In the February 1, 2005 edition of Law Enforcement Technology, writer Liz Martinez investigates Gangs in Indian Country and offers the following insight:

Native Americans have some of the highest poverty and addiction rates in the United States and a rapidly increasing population, along with some of the highest rates of infant mortality and lowest educational levels. Because the reservations are in remote areas, the opportunities for jobs and industry are virtually non-existent.

Coupled with the fact that many young people have lost touch with or never known their native languages, customs or religious traditions and are exposed to the relentless commercialism of mainstream America–yet are without the wherewithal to achieve most of the commercial ideals–and the white-hot anger erupting among American Indian youth and manifesting itself in an explosion of gang involvement should surprise no one.

Gangs create bonds of belonging for those who feel outcast, lost and disconnected.
Helping to find ways to retie the disconnected to the positive moral core of society must become a paramount human mission reaching from suburban corral to urban core to rustic reservation.

108 Comments

  1. As a native youth i see this alot. i travel the country on the trail and see this all the time….representing native blue A.K.A Avalon i know wat its like to be with a “native gang”……there are struggles and hardships mayby not all as bad but when im with all my brother and sisters i fell like im in a comfort zone and im sure that they would say the same………We arent necceserily about crime or anything like that there are some ocasions but we only do it for the rez and the community we try to help out our people and the people who cant help themselves…..We fight for whats right if it means resiisting arrest or nything like that we do wat we have to……BLUE DIAMINS TEARS AND C’Z UP….. then u know

  2. I am a police officer for the Tohono O’odham Nation. We have created an “anti-violence unit” to begin to combat the violent and gang crimes in our community. This unit has been active since December of 2004 and have made significant progress in gang enforcement. We have recieved federal grants to assist with the unit, through Project Safe Neighborhoods.
    Since being activated we have doucumented 19 criminal street gangs in on the reservation; documented several members of prison gangs; and have had contact in our area with several members of Mara Salvatrucha 13(MS13). We have had several gang related prosecutions in federal, state, and tribal courts. In addition to our local gang problem we have the additional gang involvement from our neighboring cities (tucson, and phoenix) and have begun to form better working relationships with these neighboring agencies.
    We are currently begining to form programs with the communities to attempt to deter youth from joining these gangs and are also attempting to build contacts with outside organizations to learn what they have done to combat the problem and to teach what we are doing as a dept/agency to combat our problem.
    Any information would be greatly appreciated in regards to contact information regarding native gangs, case law regarding native gangs, or reservations looking for more information regarding native gangs (that we may be able to provide), etc.

  3. M. Hall —
    Thank you for your excellent message! Please use the Contact Form to get in touch with me about finding a way to work together in the future to document and change the state of Native American Gangs.

  4. Mr. Boles,
    I do some gang counseling as well as train law enforcement and related agencies on gangs.
    I am interested in learning more about the history of gangs on Native American reservations as well as how prevalent the problem is. This is one of the few areas of gang proliferation that I am not very familiar with.
    Recently I have had some counseling requests from some young people in gangs on a couple of reservations (via email) and would like to be able to have a better understanding of their ecology.
    Any help would be appreciated. And I would also be glad to help out with gang info you might need otherwise.
    thanks for your help!
    Anthony aka “Tony” 🙂
    Gang Intelligence Threat Management Group
    http://violencemanagement.blogspot.com

  5. i’m from the the colville reservation in ne washington and this is a topic we as native people need to focus on. on my rez there are already 2 gangs, in omak there is the 32st ngb’s {native gangster bloods}which is a branch off from a gang in tacoma thats spreading rapidly up and down the nw. this blood gang from omak was originally 2nd hud bloods that branched off from loc’d out piru in portland but a member went to prison and introduced the ngb’s to our rez. just a 25 minute drive away in nesplelum there is new hud crips and these two gangs are main rivals but there is one major problem were fighting our own people and cousins and were also steadily increasing drug use on our rez.

  6. Hi cody!
    Thanks for taking the time to share the truth of your experience.
    Do you feel drugs contribute to the creation of gangs?
    Do gangs provide community protection?
    Do gangs offer an escape from poverty?
    What do you feel is the attraction of gang participation in your community?

