Middle School Voices

The Writing Challenge Winners from Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota

© 2015, Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s Writing and Art Challenge

This collection of Lakota Voices represents the Winning entries from Middle School students on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s 2015 Writing Challenge. The theme of the Challenge was #WeAreHere and youths were asked to write about an issue that they are willing to stand up for.

As this collection shows, Middle School students on the Pine Ridge Reservation are optimistic and proud of their Lakota heritage. They are also confused and hurt by recent suicides and other challenges facing their community. Their collective voices form a call to action — calling for unity, support and mental health support for youths in the community.

Please read and share. Help elevate these important voices.

Middle School Grand Prize Wining Entry

Tell the World

~ by Dorian Sage

©Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc.
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge

Dorian is a middle school student from the Pine Ridge Reservation. In his Grand Prize winning essay he says:
In the Lakota way, everything is connected… We relied on the Earth, but it did not rely on us… In our tradition, you respect everything. This idea was lost with the European colonization of the Americas, and I’m trying to bring it back.

Writing Judge Susanne Pari said about Dorian’s winning entry: “Dorian Sage’s essay speaks with great wisdom to the responsibility all of humanity must take for the well-being of our world. He does this not only through his presentation of Lakota history and tradition, but also through examples of natural science. His writing is stellar.”

We agree and think you will, too!

Tell The World

~ by Dorian Sage

In the Lakota way, everything is connected. In days past you could see it in the rustling of the leaves or the swift rushing of a waterfall. Now you can see it in more obvious ways. The worms tunnel below the Earth, searching for food while at the same time helping the plants collect oxygen through their roots. This insight is fading from the general population, and because of this we are no longer taking care of the Earth. In the past, the Lakota people would migrate so that the Earth had a time for cleansing. The area that we lived in would never be forgotten so much that it would die. We relied on the Earth, but it did not rely on us.

Aspens are a unique kind of tree because they sprout from the roots of another Aspen, which is why you often see them growing in groves. If one of these trees gets sick, the rest of the trees usually get sick too because they rely on the same food supply. It is much the same with us. If one of our food sources had an unexpected shortage in production, the majority of human life would be affected. This is just one of the reasons it’s good to be self-reliant, and to have your own energy source if possible.

Everything is too connected in the modern world. There is no longer privacy, and your information is there for everybody to see. If something happened in the world, like an outbreak of some sort, our food supply could be cut off, and it could affect our water because we don’t focus on renewable sources of food and energy.

Human life is too destructive, and it is ruining the Earth’s natural cycle. Eventually humans are going to bring about their own downfall, and there will be nothing there to stop it. This is why I encourage our great people to start living off the grid, and to start relying on themselves for sustenance. In our traditional ways, we would always let the Earth replenish itself. We relied directly on the animals and on the signs from nature for survival.

One tribe in Africa even relies directly on a certain species of bird to help them find beehives. The bird helps the tribe so that in return they will give them part of the honey store that the bee hive holds. The bird will fly in the direction of the hive, showing the humans where to get it, and then will whistle when nearby. The bird will then wait on a tree somewhere near until the people leave a piece of the honeycomb somewhere within the bird’s line of sight.

If the idea of these short paragraphs is not yet obvious, what I am trying to get at is everything is connected, even us. We need to start relying more on ourselves for our food, and taking better care of the environment which takes such good care of us. In our tradition, you respect everything. This idea was lost with the European colonization of the Americas and I’m trying to bring it back.

Dorian Sage, Grand Prize Winner — Middle School
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge; ©
Lakota Children’s Enrichment, All Rights Reserved; ©2015 CinMagPhotography

“Pretend (Bullying)”

~by Jeila Schuh

Middle School Runner-Up Award

©Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc.
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge

Jeila Schuh’s poem addresses an issue that affects young people on and off the Pine Ridge Reservation — bullying.

Writing Judge Susanne Pari said of the poem: “Jeila Schuh has written from a deeply personal place, where all good writing comes from. This takes tremendous courage and is perhaps the most essential ingredient for bringing listeners to a story.”

Pretend (Bullying)

You look innocent
You play pretend
How can anyone believe that?

Words hurt, you say.
When all I want is to fade away,
I wake up with regret
And all I want is to forget.

What’s a true bully?
You have power
But I refuse to give,
Through the doors
I will be safe,

Let me be,
You pretended
You acted innocent,
Is that what you wanted?

Is it too late?
I have an identity
You have a name,
All I want is to fade away

Forgetting is regretting,
I refuse to give,
I can end all this
I don’t have to take this,
You will hear my voice
I’ll start speaking out,

You’re a bully
I don’t have to take your

Jeila Schuh Runner-Up — Middle School
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge; ©2015 Lakota Children’s Enrichment, All Rights Reserved; ©2015 CinMagPhotography

For Alanie Marie Martin

~by Paisley Sierra

Middle School Runner-Up Award

©Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc.
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge

Poet Paisley Sierra’s poem is a tribute to a classmate and friend, whose life ended too early. Her poem illustrates the confusion, guilt and pain that can surround a suicide.

