Here at Native Hope, we celebrate the many strong and powerful Native American fathers and father figures who are shaping the lives of our young people today. Through their lives and sacrifices, they are shaping a new example of what it means to be a Native American father: a warrior, a protector, and a loving life-giver.
This week we’re sharing reflections from our Native Hope staff fathers about what this day and this role means to them.
Children are mirrors that teach you about yourself: Brian Perry
You don’t have to be the biological father to be a dad.
I am a proud Native American man with no biological children. As we approach Father’s Day, I reflect on the hundreds of kids I have had a chance to have a positive impact on in the last 8 years. First as a houseparent at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, SD, and second as a mentor, father figure, and positive role model for many kids on the local reservations through my work with Native Hope. My passion to empower and inspire Native youth to believe and achieve in their hopes and dreams for a better quality of life is what motivates me to get out of bed every day.
Raising 12 teenage girls as a houseparent in my first year in South Dakota was a blessing, even though some days those young ladies pushed me to the limit. Today, with many of them in college or raising families on their own, some of them still call me Dad.
Receiving that phone call on Father’s Day from a child that is not biologically yours and hearing the words, “Happy Father’s Day!” is priceless.
Children are a great mirror in which we can see ourselves, and through them, I have learned so much more about myself to improve upon so that I can be a better role model and father figure to the next child I have the opportunity to mentor. I still carry pictures in my wallet of the kids I became a father figure to almost a decade ago, and when I see them now as adults, I show them I still carry them in my wallet, but most importantly, still carry them in my heart.
They have impacted me and my life more than I could ever have impacted theirs and for that I am truly grateful. Happy Father’s Day, kids. Today also belongs to you!
My children are my whole world: Kansas Middletent
Being a Father to me, is simply the greatest joy of my life!
It’s meaning to me, is greater than any title that labels who you are, and truthfully there isn’t a word that I could ever use to describe its importance in my life. Therefore, I won’t try to tell what it means to me because words won’t do justice to what being a father truly is, but I would like to share a story of how my cycle has changed, how my circle is becoming full.
I am a victim and a survivor of intergenerational trauma. The historical trauma that has been inflicted upon my people destroyed our way of life, destroyed our roles in society, and left a people searching for their identity. The Warriors in our societies lost the most.
Being a Native American Father use to be nothing extraordinary because in our old ways, it was the custom for men to teach boys the warrior ways of our people, the culture and our traditions for the future of our Nations.
However, with the experience of historical trauma and the destruction of our societies, many of our men lost their roles: hunting, fishing, gathering, scouting, and protecting. No longer were they performing traditional tasks they were accustomed to, now they were tied to the reservation performing the womanly tasks of cleaning, cooking, fixing the home.
Today, there are so many negative statistics that describe life in our Native communities. I believe all the struggles we face as a people stem from the lack of strong, positive male role models in our family structures and community structures.
I had a great dad, don’t get me wrong, I love him, but I had a hard upbringing because of the bad choices he made. The saying “children don’t question the mistakes parents make, they suffer from them” captures the reality I faced every day as a child. My father struggled with drugs and alcohol, which eventually led to more and more problems, not only for him but for my brother and myself as well.
One night I remember my dad came home, he was intoxicated, and he began to beat my brother and me for no apparent reason. After it was all said and done, I remember him leaving. Kyal and I were about 10 years old, and we were crying, holding each other, and I can remember thinking and asking God the question: “why”…why did we have to go through this life? What did we do so wrong?” We were broken! It was then that I made a deal to my 10-year-old self:
“When I become a father, I will never, never treat my children this way. I will never make them feel the feelings I feel, and they will never feel unwanted or unloved.”
Fast-forward 7 years later, I was a senior in high school, and my high school sweetheart and I were expecting our first-born child, our daughter, Lael. We spent a week in the hospital prior to her birth and nearly two weeks after her birth because of pneumonia and other complications. The first time I held and looked at my daughter, there was this energy that I had never felt before. I felt it go through my whole body, and during that exact time a memory of my promise came to mind and tears of happiness rolled down my face. As I held my daughter, my promises of a better life filled my mind, and I knew I was holding my whole world.
Show them your love is without limits: Kyal Middletent
I take great pride in being a father. I had a pretty dysfunctional upbringing because of choices my father made, and it was at a young age that I promised myself I was always going to be part of my children’s lives.
I was taught by my grandmother the kind of positive influence and power a responsible, caring parent can have on their children.
Most fathers don’t realize that all they need to do is be a positive role model and give time to their kids. There is no right way to be a father, and just being in your child’s life consistently will make the biggest difference.
A father has many roles in a child’s life. Everyone has their own way to be a father, everyone also has their own way of understanding the meaning of father. To me, being a father is the highest honor we can have as men. As a Lakota/Dakota father, I not only am a father to my own children, I have a responsibility to serve as a role model to other young people in my community. My most important duty is to lead by example.
It’s the smallest things that make the biggest impact on our children, and as a Lakota Father I challenge other men to stand up and be fathers. Just tell your children that you love them, let them know you got them, and I can promise you the cycle will change.
Taking on an active parenting role as a father means being willing to take the time to express love to your children. Being able to stand up and say, “As a father, I will make it my mission to set an example and be the type of father my children deserve. I will give them the best of myself and show that my love for them is unconditional and without limits.” Fathers, I only ask that you do not overlook or sneer at expressions of love.
For it is these small expressions that make all the difference in the lives of your children and of yourselves.
To all the Native American fathers who have supported and loved their children, thank you from Native Hope for what you do! Together we can make our families and communities strong and full of hope for the future. Subscribe below for more stories about Native American families.