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I Grew Up with Trauma/Racism

Judey Kalchik asked me to use the 6 words above I responded with from her story to write more about, so here goes.

By Denise E LindquistPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
I Grew Up with Trauma/Racism
Photo by Bekky Bekks on Unsplash

Add agism, and some others.


I grew up in a town close to three reservations. My dad died when I was 10 years old and we moved out of the city, and didn’t return to the reservation that my mother grew up in. We were living about 1 hour from her childhood home.

Her family had moved to the big city when she was in high school. That is where she met and married my dad. They had 5 children in 10+ years. My mother was left with 5 children to raise on her own. Because I was 10, I was expected to help care for my siblings.

After living in the town, we moved to for a short while, I realized I was dealing with racism most every day. I didn’t see any Native American people working in any businesses and saw very few in the school I attended.

In my class there was a hockey star, and he was going with the prom queen. I remember just a handful of Native American students in school with me at the time.

While I was still young, I met a friend that was from one of the toughest families in town. That helped me as we became good friends. I purposely took him down the alley where my siblings went to school, so kids there would know he was my friend, and no one would give them trouble.

I was bullied and called names. I was followed in stores. I was invited to participate in an underground sex business that local businessmen were a part of. I got close to the friend’s family and eventually married his older brother.

They had a reputation for being tough and no one would mess with one or they may have to deal with others. I moved away from the town when I could and because my family remained, I came back. The last time I moved I told myself I would never live there again.

I believe it is the most racist place I have ever lived. There have been changes. I have talked to two Native American men that have said they have not felt the racism. One was in juvenile detention when growing up there. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was related.

There are Native American people working in some of the businesses now. There are Ojibwe language greetings on some of the store windows.

Things have changed but not enough for me. If I am in town for more than a day, I can tell it hasn’t really changed.

Sometimes I have wondered if it is sexism, fatphobia or agism as I know that is a thing. My older friends have started to talk about that, and many are Caucasian.

My grandfather lived with us after my dad died as his wife had already died. He was in boarding school growing up as was my dad. He spoke fluent Ojibwe but would not teach us anything. He wouldn’t pronounce any words. My grandparents were both fluent but did not teach their children.

My grandfather told me he didn’t want us to be punished. Many of the stories I was told growing up made it difficult to trust social services, the police, the government, and medical people.

When I was pregnant the first time a doctor insisted, I was 5 months pregnant. I wasn’t but at the time IHS was sterilizing Native American women. My mother had my brother just a few years before and her doctor asked her four times to have an abortion.

Only later did we learn about the sterilizing of Native women.

I saw one thing after another happen. I was living there when the reservations boycotted a big box store. The tribal chairman asked for an apology before people could start shopping there again. That store was never the same, but the flack came out on Native people living there.

I saw that in the neighboring town I live by when President Trump came into office. There were businesses I stopped going to after some racist activity I experienced.

I can’t and don’t care to tell everything in the detail that would make it plain to see. Nor will I give names and places. I have experienced racism all of my life as a Native American woman. I know what it looks like, what it is and how it feels.


First published by Mercury Press in

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About the Creator

Denise E Lindquist

I am married with 7 children, 27 grands, and 12 great-grandchildren. I am a culture consultant part-time. I write A Poem a Day in February for 8 years now. I wrote 4 - 50,000 word stories in NaNoWriMo. I write on Vocal/Medium weekly.

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Comments (5)

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  • Tiffany Gordon 2 months ago

    My Lord! I hate that you had to experience that bs. Thank you for sharing your Story. I would love to read more autobiographical pieces from you!

  • But why were they sterilising Native women? And whoaaa, that's so terrible of them to keep pushing for abortion!

  • Sheila L. Chingwa2 months ago

    *sigh* yes, I too have experienced this during my life time. My father was a fluent odawa but never taught his children.

  • Judey Kalchik 2 months ago

    So pleased that you also shred it here! A powerful, personal story. Please also add it to my story as a comment, to get additional reads for you!

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