February 2nd, 2019 Last Updated on: February 2nd, 2019
Our Last Stand:
To Fight Gangs and Their Grip On Our Children
By Ray Martin, Gang Prevention Specialist
Today on our reservations and in our communities our people live in fear of the youth. Gangs and gang life have given us violent crime, drug dealing, and even the prostitution of our children. We have lost an entire generation of misplaced adolescence to gangs and the fast life they see in gangs. When these children are not getting the recognition for their school work at home we see their grades begin to fail. We also find that when they don't want to go home after school, whether it is because of domestic violence or alcoholism in the home, they are out on our streets.
In the streets is where they begin to see another life. They begin to see a level of camaraderie and family amongst the gangs and the fast life that comes with it. If they aren't getting what they need at home and begin to wander out into these avenues of trouble with no one there to take a stand for them, we will lose them all. Our young warriors and mothers are being exploited by this and once they are sucked into it there really is no intervention.
We as communities have to make a stand and show young people we will not let them go and are here to pick up the slack and set up programs in prevention. Prevention is key in curbing the grip gangs can have on our youth. Programs such as After Care and youth programs designed in getting our children to open up about their problems at home and showing them they still have a family amongst their people is not only vital but crucial. It should be a duty as young warriors not to be sucked up into the negativity of gangs and instead find something positive to contribute to the people. Warriors are not people who exploit their own people and prey on the weak. Warriors are people who fight for the people and are there to protect the weak.
These programs need to be staffed with caring volunteers and professional that are there when these young people can and will begin to trust and open up about their desires, fears, and problems in their life. We need to focus on bridging the gap between our children and our Elders before all of our culture is lost. A weekly group session with the Elders is what is needed to feel like we are doing something as to not lose our stories and traditional ways. Counseling professionals would gladly give up time to just come in and hang out with the youth once or even twice a week. This would not be to single anyone out in counseling sessions but instead it would be to just let them know we are taking steps in making a stand on their behalf.
Our last defense against these gangs and them taking away our traditions and culture by exploiting our youth and the people is imperative for the future of our people. It is simple to sit by and do nothing and hope for intervention. Trust me that does not work as one that was an active gang member for over 15 years can attest. Once I was in the gangs and they had become my new family, not only could you not intervene, you could not even try to do so and any attempt was an attack on me and my gang family.
We have one chance to pick up where some of these young families have left off, or fell off, and that time is now. We all need to work with communities and work with police to read graffiti and help identify the severity of gang activity and power in any given area.
We've all heard the saying, “It's takes a village to raise a child.” Well now is the time to be the village, and show these young ones they are not alone. We must stress that we care and will fight to protect them from the predators lurking out in the streets. Our best chance to take a stand for our people and our future comes closer with every child attracted into this violent lifestyle that we can literally pull back into our beautiful Native American Culture.
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