My roommates were asking some hilarious yet serious questions about reservation life. I was just wondering what you wanted to know about growing up on a Native American Reservation.

Comments: 1120 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

Lillix158 karma

I grew up on Iroquois reservation, I knew there had to be more of us on Reddit. We should have a sub.

gabekoalii255 karma

next time you're in LA area hit me up. I love a good sub.

Lillix99 karma

haha, oh my. Challenge accepted sir.

gabekoalii101 karma


socolloquial98 karma

gabekoalii45 karma

had noooo idea these existed.

iliketurtl3s97 karma

Is the term "Indian" offensive to you?

gabekoalii214 karma

personally? no. I do however correct and say native american is proper. Mainly so i won't be confused for someone from India.

padraigin56 karma

Do you find this to be a generational issue? My Hopi stepmother (who is in her late 50s) prefers the term "Indian", but her daughter, who is in her mid 30s, prefers "Native American". Of course both would prefer to be referred to as "Hopi" but again, my stepsister is more adamant on this issue than my stepmother. I see some pattern with the other Native Americans I know but I don't know if there is an overall generational difference in the use of the terms.

gabekoalii84 karma

im very open minded and i understand when someone doesnt have the knowledge on this subject. so i politely correct and sometimes explain. to each their own.

i used to live in europe so native american was just easier. navajo would be better in the states because people know more.

fomorian11 karma

We use the term aboriginal up in Canada. We can't really use native American for obvious reasons. And, like our US neighbours we were taught that Indian, Red Indian, or American Indian is offensive.

gabekoalii6 karma

interesting. this makes me think about the terms i've used to describe myself. i think i'll just stick with Navajo.

FryFroFella12 karma

What about "American Indian"? If I were you, I'd just call myself Navajo. Saying "Native American" feels a lot like saying "African American."

gabekoalii74 karma

american indian sounds like an american whose parents are from India

yeah. sometimes i say Navajo on a more personal level or to someone who knows the different types of Native Americans.

to someone who doesn't know much like foreigners to the US, I say Native American.

i lived in germany for a few years so i got used to saying native american.

palinsretardedbaby70 karma

One time I donated some old blankets to an Indian reservation, but they turned out to be infected with smallpox :(

gabekoalii49 karma

i LOLed. thanks for that.

DaBignazty1142 karma

Echota Cherokee singing in.

gabekoalii15 karma


[deleted]42 karma

What tribe, and what region?

gabekoalii68 karma

Navajo. Navajo Nation is located in the four corners area. Mostly in Arizona.

seeingeyefrog16 karma

Have you read any of the Tony Hillerman Navajo mysteries, and do you consider them to be an accurate portrayal of Navajo People?

I must admit that I have been fascinated with the Navajo after reading these, and would like to visit this area. What is your honest opinion of the tourist? Do you consider them to be rude for "gawking" at you and your people?

gabekoalii32 karma

I have not read any of these. i'll be sure to look them up!

for me? tourism is needed! its beautiful and it helps the navajo nations economy. it can be rude... i'd probably gawk back. im sure if you were to ask politely in the touristy area someone would take a picture with you. i suggest Canyon De Chelly... thats where i grew up.

FryFroFella37 karma


I've been through a few reservations in the East US, and they were just a strip of run down gift shops and billboards along the highway. And I've seen pictures of reservations out West, and most of them were decrepit trailer parks. Pretty depressing.

What was your reservation like compared to others? What did you experience differently from most kids growing up? How are most native americans religiously? You encounter much racism? What're your schools like, history class in particular? What're your personal views on all this (history, government, etc).

Sorry for all the questions, I've actually been wanting to meet somebody who I could ask about all this.

gabekoalii80 karma

-I grew up on the Navajo Reservation. Its the largest reservation in the US. about the same size of West Virginia. its very large and spread out. no cities. just large towns. Its common to live your entire life on the reservation and you're able to actually live in the traditional life style due to its vastness. Growing up on the Navajo Reservation we didn't have casinos so our government couldn't support us like the other reservations. ie: monthly checks and scholarships for everyone. -Ask me specific questions about growing up. there are so many differences and so many similarities depending on where you are from and/or your experiences. Religiously... there are Native American Churches that integrate both the navajo culture and christian ways of life. there are of course normal churches around the reservation. ie: LDS, christian, catholic... -My father is Hawaiian, Japanese, and Portuguese. He encounters some racism but not a lot because he kind of blends in with the skin color. We have a lot of white teachers in our school and white students and yes they get picked on because of their skin color. I'm very light complected and was often called white boy and made fun of or praised for having a hawaiian father. -History class was the same as any other. we went by Arizona standards and used the same books as any other school. we did have navajo history in our younger grades and we studied it as an elective class in high school. We were also given credits for taking a Navajo language class. when i was younger i never really thought about it. now that i look back and ask people i meet, from outside the Rez, i see there is really no difference.

good questions!

FryFroFella22 karma

Cool, thanks for the answers. What do you mean by a traditional way of life being possible? I'm going to assume that doesn't mean running buffalo off cliffs in wolf suits.

gabekoalii46 karma

hahaha! i like that... but no. traditional life meaning in a navajo home. dirt floors. clothing. living off the grid. no electricity. no running water. i guess its living like the navajo used to 50 years ago. you'd still need pots and pans and stuff. but if you really really reallllllyyyy wanted to you could def live like the navajo did before the spanish came. that would be a little crazy and weird though.

FryFroFella22 karma

That's really cool, I just assumed that lifestyle was dead. How many people still live like that?

EDIT: Reservations are semi-autonomous, correct? I find that pretty bizarre that these exist within US borders, but no one pays any attention to them and they're just considered parts of states, not even noted on maps. What's the government like on the reservation?

gabekoalii41 karma

A lot of the elderly live off the grid. they're happy with their lives. its amazing to see these old people living that way. its always a good feeling going back and seeing some people carrying the tradition young and old. i can't give you a number on how many people live this way but its not uncommon to see people that do.

eame32 karma


gabekoalii130 karma

at first it was alright because it helped spread the name and native american art. Now its just wrong... especially with the native american head dresses. I honestly do not approve and find the head dress wear offensive. and as a music festival goer i want to ripe them off their heads for blocking everyones view.

ivandelapena30 karma

Is it true rape is incredibly common and unreported in these reservations? I'd understand if you didn't know a lot about it. What about other crimes? Do you think they have a better quality of life on the reservations compared to outside?

gabekoalii31 karma

-i don't know about the rape subject. i've never heard a story with in my native american friends. -Everyone is related to someone. When there's trouble there's always someone in both families causing more unnecessary 'drama' for the arrest or complaint. there's still the normal crime you'd see in any other small town outside the reservation. over all i think its safe compared to cities and large towns.

ivandelapena12 karma

How do you have relationships and stuff? Are you allowed to date? How would your family feel if you chose a white girl?

gabekoalii88 karma

ahhh. this is where things get complicated. the navajo use a matriarch clan system. the other day i was in hawaii and met a lady with the same first clan as me. that made her my sister and shes a total stranger.

so growing up on the reservation you aren't allowed to date someone with the same clan... and we have 4 clans. there are also subgroups to these clans. but there are enough people out there and a lot of clans so a navajo with navajo relationship is totally possible... dating is definitely allowed, sometimes forced by our crazy old grandmothers. haha

my mother is navajo and my father is hawaiian. its totally acceptable... in my case my grandmother is constantly trying to hook me up with non-native american girls. its cute and funny... best part about it is im gay and she doesn't know.

ThrowAway275523 karma

Do you know what tribe embraces the "two-spirits"? It was my understanding that gay people were viewed as "blessed" or something bc they had both male and female spirits, but I forgot which tribe that was. How do u think your family would react if you told them you're gay?

gabekoalii41 karma

im not sure what the navajo people think of homosexual individuals. never really asked.

i honestly don't know what my family would think if i told them. i know my parents would pray for me and stuff... they're LDS. im Atheist.

my mom would cry for sure.

enlashok27 karma

I'm a medical student from New Zealand. Before she passed away last year, a dear friend of mine (of Lakota descent) and I were looking into spending several months doing medical work on a Native American reservation.

I'm not sure if this is a weird question, but - can you tell me a little about how healthcare works on the Navajo reservation? And what sort health issues do you feel are common there, and are there any you know of that need particular focus?


gabekoalii30 karma

awesome! My sister is a nurse at on the Navajo Reservation. she could def help with this answer.

i know they're open to hiring outside of the reservation. i remember my doctors have accents. i can't tell you the details about how the system works right now. i could give you more info via email if you need.

weisblattsnut27 karma

Was there drinking?

gabekoalii71 karma

Alcoholic beverages are illegal on the navajo reservation.

[deleted]17 karma


gabekoalii41 karma

it has always been illegal. People still bootleg alcohol onto the reservation. we don't have border control so its pretty easy. there are some people that make moonshine. it is a problem just like any small town except on the reservation you can get in more trouble for having alcohol anywhere near you.

socolloquial24 karma

/r/Navajo FYI OP

gabekoalii17 karma

oh nice!!! i've never seen this. thanks!

Antinous22 karma

Do people smoke pot or do any other hallucinogenic drugs?

gabekoalii35 karma

marijuana is still illegal on the reservation. i know peyote is allowed for religious purposes... i think thats through the Native American Church.

girlfran20 karma

I am currently working on my thesis (in DC) for a masters in art therapy. My culminating research revolves around the suicide rate on a reservation in South Dakota. Through the past year, I have been looking at suicide prevention programs geared toward Native American youth. I am curious--if it is not too intrusive to ask--if there is much of the phenomena in Arizona/on your reservation?

This past summer, I spent some time on the reservation, and would love to hear perspectives from other Native American populations/reservations.

gabekoalii14 karma

i know it happens but personally i've never been or heard of a suicide growing up on the reservation. i havent lived there since i was 18. i lived in Chinle, AZ so im only speaking for that town from 1985-2003...

swagbagtap18 karma

Do you Resent the white people for stealing your land?

gabekoalii46 karma

no. with out them a lot of things would have never happened... like my existence.

Thexorretor17 karma

I stopped at jewelry stop on the side of the road outside of the Grand Canyon. The guy said that he had met alot of celebrities on the road on the way to the reservation. He said that there was a celeb retreat there and that it was illegal to take someone's picture without their permission on the reservation. Is this true? If so, did you have any encounters with celebrities?

gabekoalii32 karma

I grew up by Canyon De Chelly and a lot of celebrities to visit that area. there are always rumours and later we see scenes from around the reservation in movies and music videos.

the whole picture taking part is a lie. who ever the guy was had no idea what he was talking about. i chuckled when i read that. just a weird dude being a weird dude.

Second_Location13 karma

So my daughter's school here in the southeastern USA has a tradition of the second graders studying Native Americans' history and culture. At the end of the year they have a daylong event at a farm where they dress up in vaguely Native attire and engage in activities that are supposed to represent traditional practices. A lot of summer camps in this area do similar kinds of things. While I think it's really important for American kids of all races to learn about our shared history, and I think experiential education is helpful, I don't feel great about these kinds of activities. I mean, you wouldn't see a bunch of white kids dressing up for "African American Day"... What are your thoughts?

gabekoalii11 karma

good point. though in the 5th grade our class did have an african peoples week. we studied different parts of the continent and we learned different things about different cultures. it was fun and helped open up our mind to other people of the world. i was in a accelerated class at the time so we were taught some out of the ordinary things. i too think its important and its a great idea for your daughters school to teach these things.

SBtransposon11 karma

Did you live in a Hogan? We went on a road trip to four corners and monument valley, it was one of the most scenic places in the US!

gabekoalii16 karma

haha. no. i lived in a normal house. glad to know someone outside our land knows the navajos lived in hogans.

L4MAT9 karma

I'm pretty sure one of you guys fucked us over in England, I mean it doesn't stop raining here... does the rain dance have a reverse move? if we do the snake and a couple of back flips would it do something? Nah just kidding. I don't like clich├ęs.

How does it feel like being a true american? is that how you see yourself? feel free to say yes because I believe you are.

gabekoalii31 karma

it is pretty neat. we crack jokes about the USA's immigration laws and stuff. The white men are immigrants. I can honestly and truthfully call myself american. thats for sure. honestly, i don't think about it much. i am thankful for the orginal immigrants. i love pizza.

