A Youth Renaissance for Native Americans

Filmmaker Chris Eyre says Native pride will embolden the next generation of first Americans

Reservations "are strongholds of community," says Chris Eyre. (Emily Schiffer)
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“Ooooh, look at that!” Shahela exclaims.

My daughter and I watch in fascination as an enormous grayish-purple cloud sweeps over the golden-brown rolling hills of the plains, cascades through the expansive sky and merges with the yellow horizon.

At that moment, I’m awe-struck by the power of the season changing from winter to spring, and I realize the spectacle would not be as beautiful without the dark gray cloud on the horizon.

I’m always inspired by the rebirth of the seasons. After I was born to my biological mother, Rose, of the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, I was reborn within days to my adopted parents, Barb and Earl, in a white middle-class home in Klamath Falls, Oregon. As a dark-skinned 5-year-old, I would ask my mom what I was going to be when I grew up.

“Anything you want!” she said.

“A fireman?”


“What about president?”

“Yes!” she lied, lovingly. Or perhaps she had the foresight 30 years ago to think there would be a minority president.

As a Native American raised in a white environment, I have never seen things in black and white but always in many colors and shades of gray. I love singing country and western songs at karaoke, but I also love a good powwow and fry bread. Over the years, my work as an artist has always been about bridging the gap between the white world and the Native world. I then realized that it had already been done. There have been “Indian rednecks” for years.


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