My Reservation Will Never Be the Same

Mesa, Arizona.

My heart stopped 2,000 miles away. The unthinkable had happened, and it had happened in a place I call home.

Innocent people were killed. Loved ones gone. Sons and daughters were lost forever. Mothers and fathers never will be seen again.

I grew up on the Red Lake Chippewa Reservation. In 2000, I graduated from the same high school where a gunman decided, with a few tugs of his finger, that he was better than everyone else.

After hearing of Monday’s Red Lake shootings, I didn’t know which reservation school it was or who had been shot.

My mother is a secretary at the Ponemah Elementary School, which is one of three elementary schools on the reservation.

I tried to call her first, but the line was busy. I called my grandmother, my sister, my aunts and uncles and my friends, but all the lines were busy.

I knew the news wasn’t good. When I finally reached my mother, I was relieved for a split-second. Her voice was full of sadness, but she said my family was OK.

And yet, my family is not OK. As a Red Lake member, we all are brothers and sisters. We are all one people. That was my Native American blood on the high school floors.

I spoke with my favorite high school teacher just hours after the shootings. One of her colleagues now is dead. Some of her students now are dead. She could barely talk because she was so overwhelmed.

When I sat in her classroom five years ago, I was thinking about a state basketball championship, not Columbine.

I woke up at 6:20 a.m. every school day for the two-hour bus ride to school. I felt safe at school – particularly because it was surrounded with barbed-wire fencing. The building was laced with cameras, inside and outside. Metal detectors greeted each person entering the school. If the metal detector squeaked, security guards were there to pat you down.

The reservation never will be the same.

My cousin, who is like a baby brother to me, now is a junior at Red Lake High School. I talk with him regularly. I ask him about school and about my old teachers. He tells me school is good and the teachers are good.

Now he must live the rest of his life in fear, with the school shootings always in the back of his mind.

DALTON WALKER, a Mesa Community College student, is a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa. He was selected for a 2005 Bernard H. Ridder Jr. Fellows reporting internship at the Duluth News Tribune, where this column originally appeared.