ROBERTA

As women, we hold up the sky. As women, we have the power.

In a tribal community, there is a sense of intergenerational connection. Since I was 22 years old, I have been an advocate for people over 55 years old. And here I am at 64, in the population I used to advocate for. Every day we get older or we die. Now I am “on the side of the setting sun.” I have an eternal dialogue about how to embrace that.

How fascinating to be at this age. I feel ageless, in that whomever I sit with, I connect with that group. People can’t figure out my age. I feel good about saying that age is just a number. Ageism is very heavy on women. This makes me very angry. There is still a double standard.

What keeps me so centered? I think maybe it is my sense of place. It’s something about this heritage and being a Shinnecocker. We have been here for 20,000 years. I have a sense of place in the universe. Here on this land, my land, there is a beginning and an end. This place has given me freedom to do and explore a lot of things.

This reservation is the place where I belong. I have tried to raise my two daughters to empower them to have the lives that they want. Giving birth to a son was the most fascinating challenge. I had to change my lens from a female point of view. We have wonderful women in the world. And we need to have good men in the world as well. Men inflict so much pain and harm on the rest of humanity. I believe men are jealous of the life force that women have.

In our Nation, we are all cousins. The tribe is an extended family. In tribal life, there is fighting like there is with all relatives. We discuss everything. Like even where to put a stop sign.