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2017-10-12 / Voices

After 40-Years My Mom Has Retired


For the last 250-weeks, I have written a weekly column about some issue relating to Indian Country. The topics have varied considerably, as has the quality, but it has been a worthwhile endeavor that I have carried out in the hopes of sparking conversation amongst our people. This week’s column is a bit different.

After 40-years of working for Indian Health Service my mother is walking into her final day as a government employee as this publication is arriving at newsstands. We all have those people in our life who we have held up as role models and my mother is that person for me. Her efforts deserve acknowledgment and I have no problem dedicating a column to that.

Growing up I watched as my mother approached each day with a focus on completing the same series of selfless tasks for her family and people before she even walked out the door to work each morning. As a child, I failed to realize just how important of a role that a mother plays in empowering our nations, simply by being a good caretaker. Her insistence that we have a solid breakfast and a warm jacket was more than many other families around us could provide. She made sure we had it though. Those little things built a foundation for our family that will be replicated for several generations to come. The lasting impressions that our mothers leave on all of us often goes unnoticed but they also impact the state of our tribal-nations daily. Nationhood is established first and foremost at the familial and community level. The lessons our mothers offer us are what shape our communities going forward. My Mother was aware of this as the lesson that was most instilled within us was the knowledge that the work we did in life should always “be for the people”. This life lesson has guided me in life and has brought me back to the straight and narrow when I strayed.

When I attempt to define what success is for those of us who grew up in the reservation system, I sometimes think the best measurement is to look at what some have overcome. My mother grew up in a tiny house in the #4 community. They didn’t have running water as a child and she can recall memories of hauling water and commodities to their home by foot. This is a far cry from the relatively easy life she built for her children.

As she retires she carries with her a Master’s Degree in Health Law and the experience of having served as a CEO of several hospitals. Not bad for a girl who came from such humble beginnings.

Throughout her educational journey she met teachers who felt it necessary to remind her that females could never hold the same jobs that their male classmates. She was constantly reminded of her limitations by old-school educators who came to the reservation to enlighten the little Indian children about the ways of the western world. These reminders never stopped her from dreaming. Instead, they seem to have created a chip on her shoulder that pushed her to pave a new path that now allows for other young Lakota women to follow and expand.

It is in the home where we create generations who want to rebuild our communities and nations. I owe it to my mother for showing this to me.

Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

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