Lincoln High School student
I have survived it all.
Inflictions of violence, neglect, abuse, trauma and genocide are part of the road I walked.
The sweet abyss that I called home was a reservation filled with people who aren’t free. An endless sadness fills my nightmares with loneliness, the loneliness I loved. It was the only thing I knew was right, in which I would live my life.
Now I stare at the little tree who has no leaves, covered with a colored cloth that carries poems and words bundled in gray sage, protecting them from others’ ignorance of the pain all red kids live with. We live in two worlds, worlds that are rarely spoken of.
I remember my daily summer nights filled with musty smells sloshed in glass bottles. I remember playing in the dirt by a rusty broken down car with my neighbors’ kids who are strangers to me now. Only the wind would know when they blew away from the love we knew long ago.
There were times when I’d let myself weep, only so I could be left alone in a dark room that kept me cold.
I knew they wouldn’t end the same old cycle because all they do is spend time with the processed liquid that smells stagnant to my nose. For heaven’s sake, I called this my home.
Now, I can’t move. I’m trying to keep my love so steady because my facade is falling apart at school. I know they know, and still, they don’t ask if I am okay.
How can they let this school be so strong? Strong enough to ignore the pains of my survival in the light blue house? Was I not strong enough to be at peace?
I hope they find the concrete of my tears when I begged them to help me, only to be taken away. I need to learn something new, something better than before when all they taught me was to be silent, immobile. Little brother was not strong enough to keep out of the cold.
And as I continue to dream, I hope change will set me free.
I had to retell my journey as a young girl who never knew anything other than living the same cycle every day, a form of assimilation with no indigenous identity.
Now I walk to the other side, removing the separation between my past. I have stepped over the mountain that held us down because back home it’s natural to be left alone. I have risen from the natural disasters that my ancestors lived through.
I continue to live in two worlds and will for many years and many more.
My identity relies on the women who brought the values to my people, praying together: “my brothers and sisters from the four directions. We shall heal from the grief, starvation, and neglect of abuse in all forms. We will have generations after us who shall grow and save us. The seventh generation will bring our identity back.”
This is the sacred beginning of ceremonies and the definition of my spirituality. This is my prayer, so silent until the light lasts.
I rely on the ways that helped build me and my people. I am a woman of color. I carry red skin. I try to speak the languages that were taken from me. I am trying to bring change in a good way, starting as a youth activist who wants growth in the systems here in Sioux Falls.
I am the older sister of the tree that stands in front of a high school that made transitions in the system, to show that my people are here, alive and well.
I am Delilah Rouse, a member of the seventh generation. I am an elder for the future generations, who are no longer silent.