Brothers and Sisters,
This year will mark more than three
decades of my unjust imprisonment. Behind bars I have aged from a
youth myself, into an elder. As an elder I have become
increasingly encouraged by the potential and promise of indigenous
youth from all First Nations. Today indigenous youth have greater
opportunities than possibly ever before in our peoples history.
However, these opportunities were not attained without sacrifice.
They arose from great struggle. They came from ordinary men and
women; your relatives who made extraordinary sacrifices. These
warriors’ struggle to ensure a better future for generations to
come can never be taken for granted.
I am especially pleased to hear of the
rising numbers of indigenous youth who are graduating from high
school and entering institutions of higher learning; universities,
colleges, and technical schools. Other youth are taking advantage
of social programs that will assist them in each of their
respective futures. These are all opportunities that as a youth I
could have only dreamed of. Yet, even though we have made much
progress and advances for our people we still have a long path
ahead to attain justice for First Nations.
I strongly believe that the first step on
that path is to always be conscious of our people’s history.
Irregardless of what nation we belong to we have shared a combined
history of struggle against a more than 500-year long genocide. It
has been a genocide focused not only on the death of our
relatives, but of our spirituality, culture, and language. All
will be lost if we do not honor our ancestors by learning about
their sacrifice so that the people may live. We must never forget
our ways, our traditions, and our wisdom.
Each one of you must acknowledge your
capacity and ability to bring about positive changes for our
people. This is done not only by bettering yourself, but by
helping your brothers and sisters who have wondered off the Red
Road. I am deeply pained by the numbers of youth who have
prematurely lost their life to gang violence and suicide. It is
just as troubling to hear of those who continue to suffer from
drug and alcohol abuse. I ask you to bring your brothers and
sisters who need guidance and medicine to our ceremonies. It is
our spirituality that has always sustained us as a people.
Throughout history there have been
countless attempts to rob us as a people; our lands, our history,
our language, and our culture. However, they have never been able
to take our future from us. The future belongs to the Creator only
and it is the Creator who gives it to the youth. As a youth it is
your responsibility to honor all your relations, our Mother Earth,
and the Creator by committing yourself to the struggle for a
future of justice and a better tomorrow for all peoples.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Music selected and performed by Thomas B. Maracle, Mohawk,
by Sam Silverhawk: http://www.samsilverhawk.com/