On the Rez, Tribal Police play a large role in the establishment of Authority. How it is used, what does it look like, what does it FEEL like, what is my role with/against it. In a younger time, I actually wanted to be a cop. I was a wild child with no clue of who I was. I was assigned to do ride alongs with the Mille Lacs Tribal Police Department. I did that for a whole summer, a couple times a week. A few different officers took me around, talked to me, tried to help me as I was heading down a dangerous path with limited time to intervene. It was before big government center and the casino was just being built. It was a different time but all the same issues. I was 11.
I would sit in the car(shotgun) while the officer performed traffic stops, responded to emergencies, delivered papers, etc... I would be in the car also while they kicked my friends out from swimming in the harbor. It did not seem harsh, over-domineering or negative by any means. These cops were nice to people, polite, treated people well. Of the 2 cops that took me out, 1 was Shinaabe and the other was white.
The intervention did not work, at the time. The experience came back around few decades later when I decided to change my life around.
I am now late teens, wild AS F’n F and no care in the world. The essence of the Mille Lacs Band Tribal Police Officer has changed. I seen more and more extremely angry white men come on to the Rez, overnite it seemed like. I am not saying me and my friends were the best of characters but the Police seemed to know that we were hurting until the new ones showed up. They did not care if we were hurting. They would hurt us themselves. I believed they believed that they should be administering the punishment. They would twist the arm as far and hard as possible, slam knees on the back of the head and rib cage and at one point they grabbed my braids and pulled hard enough to snap my head back. I pulled out the clumps while I was in jail. I by no means was a good character. Did I deserve it? Maybe. To say what I actually deserved and what I needed at the time to help save my life might be 2 different topics depending on who you are talking to. Needless to say, I felt I did deserve it, I believed that’s all my life was going to be, I knew that this was how life was and I did not care if my life was saved. There was no point.
The (shinaab) Cop (not same one that took me on ride alongs) that everyone held in high regard came from a family of police officers (of shinaab descent). I say that in a cruel term because even after going through and getting better, admitting my faults and now helping my community, I see how unhelpful they were as “Anishinaabe Men”. They were the worst. My own people, hired on to patrol the community as someone to trust, one of our own, the one to help our people inflicted more pain not because of what he did but because of who he was, Anishinaabe (supposedly).
I’m 18 or 19, on a cold evening I was out being a menace to the community. I do not remember what I was doing but back then these guys would treat us bad for walking down the street. I had a buzz going and walking to my cousins. I do not remember if I had warrants but it was a common for me to have some. I was picked up for whatever reason and I remember being mad at the Shinaab Cop. He was talking down to me and brought me to the tribal police station rather than jail. They got me out behind the building and took turns talking crap to me, hitting me in the belly, while still cuffed behind my back. Then the Shinaab comes back to further the onslaught. I felt I did deserve it, I believed that’s all my life was going to be, I knew that this was how life was and I did not care if my life was saved. There was no point.
I was talking crap the whole time because I had to prove they did NOT intimidate me, they could NOT break me. I yelled right to the Shinaab Cop, “Fuck you!! You Fuckin APPLE!!” He starts laughing, “what the hell is that?” “RED ON THE OUTSIDE AND WHITE ON THE INSIDE”. He then slammed my face onto the trunk of the squad and squeezed the back of my neck while yelling at me through gritted teeth. They threw me in the back of the squad on my belly and took me to jail.
This experience stuck in my head since. I still to this day have a hard time trusting cops. It seems as a criminal I got exposed to their true nature and the BS I see about them in the paper or wherever is contrary to who they are as people. They seem very angry and I would argue rather strongly about the mental wellness of a lot of them.
I am not trying to say ALL cops are bad. Maybe I only met the bad ones? Maybe my childly perspective is skewed from my ridealong experience? What I am trying to get across is that acting out my trauma and lack of identity I was exposed to the reinforcement of trauma and lack of identity. I wonder how over time that has compounded and defined the nature of allot of shinaabe men. How are my boys (6th and 5th grade) going to react to this essence that is still out there? I already hear them talk about their experiences with cops and perspectives on them and it is not the same as my admiration as a child.
But, I was the criminal, I deserved it, thats how my life was going to be and I did not care if my life
was saved. There was no point.
Mii iw. Miigwech