I wrote this for/about my son. He’s 11 years old, a known published Native author already, and an actor. My son is dealing with some bullying issues again because of his hair so I wrote this.
His hair tells a story.
You see a little brown boy with long hair and you say it’s “just hair.”
He sees the ships coming to declare “convert or die.”
He sees their dogs ripping The People apart.
He sees them smash the babies against rocks.
He sees them building walls to keep us out.
He sees the words “merciless Indian savages” in the Declaration of Independence.
He sees them going west in the name of Manifest Destiny saying this land is theirs.
He sees the old news paper titles that say “Kill them all, big and small, nits make lice” and “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
He sees fields of massacred People and burned homes.
He sees their scalps being sold for a bounty.
He sees the Navajo Long Walk and the Trail of Tears.
He sees children kidnapped from their families and sent away to boarding schools.
He sees their hair cut off and lying on the ground.
He sees their clothing and sacred items being burned in front of them.
He sees the children beaten and starved for daring to be Indian.
He sees his great grandmother being sold away from her people less than 100 years ago.
He sees the prisoner of war camps called reservations.
He sees pipelines snaking across the land.
He sees Oak Flat get sold and mined.
He sees his homelands being destroyed.
He sees the broken treaties.
He sees racist cartoons singing “what made the red man red.”
He sees racist sports logos, and the words that were made to hurt him, as team names.
He see people spit at him and throw trash at him for holding a sign that says “I am not a mascot.”
He sees fake headdresses and costumes while people drunkenly mock who we are.
He sees the costume wigs called “Indian hair.”
He sees the stoic wooden Indian outside the tourist shops. It has long hair.
He sees Native boys get their hair cut by their teachers in front of the class because “boys have short hair.”
He sees his all white baseball team pull him out of the boy’s bathroom and throw him in the gravel.
He sees them laughing and calling him a girl.
He sees none of the adults do anything about it.
He sees the grown men accost his family at a restaurant to tell them their “daughter” doesn’t belong in the men’s room.
He sees the grown men get mad and confused when they walk into the men’s room, too.
He sees the racism directed at him by children and adults alike.
He sees their words cut into a wound that is 500 years old.
He sees his ancestors.
He sees those who fought invasion and colonization.
He sees Geronimo, Cochise, Victorio and Lozen.
He sees his people fight the Apache Wars well into the 20th century.
He sees them fight for their people and ways of life.
He sees their hair grown long like his.
He sees those doing whatever they can to not only survive, but pass on their traditions.
He sees resilience.
He sees strength.
He sees resistance.
He sees the occupation of Alcatraz.
He sees The Longest Walk and Trail of Broken Treaties.
He sees Wounded Knee 1973.
He sees tipis on the National Mall.
He sees the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.
He sees people practice their cultures and beliefs legally for the first time in hundreds of years.
He sees the Indian Child Welfare Act to protect our children from more assimilation.
He sees the warriors at Oka…they have long hair.
He sees the grandmothers and mothers raising the next generation traditionally.
He sees those grandmothers take down a Nazi flag and run them out of town.
He sees a boy from his nation fight the second highest courts for the right to wear long hair to school in 2006.
He sees the boy win against the school and wear his hair proudly.
He sees the warriors ride by him at Standing Rock and say to him “look at that warrior hair.”
He sees those same warriors serving the Elders breakfast, lunch and dinner before they get their own plates…so he does the same.
He sees the responsibility he has to his people.
He sees thousands of The People march with him in Washington D.C. to protect our treaties and rights.
He sees the men at the drum with long hair.
He sees Indigenous People’s Day and Rock Your Mocs week.
He sees Nakotah LaRance and Adam Beach and Zahn McClarnon on TV. They look like him.
He sees books by Native authors that tell our own stories.
He sees tradition.
He sees culture.
He sees his ancestors.
You look at him and you see “just hair.” He sees ALL of that.
About Kelly Tudor: I’m a citizen of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas, displaced and living in Indiana, trying to move home this year. I am a co-chairman of the American Indian Movement Chapter of Indiana and Kentucky. I am an educator and homeschool my children to give them a more indigenous centered, decolonized education. My son (Aslan Tudor) is an actor and also a well known Native author of books including Young Water Protectors: A Story about Standing Rock.