James Giago Davies. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

James Giago Davies: You can't break from the past until you admit you're stuck

Trapped in the past

You can’t break free until you admit you’re there
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Columnist

People can get trapped in the past, shackled there by events too harrowing to let go. My stepdad is in an East River nursing home, he’s ninety years old, but for him, it will always be 1935. He will always be a child struggling to survive during the Great Depression.

For years he pinched a penny until it screamed, denying the family amenities, and then his frugality would lead him to squander what money he had saved. Like the time some guy wanted to buy his lumber for one-seventy-five and he said, no, gotta have two hundred, so the guy walked and the lumber eventually warped.

But he wouldn’t even burn it to keep us warm. You crazy? That is good lumber, I can get a couple hundred bucks for it.

My biological father, Shorty Davies, came home from WWII with PTSD. The Navy didn’t know it, he didn’t know it, and even though we didn’t know it, we spent our lives paying for it. He was trapped back on the USS Pensacola, acrid black smoke curling up high, while his ship listed on the sea from a Japanese torpedo strike. He served his country, and he always meant well by us, but the highest price he paid for that service, was to serve his family badly.

You can’t pick your parents, however bad they are, were they not your parents, you would not exist. So, there is that. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on other people, but without it, there is no adult phase, no fingers clacking at this keyboard. I am grateful I got a chance to exist.

My mother, Ethel Giago, left Holy Rosary Mission boarding school and the Pine Ridge Reservation just after WWII. Her body and mind left, but her spirit was trapped back at that place, and I wonder if it haunts that school still. It is becoming increasingly obvious that maybe the whole Tribe is haunted by the past, fettered to it. My mother fed me, clothed me, taught me a love for reading and writing, but she never really left the trauma of her childhood. She was forever trapped in a boarding school dominated by Catholic hypocrisy and sanctimony and relentless bullies. She slept-walked through her adult life, and left us ill-prepared to deal with ours.


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Trapped in the past
James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today