For Alanie Marie Martin

No one wanted you to leave.
We all loved you.
You left us without a reason.
But you’re now with Tunkasila.
He will take care of you.
Now that you’re gone.
Don’t worry about us.
We’ll be fine.
We miss you a lot.
When you laughed.
We laughed.
When you smiled.
We smiled.
And when you cried
We tried to make it better.
But you committing suicide made us realize;
We should have been there for you.
You were the funniest, sweetest,
and nicest person in the world!
No one thought that you would do that.
We Love and Miss You
Alanie Marie Martin/Mesteth

Paisley Sierra, Runner-Up — Middle School
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge; © Lakota Children’s Enrichment, All Rights Reserved; ©2015 CinMagPhotography

Hope For the Future

~ by Cetan Ducheneaux

Middle School Runner-Up Award

©Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc.
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge

Cetan Ducheneaux has the great distinction of being a Runner-Up in BOTH the Writing and the Art Challenge. Cetan awed the judges with his thoughtful and optimistic reflection on Lakota culture and his call to action for people to work together and take care of one another. Cetan said: “I imagine a world where we all hold hands, to make the world circular again. All lives matter — we, as living beings, need to realize that.”


Hope for the Future

I have lived here for 15 years….
a place of serenity and wide open space,
to let your thoughts flow through the wavy grass,
the trees speak to you by rustling together a quote on quote “happy place.”

The only way you are reading this right now is in ENGLISH,
a very invasive language that has taken over many people,
Lakota Language blew away in the wind,
by a people who seem to think they can get whatever they want,
in this life and the next is all fun and games to them (wasicu),
My culture and many others are dying off every single day,
because of these reasons….

Alcohol, a poison that course through your veins,
to so called make you “happy,”
taking your wheel and endangering lives,
3 cans equal one life…..,

Television, a screen that ruins our vision,
taking us into their electrical flow transforming our lives,
technology has mad us more distant than ever,
and will never get better unless we shut off and come back to reality…..

Youth being bullied at home because they did not do their chore “right,”
then, they transform into a mind numbing bully,
making lives miserable by the minute…..

Lastly there is war, a mind chosen process that instructs you to kill,
taking the bullet of life and striking the tip into another’s heart,
it is saddening and horrifying just to even think about,
we are fighting people that are just like us,
over beliefs and differences…..

All these reasons are flat out solvable,
but our world is rough and rigid because of these reasons,
I imagine a world where we all hold hands,
to make the world circular again,
All lives matter — we, as living beings, need to realize that.

Cetan Ducheneaux Runner-Up — Middle School
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge; © Lakota Children’s Enrichment, All Rights Reserved; © 2015 CinMagPhotography

How Can I Help You?

~by Jetta Tobacco

Middle School Runner-Up Award

©Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc.
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge

Jetta Tobacco is a Co-Founding member of LCE’s Youth Board. 2015 was the first year that she was old enough to enter the Writing Challenge and she won a Runner-Up award through an anonymous judging process! Through a partnership with Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Jetta and art challenge runner-up Savanah Jo Whiting recieved scholarships to attend a STEM camp in the summer of 2015 at the Rose-Hulman School of Technology. They were selected for the program through a competitive application process.

Jetta’s essay speaks from the heart about the confusion and frustration of a young girl who wants to help her peers who are struggling through hard times.

How Can I Help You?

I chose to write about suicide because there’s a lot of it on the Rez and just last week someone decided to take their life — they said it was because they were being bullied. There’s a lot of cutting on the Rez, too.

I ask my friends why they do it, and some of them just say ‘’I don’t know.’’ This makes me sad and confused: Why are you trying to take your life? Why are you hurting yourself? How can I help you if you don’t even know why you want to hurt yourself?

I wish I could convince you it’s not “cool” to hurt yourself, and if you think it’s cool, it’s not. It’s not a solution. Ending your life will create a lot of pain for everyone.

I am here to help, but I feel helpless…

Suicide needs to stop. I want to help.

So, that’s the reason I chose to write about suicide.

Jetta Tobacco, Runner-Up — Middle School
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge; ©2015, Lakota Children’s Enrichment, All Rights Reserved; @2014 CinMagPhotography

The War Within

~by Deanna Rae Chipps

Middle School Runner-Up Award

©Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc.
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge

This short story by Middle School student Deanna Rae Chipps is about a young girl who was so absorbed with her problems and so angry about her circumstances that she did not face her problems and did not see that people around her wanted to help her. Finally, her older sister was able to teach her to face her problems, one by one, and to control her pain. Due to her sister’s encouragement the young girl was able to walk through the pain, with hope for a bright future.

This short story provides an intimate glimpse of internal pain and shows how easy it is to be overwhelmed by circumstances. The author conveys a powerful and important message about how important it is to look outside yourself for help when help is needed.

The War Within

Fear, Hate, Madness, Loneliness, and Pain are things we have to face in our lifetime but of course, we all have happy moments and those are the moments we don’t want to ever miss, forget, or ever stop having. This story is about the trials and tribulations of a young girl whose older sister guided her to find the little girl that lives inside.

