Ernestine Chasing Hawk: I remember I am alive and a survivor

The following is the opinion of Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

A view of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from Facebook

This too shall pass
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Editor

When I was growing up on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, there were many traumatic happenings in my little life and it seemed that no one really cared.

I was also constantly bullied at school and every now and then I see some of those women who were at the helm of the harassment I endured for years and now some of them are even on tribal council. (My good friend, Peggy White Face, would later tell me, “Oh Ernie you were so cute, they were all just jealous of you.”)

But back then I didn’t have anyone I could confide in other than my sister Judy and my brother Sonny, but we really never talked openly about the more serious things going on in our lives.

I remember on many occasions packing up my little bag and running away and hiding in the park in hopes that someone would miss me and come looking for me. But no one ever did and when it would get dark I’d return home, and it seemed no one even noticed that I’d been gone.

So, I grew up with a feeling of emptiness, believing there wasn’t anyone who gave a damn about us little kids. I spent a lot of my school years being depressed and oftentimes feeling hopeless. I often thought about suicide and imagined how much I would hurt the people who were hurting me.

It also seemed that suicide was a reasonable way to escape the trauma of being constantly harassed at school. I also thought about all the attention I would finally get with everyone crying and feeling sad when I was gone. I would wallow in the feeling, that for a moment in time, everything would be all about me.

But fortunately, I also figured something else out when I was young. When I would go to the wakes and funerals of many of my relatives, everyone would be crying and sad at the wake and funeral. It seemed the whole community was focused on the individual who had passed.

But I also noticed that it wasn’t long after the person was gone and buried that everyone seemed to forget about that person and would just go on with their lives. Things would get back to normal and while that person was missed for awhile everyone seemed to adjust to their being gone. In fact after awhile the person was hardly ever mentioned and it soon seemed like they had never existed.

Then we would be attending the funeral of our next relative that passed and be at their gravesite, and I would look around at the other graves and noticed that many had become overgrown with weeds. The Unci’s would casually walk over and pull weeds and have a moment of sadness remembering the person lying there.

But soon life would be back to normal and people would move on again. I learned later it was called the grieving process, nature’s way of helping people recover from loss.

I remember thinking, ‘Damn if I kill myself, people might be sad for little while and I might get a small measure of sweet revenge. But soon they are just going to forget all about me and move on with their lives as if I never existed. I too will soon be forgotten and my grave is going to be covered with weeds. Someday they might not even be able to find it, that is, if anyone ever even bothers to look for it.

So I made a conscious decision way back then to fight for my right to be and to try to make a difference in the world, so people would remember my name. My aunt Mary Lee Johns always said, “The best revenge is living well,” and you can’t do that if you’re not here.

So even though I still deal with Nawiziwin and bullies and still struggle with bouts of depression and loneliness and hopelessness, because of bad decisions in my life, I remember that I am alive. I am a survivor. And I remember something else my Aunt Mary Lee taught me, “This too shall pass.” And it always does.

(Ernestine Chasing Hawk can be reached at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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