  7. you asked me if i feel drugs influence gangs. yes that’s how we make our money everyone one of us know’s there are no job’s on the rez,they are the reason most gang’s are formed to protect not the community but the flow of money. at least that is the case on my rez.look at it like this your a drug dealer without any one to watch your back and there is a very large group all down for eachother in the same place who is gonna get that money either they punk you out or they simply have better connect’s.

  8. they need to provide more jobs cause the way most people my age think on the rez and in the hetto’s is why be good when it’s so much cheaper to be bad.by saying that think about this who want’s to sit in a classroom and learn alot of stuff that is good for you,even though you won’t get a job to apply it to.when you can simply go invest some money you saved or your per cap into something that will over triple it’s self in a night.it’s all about the number’s the number of jobs, the number of day’s it’s gonna take before i graduate and hopefully get a minimun wage job,the number of hours it’s gonna take before i triple my money right now so if you wanna get rid of these things you need to create more job’s,but that will never happen the goverment makes to much money keeping people locked in the system,people say it cost this many dollars a day to keep someone in prison but what they don’t show you is how much money they save on the cheap (slave)labor.the goverment doe’s not care about anything but how fat their pocket’s are and we see and know it so how come we can’t do the same. yeah we sell drugs but so doe’s the goverment the only difference is our’s is in little baggies and making us rich their’s are in bottle’s and making them wealthy, and if this offen’s anyone all i gotta say is f*ck you cause it’s the truth.
    [Comment edited by David W. Boles]

  9. Hell noooo I know for a fact that the rez life gangs arent going to leave the rez life for nothing they are apart of our everyday lifes and thats what keep s alot of us from not killing each other off. I am from the second most populized native tribe their is, its in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, and there are all ready to much gangs to count where I am from, In a small town I live in the population is a little over a thousand, and there are like five gangs if not six including the smallest one which has been introduced about a year ago, new gangs are created on our rez each year with our population growth and our little small towns that we are overcrowding. Gangs will not leave simple as that, no lies but I am involved with one that I actually started and still trying not to be apart of what I have created, I regret starting it because now i have a little brother that is in the same thing that I am in and thasts sh*ts stays on my conscience because every where we go we will still have the tatooes that represent our squad. It ain’t fun living where I live. We will have to work with them and not try and eliminate them, most of them supply the hood with drugs and money something that the cops can’t give them, I know how it works Im still lining it right now and Im trying to get out of it, right now Im the first to graduate out of my homeboys and thats a shame for my youngsters out here on the reservation life. Check out REALREZ.COM/REZLIFE7 VIDEO AND THATS ME IN MY OWN HOOD TALKING ABOUT HOW i WNAT TO LEAVE THE HOOD, ALSO CHECK ,Y WEBSITE SEVENTHWARRIOR.HOMESTEAD.COM TO SEE MY PERSONAL WEBSITE. I too want to help out my young peeps buts it hard when your in it trying to ge the F@#k out of it, it just ain’t that easy to do!!!!!! till next seventh sign David W. Boles
    [Edited for content by David W. Boles]

  10. Hi Travis —
    Wow! Thanks for the heartfelt message!
    We have a lot of fakes who try to post comments in this thread claiming to be Native American — and I delete their fakery — so let me stand with you and say you are authentic.
    Your website is outstanding in its raw, emotional pull.
    Your IP tracks back to “U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs” and http://www.oiepmis.bia.edu/ — so you are the confirmed “real deal” and you are speaking from lived experience.
    The REALREZ.com site loaded but not your video.
    So what is the answer? How do you get out when the culture pulls you back inside?
    How can you save your brother?
    Is it possible to condemn and kill something you started?

  11. Im sorry I didn’t give you any more details but check out realrez.com then go to realwest and then click down and you’ll see me wearing a green jersy with rez life 7 on the back, a short two minute video.
    It is almost immpossible to get out when my homies pull me back, its like they calling me pussy or wanna be white boy for trying to better my own life, they don’t want to see one of their own make it to the big time. The only real way to get out is to let go of all the ones who are dragging me down, and then leave town for a better life, I know how it is, once you come back the old ways come back with them. It’s like reliving an old unwanted dream that you dread of dreaming about…. Sorry I’ll have to answer next two question in an hour I got college class peace just tryna better my own young battered rez life soul…..

