By the numbers, Native Americans reliably top lists of violence, poverty, unemployment, and addiction in the United States. Taken alone, the data paint a dismal picture of intractable, inescapable poverty.
But on reservations and in communities, the picture was a whole lot more complex in 2017.
As I have for several years, I spent most of 2017 traveling through Indian Country for the stories I was covering. An old-school journalist, I travel simply and close to the ground; I keep a loose schedule so that stories have a chance to emerge. I spend many hours just chatting with folks.
In 2017, I was gifted with a glimpse of the people behind the damning data. Their lives were far grander and more complex than I imagined. This year, I had a front row seat to the quiet tactics many Native folks employed to protect and nurture each other and their communities. I met people who reminded me that Natives are the original observational scientists, adept at on-the-fly invention. The people I met harbored few illusions about material wealth; rather, they embraced the nourishing spirituality of their cultures.
In terms of data, I expect that 2018 may be a little worse than usual given the current administration’s lack of support for Indian programs. But Native folks will continue, as they’ve always done. They will reinvent and they will laugh — my God will they laugh! Like always, they’ll laugh at themselves, their damn luck, and the darkness, until they knock a hole in it. That’s resilience. And here is what that looks like.