by Jack Sinclair
For the most part, I have really good memories of the rez. My mom and I were pretty close and yeah, she had her problems, but so do a lot of people. We were still close to each other and spent a lot of happy times together. The rez can be a really comforting place, where you feel like you belong and are loved. But the rez is also a hard place to make a living, and a lot of people don’t have much money. And when people don’t have a lot of money, they tend to do whatever they can to survive.
Gangs have always been in communities both large and small. For a long time gang problems were minor enough to be ignored, but gangs are becoming an increasing problem. The gang mentality of “take care of the gang and the gang will take care of you” is attractive to young people who are searching for somewhere to fit in and a way to support themselves.
Gangs offer a family, who will accept you, no questions asked, as long as you do as they say. At first, they can seem like just what many young people are looking for, a place to belong. You go to parties, have lots of fun, but then the darker side of gang life emerges. The side where you steal, scam and plant fear in everyone around you. Even though most kids understand the negative aspects of gang life, they join anyway because they feel they need to align themselves with a gang in order to protect themselves and to survive.
Sure, some reserves don’t have a gang problem, but there are many that do, Elders and parents just don’t consider them a problem, or are hoping it’s not a problem. People tell themselves that the kids are just going through a phase, and that there’s nothing to be concerned about. Or they just don’t understand the seriousness of the situation, and that it is very real and very dangerous.
A rez gang is unique because of its location. It’s much the same as any urban gang, but most reserves are relatively small, close-knit communities. So, if you’re in a gang, you’re at war with family and friends.
It’s easy to believe the hype about gangstas and their awesome life of cool cars and lots of money. And that’s what makes it easy to believe that by joining a gang you’re going to live the lifestyle, but you don’t. All you end up doing is victimizing and stealing from others. You almost always end up getting into some sort of trouble.
Gang membership is not a good career choice. In the end, you just create a victim…yourself.