  12. Thanks for the detail on the movie, Travis. I will definitely check it out!
    I understand it must be rough to break the cycle of violence and finance and belonging — can you be a Native American in a White World without having a gang watching your back and looking out for you when no one else will?
    We’re here to help you if we can.
    That’s why it’s good you want to help your brother. Maybe you can break out together and have each other’s backs in the challenge of living beyond the reservation and its economic delights and constraints.
    Good luck in class! We look forward to your return!

  13. Yeah I know I can be a young native living in a white mans world without having my gang their to back ma up on anything,if anything they will back me up on is helping me spend my check. I have already done it off the reservation for over a month with my own job, only to mess up off the rez with the law and then move back to the reservation were our laws almost don’t appy to those off the rez life, the reservation life is a totally different society with their own rules and regulations, and I like that kind of stuff.
    I think the only way I can help my little brother right now is to continue to do what I have been doing the last two and a half years, and thats tryna better my own life anyway I can. And beleive it or not it has been working, my little brother got off the reservation and is working off the rez life right now, bt Im afraid he’ll mess up too, because he is just like me and he likes to spend most of his check on drinking and smoking. He has yet to prove me wrong, I almost can’t believe he is working this is his first real job. He dropped out of high school but atleast he ain’t on the rez life were Im at now hanging around the same people who caused us to join and create our own gang for protection.

  14. Travis —
    I enjoyed your video. I am glad you are using the death of your other brother as an inspiration on to better things.
    What are the rules on the reservation? How are they different than the rules the rest of us outside the reservation must abide?

  15. It’s really hard to describe it other than it’s different from the rules outside the reservation. For example we are not allowed to have or consume alcohol on our reservation, and yet still we have one of the highest alcohol rates in the country. It’s kind of crazy because when you get into trouble off the rez it won’t come up on the rez, like if we have a warrrant off the reservation it won’t show up on the reservation unless it’s something serious and federal like murder or rape, those kinds of things.

  16. One thing I want to know is why are you so interested in helping out Native gang cultures? Why are you posting things about the Native American gangs were you ever in one? What is it that really intrigues you about the reservation life? Are you an Native American?

  17. Travis —
    I am not a Native American and I have never been in a gang.
    I am human, however, and I feel we each have a responsibility to each other to try to find common threads that bind us together no matter how different we may appear on the surface.
    I grew up in Nebraska. There was a lot of Indian Culture around and several friends of mine were Native American.
    Read the rest of the blog if you want to know more.

  18. THE REZ LIFE STRUGGLE
    The rez life struggle is such a test/ Everything everywhere is such a mess/ Not to many here are striving to be their best/ Living around poverty suicide, anger, and death/ Causing us young Natives drama, hate, and stress/Our tradtions and cultures collide/ Tonight another young native dies/ another mothers heart cries/ Another fathers soul is filled with despise/ the brothers mind can’t beleive his eyes/ the sisters spirit cries/ Very few answers but sure hell a lot of whys/So many youth don’t care no more they say “Why even try”?/ Thats when they feel suicide/Just two night ago another native on native homicide/ That be the truth right now, ain’t fairytale lies/Nothing to do so all we do is drink smoke and get high/ Left without enough time to get by/ Things in time will only double/ So many native youth today locked up as a result of rez life trouble/ Left in the rez life heat bubble/ You see many of us down the hill stumble/ trying to make back up only to fall and see ourself tumble/ Our young life slowly fade away with time waiting to crumble/ Living life crazy like football only to see they selves with fumble/ mad as hell ready to blow up the world ready to rumble/ But nah I havent most ya’ll even for a second to God humble/ Studdering your speechless words with a fading mumble/ Killing each other doesn’t it just seem like some mumbo jumbo/ This is the just the start of the rez life struggle……………………….

