Going home, nothing could be better

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Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

All college students like to go home once in a while for the taste of mom’s mashed potatoes and the family laundry facilities. Family lint and mom’s gravy, what could be better?

But for many American Indian students, going home is as necessary as breathing. Many of these students come from reservations, where their network of support is much higher than what they face at campus.

The college experience is surely a form of culture shock for all students, whether Indian or non-Indian. Campus life is a lot to get used to: new responsibilities, new environment, and a loss of emotional support.

I have often lived off the reservation, but it is never far from my thoughts. Here at SDSU, I’m blessed that I have a lot of family within an eight mile radius. My craving for “back home” is somewhat fed, but nothing can replace the feeling of turning west on the interstate to Kadoka, heading south on Highway 14 to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and HOME.

The last time I was back was for my sister’s wedding, and at one point I even took a picture of the Highway 14 West sign. Kind of a stupid, tourist-sounding thing to do, but to me that sign was almost sacred.

I can’t explain the pull the reservation has on me. My family is from Wanblee, which is about 100 miles from the nearest McDonald’s or a movie theatre, yet somehow that’s okay.

Maybe because, though my family is the most important part of “back home”, the land itself contains a fierce tug on my spirit.

Living East River, I think the thing I miss most about West River is the sky. That horizon, undotted by houses or electric lines, brazen and natural, it seems to connect to my very soul.

Exactly what attracts each one of us home is varied. One of my Indian friends told me that the reason she goes home is to see something friendly.

Keep in mind that I’m fairly mixed blood, and my complexion shows it. My friend however is a different story. Though my hair and eyes are just as dark as hers, her skin proves her native blood in a way mine never will (unless I moved in to Year Round Brown or something).

This friend of mine told me that since she is so obviously Indian, people on campus stare at her. Her teachers know when she’s missed class, no role call needed. But at home, she’s comfortable. She doesn’t stick out, she’s a real person, not some kind of display. Instead of feeling like an exotic animal in a zoo, hundreds of miles from her natural habitat, she is instead claimed by her relations as “one of US”.

Home is different for everyone. But the cliche’ stands true, “There’s no place like home.”

Tasi Livermont would like to know if anyone heading West River has room for another passenger. Let her know at [email protected]