Reconciliation by Joseph Begay
Although I like being back on the Rez for a short time with my family, the fragmentation and aimlessness is too much for me.
Memorial Day weekend was just an excuse to get drunk. But then some of my relatives don’t need an excuse.
My uncle who was trashed sat next to me on the couch. “Why do you live away from here? Do you walk the Jesus way now? Have you forgotten you’re Native?”
I know better than to talk logic with a drunk but I saw my younger cousin out of the corner of my eye. He was leaning forward listening. So I decided to answer.
“If I stay on the Rez. I’ll just hang around people who have nothing to do but drink. There are no jobs and too many youth my age have no goals. I have a job. I enjoy going to Church. I share an apartment with another guy. I have a girlfriend. I share what I have with the homeless and I go to community college. And I continue to do the Native ceremonies that connect me to the Great Spirit. I have the best of both worlds. My roots are here and I may come back to work for the Nation but I need to have time to have my own identity—one that is not connected with alcohol and doing nothing. So I stay away and get my life in order.”
My uncle says “Do you hate us?”
At that, everyone in the room quiets and looks at me.
“No, I don’t. You are all a part of me. I want something more. I need time and space to figure out who I can be. I can’t do it when alcohol is all around me.”
As I talk I realize that I really am a part of everyone there. Their dark sides are showing but they have goodness in them also. They share what they have, they tolerate differences, and they have my back. “You are all my relatives and I am always a part of you.”
I realize that with that declaration I felt at peace with my relatives, drunk or sober. I feel reconciled.