“Who’s your favorite Indian?” Arnold asks as Victor is wrapped in the arms of his mother. Victor doesn’t have a favorite Indian. Not his mom, nor his dad, Victor doesn’t have a favorite Indian. When watching, at first, you’ll probably laugh at drunken Arnold making a fool of himself, but after the scene concludes you’ll realize how tragic Victor’s response is. 

If you ask a Native who their favorite Indian is, they will either laugh, or reply with another memorable quote from Smoke Signals. I’ve never thought much about the question until Indigenous People’s Day. I reflected on my heritage, my culture, and wondered whether or not I have a favorite Indian. 

My favorite Indian is the one who sits and listens to their elders tell a story that they’ve heard a thousand different times. My favorite Indian is the elder who cares enough to tell a story a thousand different times to ensure that they are never lost. 

My favorite Indian is the one who bangs the drum with their arm and sings from their heart. My favorite Indian is the one who both sings and listens to make sure that the songs are never forgotten.

My favorite Indian is the one who is in school, gaining as much knowledge as possible for all of the years America didn’t allow us to get educated. My favorite Indian is the one who may be the only Indian in a classroom, but still works hard for all of the Indians who aren’t there with them.

My favorite Indian is the doctor, the lawyer, the schoolteacher, the coach, who not only provides their time and effort in mentoring young natives but paves the way for more to work right alongside them. 

My favorite Indian is the descendant who may not be enrolled, but walks with their head up, proud of who they are and where they come from. 

My favorite Indian is STRONG.

My favorite Indian is AMAZING.

My favorite Indian is, well…Indian. 

—RaShawn Lemery

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