Mary Pember: A tough lesson learned with 'driving while Indian'

Police lights. Photo by Robert Kuykendall via Flickr

Mary Annette Pember shares an encounter with a police officer on the way home from a reservation in Wisconsin:
The officer rapped loudly with a flashlight on the passenger-side window of my car. My 16-year-old, special-needs daughter flung her arms around me like a frightened kitten climbing up my pants leg.

I tried to calm her as I rolled the window down. I could make out no details of the officer because he shined the flashlight in our eyes and the squad car’s flashing lights were blinding.

“What are you doing here? Where are you from? Where are you going? Where are you staying?” the officer demanded in rapid succession.

This was last summer in Northern Wisconsin. My daughter, Rosa, and I had left the reservation late that night after attending a ceremony near the tribal administration offices. After leaving the scant light from a single street light, we entered complete darkness on the narrow country road. That's when, seemingly out of nowhere, a car with blazing headlights began following us closely.

Just after we turned at the crossroads that borders the reservation, we saw a flood of flashing police lights from the vehicle and I pulled over on the shoulder.

Now, I tried to calmly answere the officer’s stream of questions.

“License and proof of insurance,” he asked tersely.

And here is where I almost vomited from fear.

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Mary Annette Pember: Speak Your Piece: Driving While Indian (The Daily Yonder 3/8)

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