Passing the Torch and Finding the Light

This has been a sad time in all of our histories. All over the country, all over the world, we are slowly losing the ones who have provided us with good guidance on how to live our lives. And while it is true that people die every day, whether there is a pandemic or not, part of what makes this moment hurt so much is that it feels like they are moving on to the next phase at the exact moment we need their guidance here the most. Who is going to be our hero, now that our heroes are moving on?

One thing that a lot of people don’t know about Indian Country is that while we are ancient historically and culturally, demographically we are very young. In the last census, the median age on the Menominee reservation was just 20 years old. While we have yet to see what this year’s census will show, it seems unlikely to be very different. You can see this age demographic in where we put our energy. The youth are out there leading marches, holding summits, learning their languages, spending summers in camp and immersion schools. There is a youthful energy in Indian Country, rooted in the love and teachings of the elders.

But for those of us who are no longer “youth” and are certainly not “elders,” this can be a very strange time. For students, the idea of becoming what we have been working hard to be is bittersweet, because it means having to overcome fears, leave behind harmful behaviors, and find a way to put together all that we have learned while we step out into the world and make a place for ourselves in it.  There is something about that knowledge that feels as terrifying as it does empowering, even if, like many of us, you have been “kicked out of the nest” already.

We all have a moment where we find ourselves looking around for someone only to realize that someone is us. As the older ones move along and the youth rise up, we also have to take our place in this society. We have to be our own heroes. We have to be the protectors, the speakers, the organizers, the leaders. Nobody’s going to come hold our hand and save us. We have to save ourselves, especially if we want there to be anything worth saving when it is our children’s turn.

Jasmine Neosh is a student at College of Menominee Nation.

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