  19. The things that stand in my wayor the same things that can also help me rise. I must turn these negatives into some positives. I must use what I learned here on the rez life. I will not allow these rez life to get the best of me like it already has. I cannot and simply will not give in to the rez life drrama.
    I know things are rough over here but still I keep my held held high until the day that I die. I will not go to my grave knowing that I lived for nothing but myself. I strongly and firmly believe that we are put here for someone else, You ever hear of my personal little saying “That you havent lived your life until you have lived it for some one else” I beleive thatis very true regardless of what others think. The only way I can be influential on the audience I so hope to reach, is to be truthful, no lies, no bull, straight up everything true. I will let them have the truth of the real things of life that have been hidden around the corner and under the dirt patiently waiting for someone to discover it. I am the diamond in rough thats waitng for some recognition. I must represent and live like a true young leader should be. It won’t be simple, it will take a lot of hard earned hours to create what I really want for myself.

  20. I havent put any to music yet just a couple of songs I did when I had the opportunity and the time to do it. I still am working on my music, basically thats my life is music, music has influenced my entire teenage life and how I look at life. I am focused on college right now and havent had any time to even wrtie more music. But if I keep going on the path that I am on now sooner or later I willhave my rise in the music industry. I know it has been tough already to pursue my career in music. It will only get tougher once I really put full time into my music.

  21. hey im native american from mass, maine native tho, there where are no orginzed native gangs in mass untill every white boy that wanted to b conciderd a minority said they were natives. i personal have seen that these have faded into nothing more then frustrated white teenagers that refuse to actcept the fact, so they put out on myspace and what not that they are “native gangsters”. sorry for the spelling its late.

  22. I appreciate what you are trying to do wiyh your website I
    am a 1/4 blood what we used to call growing up “a breed ”
    I grew up on the Fort Hall Shoshone- Bannock reservation in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I did not fit with the whites because of the Indian blood and came frm the “rez”. I didn’t fit with the higher blood Quantums I was too white.
    so some of us “breeds” formed our owm gang, back in those days, out of the 15 who joined and got tatoos the same, only 2 of us made it pass 30,and the other besides me died 5 years ago. I guess the “rez’s” problems of high alcoholism rates and suicides works the same for the “breeds” as it does the “real Indians.

  23. It’s a great pleasure to meet you, Jack! Welcome to Urban Semiotic and thanks for the great comment.
    Do you celebrate or hide your Native American blood? Do you tend the roots or do you tend to ignore them?
    Why do you think there is suck a disaffection with mainstream White society?
    Has the reservation become a form of Federal imprisonment where a dangerous lifestyle and low expectation are the terms of endearment?

  24. hey wass up dave im from pine ridge and i will tell you that i grew up in the street life their, my father was also a convicted drug dealer on the rez. i have lost many friends over the years. John GD GHOSTBEAR, ROBB CRAZY THUNDER LUKE GHOST BEAR JUST TO NAME A FEW.I also was listed on a gang list made about 1995 1996 around their any way. i ran with the south side in crazy horse at house 717 i also hung tight with the boyz. I just thought I’d holla and let you know that not every story is a lost cause. most of my family is in the fci’s all over the place, the wild boyz are my homies too. we used to beef with everyone I grew out of that years ago though. i now am a father of 5. i currently am a business owner going to school. smile back

  25. My dreams for my children are for them to achieve success no mater what happens and to be well educated in the lakota culture and to strive for excellence in whatever they find interesting.I also would like to thank you for listening. The gang culture for lakota people goes back well into the 70’s. Including gangs from Rapid City, we have a well documented history with tribal as well as state law enforcement agencies .There most of the influence comes from prison as well as tv ,radio and numerous other media outlets.

  26. I love your dreams for your children, lil joe! Is there any fear they will fall into the gang life? Do you warn them out of that life or do you tell them it was that life that formed you today?
    The Lakota culture is quite beautiful. I am from Nebraska and I grew up with several strong friends brought up in Lakota culture.
    The fact that “Nebraska” is Otoe for “Flatwater” tells us precisely who owned and tended and prospered on the land as our real Founding Fathers before us.

