I often hear that on the Rez we need to create healing systems to recover from generations of displacement, oppression, and suffering. We also need systems to withstand ongoing cycles of assault and degradation of all forms.
This healing force, this light that disrupts abuse, even historical trauma itself, can enter us through the hugs and nurturing, guidance and protection of healthy, loving parents. I encountered this undeniable power of family while meeting Miss Autumn and her parents, Norm and Bev Harry at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
Norm was the Tribal Chairman for several years.
Autumn shared with us her profound adoration for her parents: “The experience that has most shaped me has been growing up in a loving home and having parents that really cared for me while trying to provide the best life possible.”
But despite her parents’ steadfast parenting, a terrible event Miss Autumn and Norm experienced reminds us that trauma can lie in wait on the Rez.
“Two years ago, an intruder entered our home, knife in hand, eyes bulging, yelling at the top of his lungs, filled with some kind of mad rage. This man attacked, and my dad risked his life to protect me, lunging at this insane invader to try to get him out of our house. My dad was stabbed 29 times in the process of defending us.”
Norm said that it was his love for his daughter that catapulted him into ‘protector mode’: “I didn’t feel the knife entering my flesh. All that mattered was keeping this crazed intruder from my child.”
Autumn shares what is now most vital to her: “Celebrating life and praying for those who continue to be impacted by trauma, especially within our native communities. Each day I thank the creator for my greatest protector - my dad.”
Today, several years past that nightmare, Norm and Autumn say the experience has taught them to value the gift of life and to fight for what is most important to all their people -
This summer Autumn will graduate from The University of Nevada and intern with the Environmental Protection Agency in Anchorage, AK to study factors affecting air quality. In her career she wants to research specifically how climate change impacts our native communities, and then apply her knowledge to improve the quality of life for Paiutes at Pyramid Lake.
The good head on Autumn’s shoulders is not an accident. Her trajectory is a reflection of intentional parenting.
“At 23 years old I’ve remained sober my entire life. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I’ve never smoked a cigarette. I’ve always just tried to maintain that positivity within my life.”
It’s rare to see and appreciate the direct cause and effect of dedicated parenting, especially “in the thick of it” as sullen, cranky, thankless adolescents. After having fished at and enjoyed Pyramid Lake, I sat down with the family for a beautiful lunch Bev had made for us. In their home I continued to experience the love and concern that Bev and Norm radiate, and well understood how Autumn has become such an outstanding young woman.
Autumn’s Mom, Beverly Harry.
As I travel between Tribal Nations, Colonies, Reservations, and Rancherias, I realize our need for healthy parents, specifically our need for healthy fathers. I know what happened in our recent past; I know the stories of historical trauma that our grandparents endured; I know the stories of the continuing trauma that batters and dizzies us, and that make the red-road hard to find.
But, my relatives, I write you from the road to remind you that it’s worth the fight. Because we can forge new paths. Just like Norm’s wounds healed, so can ours.
(From that time we caught a trout at Pyramid Lake and I was entirely too excited. Thank you Norm, Bev and Autumn for your light and love. We miss you already).