Modern Day Warrior, Sequoia Crosswhite stopped by WellFully Premier Adolescent Care Center last week to perform and tell stories to the kids on WellFully's PRTF and ARU.
Enrolled at Cheyenne River, Crosswhite was raised in Rapid City, and is currently a Lakota language and culture instructor at Canyon Lake Elementary. In addition to being a natural born educator and mentor, he is an accomplished musician, on several instruments, but as a traditional flute player, he has few rivals.
Along with the musical talent he shared with the kids, he told many stories that gave both cultural and personal background to the many flutes he played, He shared personal stories with the kids about his own past. His light skin has drawn dismissive reaction from both Wasicu and Lakota, despite the telltale Lakota-ness of his speech, mannerisms and perspectives. He has received criticism for being a gentle soul promoting peace, and that this lack of anger and aggression is an assimilated expression of a sellout.
“I had a lot of trauma happen to me at an early age,” Crosswhite told the kids, “and I had a family member call me a lying, thieving, dirty Indian when I was little.
That traumatic experience put something in me - ‘I’m Lakota, I’m this!’ - and at first it was the negative that came with it, I was in a gang, because I felt that belonging, I felt that connection.”
“When I started performing and presenting,” Crosswhite said, “because of my lighter hair and skin, I’m always questioned, about my qualifications, either blood quantum, or they are needing someone else to do it because of a darker tone. It was when accomplished musicians and others began to recognize his talent and his cultural truth that eventually, Crosswhite worked past these traumas, and became the teacher and mentor he is today.
He also told how many of the traditional "flute songs" were originally meant to be sung vocally, but that many who thought the could not sing began playing them on the flute instead.
One of the highlights of Sequoia’s performance that the youth really were in awe of was when he played two flutes at the same time.
The Oyate Prevention Coalition, whose goal is to provide healthy alternatives to substance use for youth in the Rapid City area, sponsored Sequoia’s performance at WellFully. The coalition’s mission is to prevent and reduce the prevalence of substance use and abuse by providing life skills and education that allow Native American youth to lead healthy and productive lives.
The Oyate Coalition is also sponsoring a movie night at the Elks Theatre on May 22nd for WellFully youth and Boxelder Job Corps students.