This installment of the Modern-Day Indigenous Warriors Series is dedicated to a person that I don’t know. At all. Yet, I watch this person and pay close attention to his work, stalker-style, admiring from a distance and thankful that he’s doing the necessary and compelling work that he’s doing for Indian Country.
I know that it’s kinda creepy; in fact, I’m typing this on my laptop from outside his office. I jokes (or do I??)!!
But he’s worth watching. His name is Mr. Albert Pooley, and he is the founder of the Fatherhood/Motherhood Is Sacred programs. Mr. Pooley is also a proxy for ALL great Native fathers, like those amazing aboriginal dads in the photographs accompanying this story. Anybody that follows my writing/knows me/hears me speak understands that “fatherhood in Indian Country” is a topic that I am particularly passionate about—for many reasons. The main reason, however, is that much like the rest of the United States, we simply don’t have enough men willing to be good fathers in Indian Country. Now, there are many factors that go into that very loaded statement; poverty, chemical dependency, bad choices in romantic partners, the reoccurring/cyclical nature of single parent families, etc, etc.
A million reasons.
Still, the end result is that, in 2012, there is a dearth of Native men willing to raise the children that they helped create and/or step in to be a good father for another’s biological child. Indian Country is a microcosm of the larger world, except that things tend to hit Indian Country slightly harder than the rest of the world; and it’s as if men of all colors—when they step into a relationship with a woman with a child—see the woman as somehow separate from her children, and therefore there is no mentorship or relationship.
And the cycle continues with Native kids suffering from a lack of willing Native examples; when Native kids suffer, Indian Country suffers. Thankfully, the problem is getting slightly better—the photographs of these proud Indian dads with loving children is testament to us getting healthier and more young Native men wanting to be prominent in their children’s lives in recent years.
Despite this progress, however, it remains a critical problem for our people.
Enter Mr. Pooley, a Hopi and Navajo man with a plan. He took away the romance and misperception that Native people always think about and plan for the next seven generations; instead, he understood that the lack of fatherhood training is a genuine problem within Indian Country and will hurt all future generations. Without making excuses or judgments, Mr. Pooley decided to do something about this very real problem. Therefore, using non-religiously-specific curriculum and teaching methods, the Fatherhood/Motherhood is Sacred program teaches exactly that—that being a father/mother is a blessing from the Creator. And like most of our cultures require, we must sacrifice in exchange for our blessings—there is a corresponding obligation and steps that we must take to make sure we do it right!
Sounds about right, right? After all, that’s what most of our ceremonies are about—sacrifice for the greater good. Fatherhood/motherhood is ceremony and sacred; being a deadbeat dad is VERY far from traditional. Still, the point of the program is not to criminalize those deadbeat dads; instead, it’s to acknowledge that being a dad is a skill, an ability.
The program works to increase the skill level of Indian dads.
In short, the Fatherhood/Motherhood is Sacred program is about Indian men understanding the sacred nature of men and women taking care of their Indian children.
The program lays out the following principles:
- It is important that real and lasting change comes from within.
- The program inspires and ignites self motivation through natural techniques in bringing change to a person.
- Understanding ones self worth and the value they bring to their family will change their very nature, drawing them closer to loved ones.
- Native people must be a forward thinking, forward looking and forward moving people.
- When Native people truly understand the past it should inspire and motivate us to work toward a richer better future this is accomplished through strong fathers and mothers who are devoted to strengthening their families.
We need more examples like Albert Pooley and the many Native men that champion fatherhood; there are a lot of them that do. However, there is also a lot that do not—we need programs and training like Mr. Pooley’s to assist those amongst us that do not. I love to see “us” raising the expectations of “us” and to stop making excuses for “us”; I think the days of a Native man having kids all over the place being a funny thing has to be a thing of the past. It’s not funny. Kids suffer. Programs like this will inevitably make Indian Country stronger and better—the program has already worked in many places, and will continue to work if fatherhood is something that we’re willing to invest into.
To learn more about the program, visit the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association website at http://aznaffa.org/.
Gyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and his family also belongs to the Suquamish Nation. He wrote a book called Don’t Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways) which you can get at DKMAI.com. He is also co-authoring a new book with Robert Chanate coming out in the Summer of 2012 appropriately called The Thing About Skins, and the website and publishing company for that handy-dandy book is CutBankCreekPress.com (coming soon). He also semi-does the twitter thing at twitter.com/BigIndianGyasi