Opinion

Terese Mailhot: Being a poor Indian is worse than being invisible






Terese Marie Mailhot.

After going from foster care to a successful career, writer Terese Marie Mailhot (Seabird Island Band) reflects on being poor and being Indian:
Being a poor Indian was like being invisible, or worse, they notice you and your shoes, your lack—of cash flow, or car, or insurance, or leisure. There was a point in my life, well, most of my life, when being a poor Indian was more familiar than being anything at all. That lack is the reason why I’m here. I did things in spite of it all, to say something explicit that I don’t need to state here.

Poor was taking the bus with my Walkman on, listening to LL Cool J’s I Need Love at five in the morning, to start my hustle at six. Being a poor Indian was exposed, cold cement floors where my bed was, with no frame—worrying about how the mold would affect my body. That constant cold in the night felt like a ghost.

Nobody saw me until I had a degree. Nobody gave a damn about me in foster care, or worse, they tried to save me—to show me how horrible Indians were, and that I should assimilate into the culture of normalcy, the every day: the middle class default.

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Terese Mailhot: A Poor Indian Makes the Best Philosopher and Theorist (Indian Country Media Network 3/190