  27. I believe that through my mistakes in the past I am hoping that my stories will be enough to steer them clear of any future problems. I know that having a dad in their lives is the best intervention. I lived on the rez most of my life and I can say that sports and culture are the best tools to combat negative cycles of violence,drugs and alcoholism.If you choose to be a leader than you should lead by example and you should lead from the front not the back. PEOPLE ARE ONLY PRODUCTS OF THEIR ENVIRONMENTS BECAUSE THEY CHOOSE TO BE. If you strive for excellence in all that you do you have a chance at success.I was also told you have to take a chance to have a chance.

  28. as a native having been locked up i know first hand of gang involement within the system.
    i’ve been a founder of a gang called “Native Warriors”
    after being discherged after serving 3 years for fed.
    i being a founder and all i feel bad due to the fact that i have destroyed so many live
    most of the people that i knew are up in the Adult System doing real Federal time
    so if a could redo my served time i would change that moment because it is becoming so big that things could get out of hand
    it was not intended to do
    it was more of a small group, but after getting transfered to out of state facilities thing are slowly getting out of hand each day

  29. Franklin —
    Welcome to Urban Semiotic and thank you for sharing the truth of your living.
    Where is the line of legality between the reservation handling criminal behavior and the federal government stepping in to take over and punish?

  30. i am from the salt-river pima-maricopa indian community and with all the gang violence we have down here in az is bad we have several gangs here i say maybe more than 5 but the violence is strong and children are dieing becausse of it. i think we need to find some kind of intervention for these children when they are young like in elementary thats were it all needs to start these children are starting out young at all the wrong they do. mainly most of these youth that want and do join a gang it all starts in the homes of were they grew up most of the parents are alcoholics and do not show them the right way to live and how to show respect it goes beyond the elementary schools the home is the begaining and that is where change needs to start. these children need something to be proud of and they need to be praised the right way instead of negative. remember they are our future and if you want a native american to run our community step up and help with change.

  31. clemencia!
    Welcome to Urban Semiotic and thank you for sharing your fascinating perspective with us.
    Do you think the attraction of rez gangs is protection, friendship or money?
    How are the rez laws different from those in the mainstream world?

  32. i know from experience that many of the native youth join the gangs for protection they want to feel they are loved by someone because one thing that the gangs show them is that they are needed either to do wrong or to do something for them to feel that importance from someone i have a little brother who is choosing that path and i try my best to expose him to things that are good and show him that he doesn’t need to go that route but it is hard to be there all the time thats why i chose to go back to school and get my GED and now i am studying for my associates in Criminal Justice i am almost finish and i plan to come back to my community to work as a juvenile probation officer. the laws on the reservations are much more lienant than those laws out in the city and that is because it is it’s own government and they make their own laws but in a way it is okay for the laws to be that way because most of these youth just want to feel that love and they want to be heard they need a voice when they are feeling down and feel they can not go on in this world that is why the suicide rate is so high among native youth nobody wants to listen when they are yelling at the top of their lungs thats why im working within the community to let the troubled youth know that somebody does care and that there is other alternatives than joining a gang.

  33. You have a fascinating and full life, clemencia, and I appreciate your fight for your own education and for leading your brother down a brighter path. You will do a lot of good in your life.
    Reservation law is certainly interesting. Who enforces the law? Is there a police force and a jail and a judicial system? Do the same rights and laws against self-incrimination and habeas corpus apply on the Reservation?

  34. thank you , well on the reservations i know for most part they do have thier own jail and judicial system. i know here on my reservat ion the community just had a new jail facility built and it will accomodate about maybe closed to 2oo more offenders from juvenile and adult inmates. tribal law has its own policies of what is considered breaking a law i know for the most part of it anything that is serious such as killings or manslaughter for example, these cases will go to federal agents. so the offenders will be charged in a federal court. as far as habeas corpus go’s it is still applied to all just like in the city but it would be a tribal judge who determines what your sentence would be. much of the tribal laws are get put to use the laws were never really enforced to the full exstint but they are getting toucher on the laws now and i can say that much of the crime is slowing down but it does have its downfalls but the community is starting to know what they can and can not do. like the saying goes ” if you do the crime, you do the time”

  35. Hi clemencia!
    Thank you for your extraordinary civics lesson on Reservation law! Fascinating!
    So if there’s a killing or something that cannot be handled with Reservation law, the criminals go straight into the Federal system, right? You don’t deal with state criminal law at all?

