Small Stories

09/14/2011 10:52 am ET | Updated Nov 14, 2011

She triumphed over apathy.

See, nobody cared whether she ultimately won or lost. Nobody cared if she showed up late for school, or if she even went to school at all. Nobody seemed to care that she regularly drove her drunken mom around to the various bars around her tiny, little reservation town when she was only 12 years old.


Nobody cared if she ate meatball stew, loaded with tons of sodium and preservatives, every single night and guaranteed high blood pressure when she got older. Nobody cared if she fed that same meatball stew to her 4- and 5-year-old brothers every night because she didn't know how to cook anything else, and nobody else was there to cook. Nobody even cared that she spent entirely too much time with her creepy male cousin, older than her by 10 years, and that she began to live with that creepy older cousin when she was only 12. He, of course, understood that nobody cared and used the indifference and apathy as an opportunity to sexually experiment on her.

She tried to cry out for help, but she was scared of him physically and mentally. Plus, even though she hated the sexual and physical abuse, he was the only one that seemed to care.

Nobody noticed when she finally had to run away, in order to survive her older cousin's physical abuse, when she was 13 years old. She stayed away for 10 days and nobody noticed; the only time her mom mentioned it was to get mad at her for making her creepy older cousin worry.


Nobody cared when she became a mom at 15 years of age -- why would they? She definitely wasn't special; she was just one of many teenage moms on the reservation. "Welcome to the club -- lots of nobodies in this particular club."

Lots of nobodies didn't care either.

But she overcame.

She won tiny little victory after tiny little victory, in the midst of apathy, indifference and disinterest, and began to build a bit of confidence. She arose from the maternity ward -- a little girl of 15 years of age -- and said, "I will give my baby a better life. His dad is not around and I made bad choices to put myself in this position. But my decisions will get better. My baby deserves better." The next day, with hospital gown poking out under her sweatshirt, she enrolled back into school, into 10th grade. She worked her way through high school at a local Sinclair's gas station, getting WIC, welfare and no assistance from the child's deadbeat dad. She did her schoolwork late at night, spending only about 2 waking hours with her baby boy, but reading chemistry and trigonometry books out loud to the baby over his cradle board for about another 4 hours every night after he went to sleep. The baby was going to have a huge head start on chemistry and trigonometry -- she was determined to give him every chance.

No sleep. But no one cared.

No one cared enough to babysit her brown-skinned little baby while she took her ACT test. No congratulations -- nobody cared that this now-17 year old girl slept a mere 4 hours per night while taking college-prep English and science classes, because she wanted to give her son a better life. No light at the end of the tunnel -- colleges didn't recruit from reservations because they thought that the Indian kids, even if they were good students, would just drop out of school and return home.

No plan. Just blind faith that her hope and good thoughts and prayers would pay off in the end.

They did pay off. She went on to graduate from college and became a grade school teacher that could, perhaps, be the one person that cared when it seemed like no one else did. Her son did not have his first child until he was 23 years old, and was the first person in generations to be in a stable relationship when the baby was born. Small victory.

It's a small story.

In fact, her story is only significant to about 4 people on the whole planet -- they're the only ones who know about it. Still, we should all care about her story, and stories like hers. It's a beautiful story that should be proclaimed from the mountaintops, "Mother Overcomes 7 Generations of Poverty, Sexual and Physical Abuse, Alcoholism, Apathy and Academic Failure to Teach Indian Kids that There is Another Way."

We should all love that story, as small as it may be.

Indian people should celebrate her "little victories," and victories like hers. That is but one of the reasons that every person, Native and non-Native, should own the book, Don't Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways); it is full of small and honest stories about "us"--Indian people, poor people, overlooked people.

The small stories in Don't Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anways) are not Indian epics -- they are not romance novels or Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee or Dances With Wolves or The Teachings of Don Juan any of those other "Indian books" written by white people. Instead these stories are honest. You will recognize them. They are also not the kind of stories that are written by an Indian trying to tell white people what they want to hear about Indian people; the stories do not paint us as mystical or mythical or perpetually drunk or on a horse.

The stories are beautiful and painful. Sacred and profane.

And we all have very important "little" stories -- indeed, Indian people have some of the most beautiful "little" stories on the planet; those stories, unfortunately, are rarely told honestly by the people who live those stories. Instead, only white people are seen as being "objective" enough to tell about Indians impartially -- could you imagine if Alex Haley couldn't get Roots published because he was "too involved" in the book's subject matter? Well, Don't Know Much About Indians is also heavily involved in the subject matter, as well. Moreover, this book doesn't claim to have a monopoly on those small stories; instead, it's an invitation for every single one of us -- everyone that has ever felt unimportant, unappreciated, or un-spoken for -- to speak for ourselves. Let's tell our own small, yet very important and beautiful, stories to the world.

Indians can tell their own damn stories. We don't need non-Natives making up stories about us.

Please order "Don't Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways)" at Also, subscribe to the YouTube channel. The YouTube channel will debut a new series of videos entitled "Small Stories" soon.