Native American Heritage Month Submissions 2021 | Denver …

Posted By on December 26, 2021

My name is Meadow Contreras and I am Sicangu Lakota and Chicana. I live in a Jewish suburban neighborhood. My family and I were always the only brown people anywhere we went. But we were never treated badly because of it. In fact, we were put on a pedestal because everyone loved our culture. And because we were commonly isolated from people who are also Native, my parents made sure we knew who we are and the purpose of our traditions. My mom was born and raised in the Rosebud reservation in a little community called Okreek. My dad lived in the same place for some time with his dad. My parents went to school together but didnt start talking till they were both in Denver. My mom mainly moved away because she wanted her kids to have a better experience growing up with more opportunities and brighter future options. She moved away from everything she knew before she was an adult to make sure she made a difference for us.

I dance Jingle dress at any powwow we can go to, but I never did it to compete. Mostly for the medicine that comes along with it. Our dresses are made by our mother and we get a new one every year. However, I havent danced in 3 years because I am in mourning. In my peoples culture, when someone close to you dies, you cut your hair and you arent allowed to dance for 4 years, because you are in mourning. We cut our hair because we believe it is sacred and helps the spirit of our loved one have and easier journey to the spirit world. Next year, when I am allowed to again, I will have made my own dress and with fully beaded moccasins and leggings.

Recently this summer, we went to Sundance. My dad did it when he was younger with his dad and he wanted us to experience it. We camped in a tent all nights with no electricity or anything as such. We rose with the sun and went to a place called the Harbor, where the ceremony was held. As soon as you woke up, you heard the music coming from there. The men wore long pants and the women wore long skirts. As soon as you walked into the Harbor, you can feel the medicine and prayer surrounding the place and the people. Some of the things they did in sacrifice was kind of scary and quite intimidating at first, but once you realized it was done out of love and thankfulness for all they had, you realize how beautiful, meaningful, and sacred it is. It lasted all day and didnt stop till the sun was fully down. Everything continued no matter how brutal the weather got. You were also not allowed to bring food or water down the the Harbor, even if you were just watching. The night before the whole ceremony begins, the sundancers would eat and drink tons of water to prepare for their fasting. After all the days, the camp held a huge feast for them. You were not allowed to take photos or have phones. The camp had no service to insure this.

My family has baked frybread the same way since it was introduced. My great grandmother had the original recipe and I believe she got it from her mother. She never shared it with anyone. Everyone in our community loved it and always tried to get it. But when my mom was old enough, my great grandmother gave it to her. She always kept it hidden and I never knew where she kept it. About a year or two ago, she gave it to my older sister.

Everyday, My mom sages the house and everyone in it. We were taught to always have good thoughts and intentions when around it. Us being Lakota, we mostly use sage and cedar. When the pandemic started, we took tobacco and tied a pinch into red fabric. We tied all the ties on a string and hung them at the top of the doors that enter the house. I believe there are 27 of them on top of each door. Tabaco is sacred and helps keep negative energy and sickness out. We were also taught that when you pick sage from the ground, you leave a pinch of tobacco from where you picked it as an offering to the Earth.

However just because we are away in a town with almost no Natives, we make sure to help the places with plenty as much as we could. We go back every summer to Okreek and we host a summer camp for the youth in hopes of preventing Suicides. The camp includes a lacrosse clinic hosted by my sister and afterwards, an art camp led by me. Kids are able to go to both parts or just one, if they wanted. We also provide a lunch. Before it gets cold in the winter, we collect new or lightly used winter coats and give them to kids in the schools in our community. Same thing with toys when its time for Christmas and cloths before each school year. My mother is also starting and early learning center/headstart for the kids in the community. Many of the parents dont have access to transportation and the closest preschools are more than 19 miles away or more than 33 miles away, depending on which direction you go. Just because you live away from your people, does not mean that you cant be connected to them and your culture that people tried to strip away from you countless times.

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Native American Heritage Month Submissions 2021 | Denver ...

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