  36. thats correct all serious crimes are handled through the federal system and the proceedings of the trials are held in federal courts we do not deal with the state law only if the offender maybe had done something on his or her own withing the city then state handles that. thats why most of the people when they committ serious crimes in the city they come to the reservation to hide out because no one other than the FBI can touch you on the reservation. in order for the state to come in they have to go through the tribal courts to get jurisdiction.many of the community members know what and where to committ the crimes and also who is allowed to come on the reservation. you even have to get permission to bring a fire arm on the reservation no out side agency or police officer’s can come on the reservation without permission through the polic dept. or courts also to get proper papers to carry a gun. so really it is like this is our land and we have our own rules that we inforce as an individual government.

  37. Thank you for the wonderful education about Reservation law, clemencia. It must be a fascinating environment in which to live.
    It’s interesting how gangs rise on Reservations just as they do in the mainstream world.
    There must be some elemental need to belong to a group within a group that draws bright young minds to that experience.

  38. these gangs show these young minds all the so-called glamour they could have with the dedication in joining them. but it all comes back to most of these young people want somebody to care for them and they want to belong somewhere if they are not getting that at home. this draws the children to look elsewhere and the gangs are the first thing they experience. most reservations like to put down these young people for the wrong they are doing but in reality i think why put them down when you can try and intervien in there lifes and show them that there is positive and positive people that care about them.most teenagers feel the need to belong somewhere and at that age thats what they are looking for in school or at home. some also just are followers and if they see their friends doing it then they feel the pressure if they are not doing what thier friends are doing then they will not like them. even some experience it out in the city and they bring the experience back in to the home. you can not stress enough to parents to be there for their children, ask them how there day went, eat dinner at the table and just talk find out what their interests are and if the child sees how much you want to be part of their life, they might not look for the negative environment and stay at home where they have positive role models who care what happens in their life.

  39. Are traditional Native American families broken, clemencia?
    If so, how did that happen?
    Is there a shared history and a a celebration of a rich and founding culture in each home or is it all lost in the gloss of years and the “Americanization” of the nation and its children?

  40. most of the tradition that is rich in culture and native american ways is lost to some point i think. most families now are either alcoholics or deal with drugs and domestic violence. children mimic what they see in front of them and believe that is what is happening now. in my tribe i see alot of tradition dying most of it is gone we have very little community members that still try and share what is ours. the elders in the community are dying and they are the teachers they are the wise ones, who seen and heard much more than what we have seen in our time. their is not much to teach the youth because they copy the “white mans ways” thats what my grandma had always told me to be who i am never copy someone make my own path in life and to always be proud of where i come from and never to be afraid to speak about out tribe but to always honour those that have helped me along the way. i believe these teachings that she has instored in me and i try and do what i can to make her proud of me. which i know she probably is because of what i have accomplished in life. but i always honor her memory and the life she had lived. and this comes back to the youth the parents don’t have much to teach them but how to drink and do drugs and all the bad things in life. but not all families are like that there are a few who try to show the youth how to honor themselves and what they are and to be proud and those children are the ones who are going to be our future leaders within the tribal government. we are so much urbanized that the children would rather follow what they see then to learn where they come from.

  41. That is such a beautiful and insightful comment, clemencia!
    You are spot-on with an analysis that can be understood and shared and your “urbanization” description feels so right it hurts.
    What’s the answer to reclaim the glorious culture of the past? Or is it forever lost?