There was a little girl, who one day was laughing, smiling, and enjoying life. She took notice of her own happiness. She knew she was loved. She never wanted to let that go.

As time went on, and the girl grew, everything began to change. She began to experience Fear, Hate, Madness, Loneliness, and Pain. So one day, while they were sleeping, she picked them up, put them in a safe, wrapped a heavy chain around the safe, and locked it, so she would never have to feel them again.

Unfortunately, soon she found herself running again from Fear, Hate, Madness, Loneliness, and Pain. She would not face them, but they called out for her over and over and she heard their screams. The old chain she had placed around the safe where they were locked got really rusty and old, and they broke free and escaped. No matter how fast she ran, she could not out- run them. They caught her!

She was angry — angry at herself and everyone who ever hurt her. She was angry at GOD for giving her a life that only broke her heart. She despised GOD. She disliked everyone. She disliked herself. She felt deserted, forgotten, abandoned, and hurt, and she was afraid that she’d get hurt even more than ever before.

She began cutting herself because she felt she need not live. She said, “I’ve had enough!” She continued to cut more and more, and soon it would become an everyday thing. She started getting into drugs, because it all made her feel frozen. She didn’t realize that she had not been deserted.

She had an older sister who noticed her pain, and saw what she did to try not to feel the pain. The girl was so caught up in her emotions that she had forgotten everyone around her — she had forgotten herself.

The older sister was so worried for the girl. She tried to talk to her, tried to help her, but no matter how hard she tried, the girl would not let her older sister help. The girl was so angry at herself and so angry at the world, that she still didn’t notice her older sister. She was hurt, she was angry and afraid. She was screaming, “HELP” but the only one to hear her was the little girl inside her.

The older sister tried to point the girl forward by showing her how to face her problems head on. Her older sister helped her walk through her problems one by one, instead of fighting them. The girl began to feel brave. She began to have hope…. She opened her eyes and was able to see how to walk through her pain.

It reminded her of a story someone once told her about a person lost in a dark forest, who never tired of trying to find her way out. She never gave up because the thought of never seeing the people she loved again made her work even harder to escape. When she finally found the light at the end of the dark forest, she was happy again.

The days the girl spent lost in the forest trying to find her way out taught her an important lesson — that if you work through all the pain and all the struggles rather than fight them, there is a light.

A little guidance from someone who cares, really can impact a person’s way of looking at life.

Deanna Rae Chipps, Runner-Up — Middle School
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge; ©2015 Lakota Children’s Enrichment, All Rights Reserved; ©2013, CinMagPhotography

It’s Going to Be Okay
~by Ayiannah Carroll

Middle School Runner-Up Award

©Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc.
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge

It’s Going to Be Okay

Suicide happens often, but can be prevented. Sometimes people do suicide over break ups, or bullying. There are programs for suicidal thoughts, and they can help. Movies, shows, and friends talk about suicide.

Many members in my family have committed suicide.

I have a friend and she has parents who drink a lot. She is bullied by a group of girls, who beat her up twice. She never told anyone until she started cutting. I noticed her arms but when I asked, she said it was just a paper cut. I noticed she was hiding something because she never was laughing or being as happy as she was before.

Every time I see the group of girls who bully her, I think “why?” She never touched you or talked about you. I would know because she’s my best friend, and she tells me everything...

She also gets beat up by her parents — they are just making it worse. Her life is worse then theirs. I always tried to give her the courage to make her feel good about herself. She tried committing suicide three times, and I was there for her. Sometimes I’d ask “why?” She said “I’d rather let the pain inside destroy me than everybody else.”

I cry when I see her alive, because that’s how I know she’s okay.

People cut, lie, push you away, and cry — that’s because they think they’re supposed to be like that. None of us are perfect. I wanted to tell someone, but she’d never let me and I was scared I might lose her as a friend.

After a while she started dating a guy. He was really really nice and sweet to her…. After a little while he was really mean and demanding. She could never talk to any other guys, or even say a boy’s name. I was really worried about her because I thought he was going to hurt her. When she felt uncomfortable around him, he broke up with her. She cried and cried for a long time.

When she started cutting again I cried, too, because this time she cut deeper — over the scars from the other cuts. I was really, really worried about her.

I called someone for help. When I did, she was really mad at me. I knew it was the right thing to do because she has people who could help her to get better. When they took her away, she never talked to me again. I never see her now, because I can’t. She has not gotten better and people call her “crazy.” Everyone was talking about her, and it was so annoying knowing how many people hated my best friend.

So remember if you’re ever dealing with suicidal thoughts, call for help. There are people who are there for you, and you’re never alone. Never think about suicide because people are going to miss you.

Call for help and always think bright.

Ayiannah Carroll, Runner-Up — Middle School
2015 #WeAreHere Writing Challenge; ©2015 Lakota Children’s Enrichment, All Rights Reserved.

You may be interested in reading the High School Winning Entries in the #WeAreHere Writing Challenge — also on Medium!

Content originally published by Lakota Children’s Enrichment; May be re-printed with permission. ©2015 LCE. Contact us at @info@lakotachildren.org

You may be interested in reading the 2014 Voices of the Land Collection of Native Youth Voices.

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