Many do not give a second thought about our health conditions until we fall ill. We take our health for granted, especially when we are young. It is very common for our young people to view themselves as invincible. But in reality we are all only human.
Many of us stumble through our youth engaging in dangerous behavior. Some of us will continue risky behavior until we die. How many of you started drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, abusing prescription medication or illegal drugs as a teen? I do know that most of us living on the Rez start abusing substances at a very young age. For instance, I know of many children as young as 10 years old who live on the Rez and are already drinking/smoking/drugging. Is your child one of them?
Many adults are way beyond help. Just look at all of our Lakota people who did not reach their fortieth birthday because they regularly overdosed on alcohol to the point where their organs finally gave out. They literally drank themselves to death. When I was a teenager the death rate from cirrhosis was nowhere near what it is today.
In addition, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or fetal alcohol effect (FAE) was once unheard of amongst Lakota people. Today there are many of our people who are living their lives with FAS or FAE. There is still a whole bunch of denial surrounding these birth defects which, by the way, are totally preventable.
Another disturbing statistic is the number of our people who are addicted to smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Tobacco is a sacred substance but it is not sacred when you abuse it by sucking on a commercial cigarette or a wad of chew in your cheek. Statistics show at least one-quarter of Indian people are addicted to smoking cigarettes.
Do you have that constant cough? Do you realize how deadly it sounds to the rest of us? I smoked cigarettes every day for a very long time and it brought me nothing but illness. I am forever grateful for finding the strength to put my cigarette out for good. You will do yourself a big favor by putting out yours. Your grandchildren deserve grandparents who are not prisoner to a stinky sick-a-rette.
I am recovering from a recent illness which was serious enough to hospitalize me. I am still not well, yet I am feeling better every day. I want to say Wopila to all of you who prayed for my recovery, I appreciate you! Sincere prayers are always appreciated.
Being sick has made me realize, once again, how important good health is to our quality of life. It is not fun being hospitalized. The tests which medical staff have to perform on a patient are often painful. No one enjoys having their blood drawn every four hours. When you are in the hospital you live there with a needle in your vein so fluids and medication can be pumped into your bloodstream. While hospitalized you are always at the mercy of strangers.
Being sick is not fun. So, I want to encourage our young people to begin thinking about giving up the alcohol, tobacco and drugs because these substances will kill you. When you are my age you will regret all the drinking/smoking/drugging you did during your youth.
And those of you who have children owe it to them to get healthy because if you die prematurely someone else will have to raise the children you created. Do you really want to leave your small children behind? Some of our people did not live long enough to see their children grow into adults or to know their grandchildren. Do you want your children and grandchildren to only know you through the pictures they are shown because you died an early death?
Also, if you are engaging in unhealthy behaviors chances are very good that your children and grandchildren will follow in your footsteps. Are you coughing that rugged cough all day and night from your cigarettes? If so, you are showing your children and grandchildren that it is acceptable for people to live their lives smoking cigarettes to the point of having constant coughing fits.
Alcohol and drugs, including commercial tobacco, only serve to cover up a lot of issues. You have physical, emotional, mental and spiritual issues which those substances are covering up. To keep using is a serious form of denial. Are you going to summon your inner strength to give up your addictions and confront your issues? Or will you continue your slow suicide? The choice is always yours.
Furthermore, I hear a lot of our people constantly condemning the wasicu for all the misery they have brought to us. Still, so many of these same people are still willing to partake of the wasicu poisons – alcohol, commercial tobacco, prescription drugs and illegal drugs were all introduced to us by the wasicu. It’s totally hypocritical for us to condemn everything the wasicu does when we are still using his poison to kill ourselves, in my opinion. Do you really want to be chained for the rest of your life to the deadly venom of the forked tongues? Find the strength now to quit because if you don’t, then the wasicu has you right where he wants you – addicted to the point where you are pretty much useless to anyone, especially your own family. That drink, smoke or pill is going to send you to an early grave.
So, what kind of role model are you going to be? It’s never too late to change your behavior to set a living example for your children and grandchildren. It’s up to you to set the standard for your family. I have a vision of all Lakota people living alcohol and drug free lives – just like our ancestors did in pre-Columbus times. I need your help to see this vision become real.
Wopila to the sober Lakota people, you are the strength of our Nation.