Gyasi Ross: Being a role model for Indian Country youth
"Recently, I was walking around at the University of Washington’s First Nations’ Pow-wow with my 3 year old son holding onto my finger. He loves pow-wows and round dance music—when he rides with me in our car, he always asks me to turn off my Beatles or Journey or Run DMC CDs and put on the “new pow-wow music” (round dance music). Since I told him that there was “new pow-music” at this particular pow-wow, he wanted to see it and hang out with all of the hand drummers.

As my son and I walked around looking for the hand drum contest (they had it hidden downstairs), he began to notice all of the vendors’ wares. I watched his eyes literally get bigger as he began pointing at all of the pretty Navajo jewelry, and the Kachina dolls. He was SO ready to buy SOMETHING when we passed the little Mexican dudes with the sweaters, flutes and “Made in China” toys that are at every pow-wow. While my son and I debated purchasing a squishy ball that lights up, a Coastal Native lady came up to me with her (presumably) grandson, who was slightly bigger than my son.

She looked up at me, “Yeah, I remember you when you were a little kid—your folks used to stay with us over at Treaty Days—I remember our dog bit you once. Your name is “Joshie,” huh?”

After we talked for awhile, she paid me the best compliment that anybody’s ever given to me, “Joshie, I’ve never said this to anyone, but I’d like him (pointing at her grandson) to grow up and be like you. I’ve been watching you throughout the years—at this pow-wow, at basketball tournaments. You always had that same pigeon-toed walk and the same big head with a big smile—I can see that you’re a good man. And even though you cut off your braids, I still think that you are an incredible role model.”

I felt myself blushing—my big old head turning red like the Kool-Aid Man. I wasn’t sure how to respond, other than, “Wow…that’s so nice. Thank you.”

I was cheesing really big. I’m not the most modest person in the world, but this little old coastal lady made me embarrassed! I prepared to say more, but then I thought about her words a bit more. I smiled at her and said, “Y’know, I think that’s the nicest thing that anybody’s ever said to me. But you know what? Oddly enough, that title scares me. I mean, no disrespect—I’m flattered. But I’m not sure if I can handle the weight of that honor.”"

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: A CONVERSATION FROM A POW-WOW: ROLE MODELS (The Thing About Skins 4/15)

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