The Impact of Generations of Injustices

Yvette Pino, Mescalero Apache

My name is Yvette Pino. I am a Native American woman. I have lived on the Laguna Pueblo almost my entire life. I am a part of the Mescalero Apache tribe. Because I have lived on the reservation my entire life, I have seen the issues that affect Native Americans first-hand. These issues involve alcohol, education, and foster care. I have seen these issues play out in those close to me, as well as in the community. I have seen the never-ending cycle of alcoholic use, the cycle of foster care, and education. People aren’t challenged to pursue a higher education, because no one is there to do so. I love my community, it is a part of who I am but I cannot ignore these problems. I am an active participant in my Parish community in Laguna, I have done volunteer work, I visited the nursing home often while my grandmother was alive and went to Mass with the residents. I feel the pain of my community, but I refuse to be a part of that cycle. I know God put me here for a reason. He has given me a strength to know that though these issues may seem like they cannot be overcome, that they will never go away, I know that with God, all things are possible.

I was put into foster care at a young age, for broken bones that could not easily be explained away. At sixteen months old I was put into my first, and only, foster home. I have been with the same family ever since, through the lows of court cases and lack of visits from my biological mom, to the highs of my graduating from a college preparatory high school and acceptance to Notre Dame. I know I am incredibly blessed to be where I am now, but though my story of being a foster kid is not a unique one, many children are not so lucky. They bounce from home to home, yearning for that love that every human being searches for. They do this until their parents are able to offer that support system, but if the parents make one mistake, back into foster care they go. They do this for years, sometimes until they come to the age of eighteen where they have very little resources to make the decision to go to college, and so the cycle continues. They may turn to alcohol to numb the pain and loneliness, have their own children but find because they were not shown love, they are unable to show love to their children. Then their children search for love outside of the home and may turn to drugs or alcohol.

Poverty is also a big issue. My family has not always been poor, my mom worked by caring for my grandfather, but after he passed away, we lost our main source of income. We still got the checks from social services, as my biological mother had not terminated parental rights, and my father got his social security checks, but things got harder. My mom was close to retiring age, and she had trouble finding another job, soon she decided to retire just like my dad had years earlier. We weren’t living paycheck to paycheck, we had enough to pay for the cars, the cell-phone bills, and food, but it was an adjustment. Then I started high school. As I mentioned before, the education on the reservation is poor and my parents wanted to continue my Catholic education, so I started at Saint Pius X high school in Albuquerque. The first few years weren’t too bad. We had to make some sacrifices. Eating out or having a barbeque became a thing that was reserved for birthdays and very special occasions, but those were easy to give up. Then I got to driving age. My first few years I carpooled with some upperclassmen but when they graduated, we had no other choice but to send me to driving school. With that came the hefty insurance bill. My junior and senior year were the hardest years, though I received scholarships that covered more than half of my tuition, with covering for gas, insurance and everything else, we struggled. It never got so bad that we didn’t have enough to eat, but I missed out on the things that are considered part of the high school experience. We could not afford the dance tickets, or the dinners that often accompanied them, I often missed the sports games because we couldn’t afford the measly five-dollar ticket when that five-dollar bill could be put towards something else. Even though I am now going to college, and my brother is going to boarding school, my parents still struggle. This is all too common on the reservation and without the resources to send children to college, people on the reservation will remain here and feed the cycle of poverty.

I know that it may seem hard to find God in these moments of suffering, but it is in my darkest moments that I have found Him. Without Him, I don’t know that I would be where I am today. I know that I was created for something more. He is my strength. He gives me hope when it is hard to find the light. I ache for my community because I know that it is so much more that the problems that it faces. I know that God created us in His Image and Likeness and we deserve the same treatment that everyone else gets. We should not be facing these problems merely because of our skin color or our traditions and culture. I believe that because God loves us too, that we deserve the respect that our innate dignity deserves.