Joseph’s whole day is so perfect on Thanksgiving. Then his night is truly a living nightmare. That’s what happens when you’re young, Native, and living on the west side of Denver. There are lots of Natives in Denver. Lots of young native men come from the reservations and think that the city rules are like the rez rules. Rules are made to be broken because of the unexpected. What happens to this young man unexpectedly pushes him to do the unexpected.
Joseph is a brave young man and is also a Native man living in the big city. He’s been in trouble with the law. So he is trying to keep a low profile. Let’s just say he’s a “highway man.” Joseph robs small timers, mid timers, and even random people off the streets. He finally gets caught for robbing a person and is now facing five years in prison. Sometimes he runs with a gang called the Inca Boyz—a bunch of hardheaded Natives who can cause lots of damage.
Joseph is usually a lone warrior, and is always walking around with a mini nine, thinking he’s invincible. Joseph never backs down either. Walking down streets just looking for a fight, But on this unknowing night Joseph is in a good mood, trusting to leave his mini nine at home and just deciding to enjoy Thanksgiving Day evening.
Joseph is just leaving an old friend’s place, Smoking on some green and catching the night’s high. Joseph lives a half mile away from his friend’s house and walks a couple of blocks and is about to come up on top of a hill. Joseph notices a tall young man as he gets closer to the top of the hill. As Joseph gets closer the young tall man asks Joseph if he has a cig. Joseph digs in his pocket for one. Pulls it out, and hands it to him. Joseph notices that he puts the smoke in his pocket and thinks, that is kind of weird. So he started to talk to the young fella, and he hears fast footsteps coming from behind. He looks in the direction of the fast steps, and it’s another young man running at him. The young man hits Joseph, and knocks him on his ass. Joseph gets back up real fast and starts to fight the man that hit him. Shortly after the other youngster jumps in, but they didn’t know that he knew how to fight.
The two young men are struggling with Joseph. Joseph is moving around and picking these two guys apart slowly. At some point in the fight, Joseph punches the tall young man, and he falls down. When he falls, something metal hits the ground. Joseph looks, and sees a shiny knife. He picks up the knife, and stares at it thinking, it’s so BIG! All kinds of thoughts enter his mind, like these guys are trying to kill me. As he is looking at the knife, the other young man runs at Joseph screaming. Joseph takes the knife and looks at his shoulder, just trying to give the young guy a flesh wound. Trying to stop the craziness, because he thought they really were trying to kill him. He swings the knife at the young man’s shoulder, but the young man ducks. Instead of the knife going through his shoulder, the knife goes through his temple. The young man looks at Joseph with a glazed look. As he pulls it out, and the young man drops really fast to the ground. The young man’s friend immediately rushes to his side because he is not moving. He starts screaming out his name and yelling for help. As soon as Joseph hears that, he runs really fast down to a creek at the bottom of the hill. The knife shines in his hand. He runs a few blocks down and he is so scared and feels the adrenalin pumping. Once he stops, he is standing by the creek just looking at the knife. He is feeling so mad, so angry, and so intense that he breaks the knife in half with his bare hands and he throws it in the creek. He screams.
He runs home scared, thinking the cops were looking for him, or thinking the young man’s friend is looking for him. Joseph calls his brother, because he did not know who to trust or who to talk to. But his brother does not answer the phone and Joseph doesn’t know where to go. He lets time slip by and no one is the wiser.
This dirty little secret has been driving him crazy for over a year. Joseph does not know if that young man survived. All he knows is that could have been him, and he knows in his heart, that he was just trying to stop the fight, but it just ended in the wrong way. The unexpected forces you to do the unexpected.
Joseph really hopes that everything will be okay in the long run. It’s been five years since the incident and Joseph is just getting out of prison for another crime. He knows his mistake, but hopes to handle it honestly someday. Joseph just knows he defended himself the only way he knew how. Joseph’s intentions were not to take a life, but his intentions were to defend himself. Even though it went wrong, he still feels he defended himself well and that the other young man made the mistake. Joseph has to live with it and has to deal with it somehow. He really believes they were trying to hurt him or even trying to take his life.
Clifford Jade Andersen is Lakota Sioux from the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Nation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He attends Navajo Technical University and majors in alternative energy systems.