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During this time of change, it’s essential Natives have a voice

Tiger Morales hopes a large mural he painted in his backyard in Poplar, Montana, which reads ‘Indigenous Lives Matter,’ helps spark change in several areas, including how Native Americans are perceived. (Courtesy photo)

By Tiger Morales

Tiger Morales (Courtesy photo)

My name is Tiger Morales. I am a soon-to-be a 17-year-old Tribal member. My father and I created a large mural that Indigenous Lives Matter. That fact seems to be forgotten among the general U.S. population.

Let me make myself clear – All Lives Matter: Black lives, Asian lives, LGBTQ+ lives matter. All minority lives do, but Indigenous people seem to be forgotten even though we are the ones native to this country. Our democracy, our way of life – we’ve been generalized into the Plains Indian tribes like my father’s tribe. For years we have been fighting back against negative stereotypes such as the drunken Indian, the savage Indian and the drug addicts. We do not get positive press or portrayal, except from our own people.

You don’t hear about the Natives striving to be doctors, lawyers or CEOs. You only hear the negative. If a police officer kills an Indigenous man or woman, you hear they were a junkie or addict, or they did not comply, if you hear anything at all. Throughout this country’s history, Indigenous peoples’ problems have been put on the back burner by the U.S. government and the main stream media. Indigenous people are reduced to a war bonnet, a piece of clothing or jewelry, or a trendy piece of art work for someone’s living room. We have no representation. We are too often depicted as addicts of difference vices. The over 1,000 treaties made with the U.S government are too ignored or forgotten, or have been broken.

In this time of change and hopeful growth, it is essential for us to have a voice and have that voice be heard. In words of youth and innocence, we need to set aside our differences of what tribe we belong to, our class status and our traditions so we can come together as Indigenous people that are sick and tired of not being heard. Not through violence or harming others, but peacefully and diplomatically. I hope that our mural is seen as a catalyst for change and a step in the right direction so that our words mean something and are heard.

Seminole Tribal member Tiger Morales, son of John Morales and Jo-Lin Osceola, recently earned his high school diploma at age 16. He attended Poplar High School in Montana. This article appeared on the editorial page of the Sept. 30, 2020, print edition of The Seminole Tribune.