of us boys, but my older brother passed away before I was born. Maybe had he not died, my life would have been much different or not at all. Regardless, I was born in 1974, in Rugby, North Dakota. I was a big baby and long, so long I filled up the newborn bin they placed me in. Twelve-pounds-four-ounces and 24 inches long, but according to my father I was much, much larger. He was a brick layer and only a strong beastly man could come from his loins. Six-foot-eight and 280 pounds is what I looked up to my whole life. He was in the League of Super Heroes: as strong as the Hulk, brave as Captain America, and made of steel like Superman—my favorite super hero.
I was four years old or so when he bought me the fastest, most powerful shoes on the face of the earth. We were in Kmart and as you may already know, Kmart, back then, was Indian heaven. I remember my father saying, “Come on James, let’s go find you some fast shoes.” I would try a pair, and then run up and down the aisles of the store making sure those were the fastest ones. These shoes had super powers; they made me as zippy as Flash Lightning and as agile as Spiderman. Although toys were always my favorite thing, fast shoes changed my whole entire being. I went from a regular boy to someone found inside a meteor out on an abandoned country road.
I was a shy child, with barely enough confidence to leave my father further than arm’s length. At the same time, I was the annoying baby brother who was afraid to ride a bike. I followed my brother and sister everywhere on foot, so finding fast shoes was a necessity for me. I was always hollered at for being slow and chasing them around like they had a block of cheese hooked on the back of their banana-seat bikes. All the way through Standing Rock we would go, stopping only to play or visit with friends. I was just excited to be along. “Wait up!” were the words that most frequently echoed across the rez, bouncing off houses and trees; a plea to not be left too far behind.
As I began to grow, my shoes were always something I knew I could count on to get me where I needed to be quick. They either quickly got me in trouble or quickly got me out of trouble. Trustworthy to protect me while jumping into my father’s freshly raked leaves, or splashing rain water on my best friend, those remarkable shoes will always be a mystery to me. They never let me down. They were with me as I learned to maneuver tricycles, bikes, three-wheelers, motorcycles, cars, trucks, tractors, and heavy equipment. However, as I grew older, my fast shoes began to represent something much more troubling.
In my teen years my shoes met their nemesis. What I could hold in one hand erased the amazement my shoes once held. Like kryptonite, the content of the bottle made what was on my feet not seem to matter much anymore. It stole my strength, my power, and it made me cowardly. It gave me a false sense that I was some kind of super hero. Instead of running to embrace life, I began to run from so many opportunities. I ran from the person I was destined to be. As it turned out there is this thing called genetics, over which, apparently, I have no control. Though I have a kind heart like my mother—very easily hurt—and a generous spirit like my father, I also inherited a weak spot for the bottle. So I took the cards I was dealt and used them to wreak havoc in my own life and the lives of those I loved. I used both my mom’s love for me and my dad’s generous wallet to build and maintain my relationship with kryptonite.
As a young man, I often dreamt of falling and awakening just before I hit the ground, scared and afraid. Now as a man, free of the grip of kryptonite, I dream of flying and leaping. Someday, I may be a real super hero, helping to rid this world of kryptonite. Today, I have replaced my fast shoes with comfort fitted moccasins. I walk upright with my eyes to the future, keeping in mind spiritual progress instead of spiritual perfection. Wisdom, bravery, honesty, humility, respect, truth, and love are the tools I use in everyday life. My family, my wife, daughters, and son, now have a chance to thrive with kryptonite further than an arm’s length away.
Kryptonite has taken many fathers from their homes, mothers from their children, children from their families, and heroes from our people. Lex Luther, and many more much like him, used it to confuse us and weaken our spirits. But we are a resilient people. We are a strong people and we will prevail. Kryptonite will lose its power when all of Indian Country can come together and become one nation under the Creator living in harmony with the Mother Earth; we will be indivisible and there will be peace and hope for all. Our super heroes do not need to wear fast shoes or fancy outfits to change the world.
James M. Lindgren is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. He is Anishinaabe and his spirit name is Waabijiiyaa Ajijaak (Gray Crane). James is a husband and a father to four daughters and a son. He is currently pursuing an associate’s degree at Turtle Mountain Community College and upon completing his education, he hopes to return to Indian Country to help his people fight the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse.