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Story or legacy

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Posted: Friday, January 11, 2019 6:00 am

Recently I was asked by three different people what I thought my legacy would be. Each time I was asked, we all laughed when I replied “well, likely viewed as being perceptive, persistent, outspoken at times, stubborn, and sometimes difficult, mostly when it comes to building positive race relations, naming and addressing the equity gap in education and efforts to create a thriving lake community.” Needless to say, interesting conversation followed, always with a few more laughs. I began to wonder why I was being asked this question so many times recently. Years ago, my mom, my mentor and I had a conversation about people’s legacies and Ojibwe values. I was taught by Mom to not be concerned with such things, to do my best always, to focus on following our core values: love, respect, truth, generosity, bravery, wisdom and humility.

Perhaps, rather than a legacy, I am learning to embrace my story. I want my children and grandchildren to know my story, really, that is what matters most. Thinking about moms’ teachings, I have come to believe that our values call on us to be active participants in creating a better future and not settling for what the systems around us have defined for us. I am pretty clear that I am perceptive and persistent; change doesn’t happen without either. Perceptiveness keeps us aware, safe and helps us see those things around us that privilege often disguises or makes invisible. Persistence is about speaking truth, living brave. Persistence can be an act of generosity, serving as a warrior to challenge inequity. Long overdue, perceptiveness and persistence are challenging our nations systems of privilege and power. Being outspoken at times, is a balancing act. Change doesn’t occur in a vacuum or in silence. There was a time in my life that I was unable to use my voice. I was afraid and felt invisible. Being outspoken can be a term used against women who dare to ‘be visible’. Daring to speak, using voice in ways that matter, with love, respect, and humility is re-shaping our nation right now. Then there is the ‘being difficult’ aspect. Change doesn’t occur easily for most of us. Having the wisdom to know the difference and remaining humble in the process is a life long journey, but one worth ‘being difficult’ over – mistakes and all. Taking on systems that continue to oppress women, children, men, people of color, American Indians, LGBTQ, elderly, disabled community, the poor, and more, is a difficult task. Being ‘difficult’, creates purpose, passion, change and hope.

So, as we go into 2019, I will remain perceptive, persistent, difficult, stubborn and outspoken, at times. It is who I am. It is my story. Our children, our community is hungry to remove walls that define and confine us. Together, let’s practice love, respect, truth, generosity, bravery, wisdom and humility. Let’s create a community where everyone belongs, we are economically strong, our lakes and waters are healthy, education is equitable, school consolidation becomes a reality so our kids experience opportunity and greatness, city and tribal collaboration expands, city and county officials spend hard earned tax dollars on health, safety and development versus lawsuits and high attorney’s fees, where all are proud of economic development that benefits all, and where community comes together to stand side by side with actions of persistence, being outspoken, stubborn and being difficult at times, when inequity exists..

I guess my story – not legacy – is about trying to live the values I was taught, doing my best always and being okay with being viewed as persistent, outspoken, stubborn and difficult at times. May the New Year bring purpose, passion, change and hope to the Mille Lacs community.

Mary Sam is a Mille Lacs area community member.

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