Daunnette Moniz-Reyome is a member of the Winnebago Ho-Chunk Tribe of Nebraska and a junior at Walthill Public School, where she is active in athletics and fine arts.
Now 16, Moniz-Reyome has been modeling since she was 11, and she uses her platform to bring light to Native American issues. In 2017, she was a guest speaker for the United Nations International Day of the Girl event.
In an interview with “Teen Vogue,” she said: “I’m proud of my culture because we’re so spiritual. Because we care for one another, and because of how connected we are to the Earth and to the universe … I wish the world knew that we do still exist.”
She wrote the following essay last summer at the suggestion of University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism professor Joe Starita. The piece, writes her English teacher Brooke Kahl, is an effort to “educate others about the cultural identity struggle many young, Native American girls face in today’s society, as well as provide all readers an opportunity to claim their voice and be a fearless agent of change.”
If I asked you to tell me about yourself, about who you are, what would you tell me? Would you tell me the color of your hair, your favorite song, your hobbies, who raised you, what town you grew up in, the schools you went to, your profession? Or would you tell me about the god you pray to, the language your grandparents spoke, the holidays you celebrate, your country of origin, the color of your skin? Would you tell me who you truly are? Let me tell you who I truly am.
Wiragųšge Šibre Wįga hįgaire ną. They call me Shooting Star. That is my Winnebago Ho-Chunk Indian name. My English name is Daunnette Moniz-Reyome. I am 15 years old, I live on the Umonhon Indian Reservation, and I am enrolled in the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. I come from the Bear Clan, the Peacemakers of the tribe. I have grown up everywhere — except my tribe’s reservation. I know what society expects of me, but I refuse to limit myself to those expectations.
I am expected to stay quiet and listen. (“Don’t say anything; the adults are speaking.”)
I am expected to cover every blemish that appears on my face. (“Boys don’t like pimples.”)
I am expected to know all my culture, language, traditions and practices. (“But who is left to teach me?”)
I am expected not to have an opinion yet. (“You’re too young — you don’t know enough yet.”)
And I am expected to fail because of institutional racism and historical trauma that never seems to end.
For many generations, my people’s culture was outlawed. We weren’t allowed to speak our own language, pray to our creator, perform our songs and dances, or wear our traditional clothing. We have been called heathens and savages. We were told our saving grace was to be like the white man. And so we’ve been struggling to reclaim who we are ever since.
To be a 15-year-old Native American girl in 2018 is to be challenged. It is to be strong. It is to be intelligent. It is to be resilient. Yes, it is hard to be all of these things that contradict what society wants of me, especially in a time and place where everyone has an opinion, and everything has the potential to be offensive. But why should we be scared to share our story or our truth strictly because it may hurt or offend someone?
Being a 15-year-old Native American girl in 2018 is not to be silenced but to be heard. It is to not be afraid of feedback or fearful of what people may think because it is your truth. It is to not sugarcoat, or “tactfully” say something because you don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable. You say what’s on your mind, exactly how it is. I’ve learned from experience that your word will not be heard until you make them listen. Until you make them uncomfortable.
To be a 15-year-old Native American girl in 2018 is to be a powerful voice for those who have lost their ability to speak, for those who listened to society, and for those who feared what the world may think.
There was once a 15-year-old Native American girl who stood at the front lines of the Dakota Access Pipeline and did everything she could to protect our water and our sacred land. Another 15-year-old Native American girl told Teen Vogue everything the world didn’t know and needed to know about her culture. And yet another fearless 15-year-old Native American girl got kicked out of class for pointing out that her teacher had concealed the harsh and haunting history indigenous peoples had faced.
We need more fearless people who are willing to make a change. When you don’t hold your words in, when you speak your mind, amazing things can happen. …
How will you let your true self shine? How will you be an agent of change?
They call me Wiragųšge Šibre Wįga. I am a 15-year-old Native American girl.