L4MAT9 karma

Do you like the movie Pocahontas?

gabekoalii22 karma

it helps promote native america. i like it. it brings a stereotyping but it also bring awareness and gets kids interested in real native americans... any publicity is good publicity. :)

calex9249 karma


gabekoalii33 karma

i don't have a current picture of myself living on the reservation. since i turned 18 i moved and got a job. i lived in southern AZ, Germany, and now Hollywood. i had a pretty bad sunglasses tan in that photo.

Blitzcrieg23068 karma

Do you have an Indian name? What is it? You've had an AMA a few months ago in which you say you're gay. Does your family know? How did they react when you told them? Is homosexuality 'prohibited' in Indian culture (as it is with Christianity)?

gabekoalii35 karma

haha. i get that a lot. i don't have an indian name but my grandma used to sing me to sleep and she would call me some indian name... she was calling me clean white baby. its literal translation would be crystal baby. she was calling me this because of my very light complexion and calmness.

My siblings know im gay. my parents do not. not because of the navajo traditions its more because of their religion and lack of knowledge on the matter. my younger siblings don't care as long as im happy. they're very open. homosexuality is not 'prohibited'. the only reason some families would be against it is because theres no one to carry the family blood/name.

SlowFoodCannibal8 karma

Where do you live now? If not on the Reservation, do you want to live there again in the future?

gabekoalii20 karma

I've lived all over. I was the one in the family that wanted to explore. I've lived in Mississippi, Southern AZ, Germany, and now Hollywood, California. Right now I don't think i could move back I have a lot going for me in my career. maybe when im old and able to retire i'll move back. its peaceful and beautiful on the Navajo Reservation.

[deleted]3 karma

What's your career?

gabekoalii33 karma

im an Air Traffic Controller.

MasterOfTheMoon5 karma

An ATC, huh? You're ex-Air Force, right? That would explain what you were doing in Mississippi (Keesler) and Germany (Ramstein).

gabekoalii4 karma

yep! you know whats up.

TrueBlonde8 karma

What's the culture like? Do you keep any of the old traditions?

gabekoalii30 karma

the culture is almost sterotypical. be one with nature.

LOTS of taboos.

i was a bad apple and always did what i was told not to. ha. i have lived on the reservation until i was 18. im 27 now and i live in California. i don't follow tradition anymore but when i visit i follow traditions rules, customs, and courtesies. i still have respect for my people when i visit.

bigcitycrows3 karma

Traditional Navajos say not to look at clouds moving in the sky. Or you will be a slow runner. Also, do not watch a river flowing swiftly, or you will get dizzy and fall in.

:( No cloudwatching?

gabekoalii3 karma

i do it all the time. i was a bad apple. im fine.

RestSnorlax8 karma

What are the general quality of schools on the reservation?

gabekoalii15 karma

Chinle High school is where i went. its a pretty nice school. nothing like the larger cities. I never encountered real problems with drugs or violence. my graduating class was about 250 students so its really not that big and our school was the largest at one point. the campus has improved dramatically since i graduated in 2003. look it up on google maps!

JustAlice5 karma

Was there ever a large drug or alcohol problem on your reservation?

What is the general economic situation like of those living on your reservation?

Why did you leave the reservation?

gabekoalii11 karma

i know alcohol is a problem. mainly because alcohol is illegal on the navajo reservation. so any incident involving it makes it look way bad.

Poverty every where. its pretty bad in most parts. its bad but people are still generally happy because they don't know better. i know because i've been able to experience the different ways of life out there.

I lived in the south, southern az, germany, and now hollywood.

i left for better jobs and i'm the type of person who loves traveling and adventure.

raptor3335 karma

im a native american too, i live in canada and my mum works in indigenous mental health... i habe lots of friends that live on the rez and ive gone to quite a few. it really shows that government need to help out the reservations cos there in pretty crappy condition. my question is do you actually take part in native relions cos i do but i know lots who dont? btw im cree and dene

gabekoalii9 karma

im not active at all in the religion. i don't live on the reservation anymore so i have to adapt and im atheist. I do educate friends on the navajo ways when i can.