‘We don’t recognize the footsteps we are leaving behind’

Elizabeth Osterhoudt of Castle Rock

By Taylore Todd
Special for Colorado Community Media
Posted 12/18/18

Elizabeth Osterhoudt, 17, is a member of the Pueblo of Jemez Native American tribe and has family who lives on a New Mexico reservation. Growing up in a predominantly white community, she says she …

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‘We don’t recognize the footsteps we are leaving behind’

Elizabeth Osterhoudt of Castle Rock

Posted

Elizabeth Osterhoudt, 17, is a member of the Pueblo of Jemez Native American tribe and has family who lives on a New Mexico reservation. Growing up in a predominantly white community, she says she has dealt with racism, along with unintended slights and negative assumptions from classmates and teachers. She is passionate about fighting for equal rights of Native Americans and such populations as the LGBTQ community who she says need allies to make their voices heard. She plans to attend college and raise awareness about the injustice that Native people still face.

If you knew me, you would know ...

“Here, a lot of people don’t know my race, so they just assume I’m Hispanic at first, and then I’ll get a lot of microaggressions and just racist comments to Hispanic people ... But then a lot of people, once they find out I’m Native, really start to target me, in a way. They’ll ask if I live in a tipi ... One time, in the classroom, these two girls presented ‘Indian tag’ as a game in gym. The teacher didn’t do anything. My classmates didn’t do anything. So I had to be the one to stand up and say it wasn’t right. And then I get asked a lot if I speak ‘Indian.’

“I was talking with my teacher — he didn’t realize that he was being racist. We were talking about alcoholism, but he told me that I should be careful because I’m Native ... This girl was saying I was her ‘Native American friend,’ so I was sort of held as an object. It’s really hard to go between being open and an object. You don’t want to be too open about anything because then you’ll be treated like this prized possession.”

How I want to change the world

“I really want to start branching out to just Native Americans and help out a lot on rezes (reservations) because they are in more need right now … Up in Pine Ridge, that’s in South Dakota, some of them don’t even have homes and some of them don’t really have water. So I really want to just make sure that rezes have the supplies they need to just even survive because the winter is coming.

“I really want the world to recognize all of the bad things that are being done right now because I think with that recognition some people will take initiative for what happens — like especially with GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance). I just want to raise awareness that it isn’t right to judge someone based on how they identify because that’s not your business. And for the world, I just think we need to respect the land we live on more. Some people are treating it really bad, and we don’t recognize the footsteps we are leaving behind. And if this earth dies, we have nowhere else to go.”

Why my voice is important

“It is important to listen to the voices of the young people because they have learned from the older generations. As they mature, they can recognize the mistakes and actions the past generations have committed. From that recognition, they can then carve a new path that will be more efficient in shaping the world to be better.”

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