  42. hey, im from a reservation up in canada, although we dont have any gangs the struggle is still the same. kids are using drugs more and more around here.. and drinking has always been a problem. im worried that this is going to turn into something even bigger.. and people might start making gangs. I mean there are groups of people that will jump you for no reason but you cant exactly call them gangs. The only way i know how to escape all the drugs and the alchohal and the fighting is basketball. I play and i play everysingle day of my life. Im proud to say i’ve never touched drugs and i dont drink. I admit i’ve had to do alot of fighting to keep my life this way. Recently i was selected to Team Ontario for basketball and was chosen to represent my province in The North American Indidgenious Games. It was a great experience and i try to speak to my other friends and try to get them out of the rez life. Basketball has honestly saved mine and im going to keep playing and hopefully in the future have a chance to help save my native culture not just in one rez in all of them. If we want to save our culture we have to rise up from the poverty, drugs,drinkin and gangs in our reservations and try out best to make something of selfs. Alot of the kids around here dont know there dads.. so they got no one to look up to. I know how it is up here. Just cauz we are in Canada doesn’t change a thing. The struggle is very real in reservations but no one seems to see it or care on outside of the reservations. Im just trying to make the best of myself and try to help others.

  43. Our culture isn’t lost forever… we have to learn from our elders it will be lost forever. We have to learn our language back and go to pow-wows! express our culture!

  44. Dylan!
    Welcome to Urban Semiotic and thank you for standing up and sharing the truth of your life.
    I hope gangs never move into Canada. The positive work you are doing will only help add grace and compassion to your community and beyond. Perhaps there is some hope in the USA with the help of good folk like you.

  45. Hi I’m From The Lake Traverse Reservation in Northeast South Dakota, and we have gangs around here the E.R.S(East-River-Skins)N.G.B
    (Native-Gangster-Blood)
    and it’s getting to be crazy because there is really nothing to do around here which was kinda hard for me to to get my life back in track and get focused and let go of the alcohol and drugs.now im a teacher here in the day county area and look around and see all these younger aged kids getting into gangs and drugs and alcohol.the tribe here on the lake traverse reservation needs to open a rec center for these kids so the gang violence will stop..

  46. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Renae, and thanks for the fine comment!
    Would a rec center stop the gang action or would it just provide shelter for meetings?
    I wonder where the disconnect happens between being bound by the values of a culture and being tied into the drugs and violence of a gang?

  47. Yeah sup sup David hows it hangin….just me once again havent wrote to this site in a minute……but yeah let me tell you that things are still the same and the gangs are still doing the same thing they were 10-15 years ago…….I have to admit that I still struggle here on the reservation……but also bettering my life while Im here….going to college now….and thats crazy because I never really wanted to go to college at all…..but Im here and Im striving….just made it through the fall semester…..still struggling with that gang bull S&*t you know…….aint nothing seem any different from when last time I left a comment.
    I just wanted to let you know that things here on the reservation will still be the same no matter how hard or how much people write about the bad things that happen here everyday it won’t change……..I guess it all hangs in us native youth hands how we will carry on our culture…………….let me tell you a lil sumtin bout how me and my natives thought process is…..just a glimpse…….you see why so many of us native youth join gangs is because we are lost looking for something that ain’t there anymore………culture….our culture is almost entirely gone…….the pow wows,ceremonies, sundances, etc. are put on for show now days it seems like. I just can’t see myself in a buckskin suit with feathers in my hair……I can’t see myself living that life of a true warrior………thats where we find our flaws….in the warrior way……we always fought to protect our families and land….but now days we fight each other over colors and stupid territory that was never our to begin with. We see it as a way of connecting some how back with our native (savage) roots if you want to call it that. We don’t fight to protect anymore…we fight for money power and respect….and if we don’t got it then we are looked down upon as nobody nothings. If we fall under that category then we fail as a native person in our own neighborhood. And if that happens that leaves the person alone left in the dark with suicidal thoughts……..we have the highest suicide rate right now in america and that s*&t makes me sad to even say that but its the truth no more said.
    Me I guess I have to tell you the truth…….THE TRUTH IZ I do want to leave the gang sh&t behind……..but mentally I can’t and physically I can’t either….I am tattoed up from hand to neck and thats with me for life……..I want to leave but my body tats say no…..my mind says yeah….but then again it says no….am I confused????????? No I am not confused I am Institutionalized here on the rez life….in other words Im a rez lifer………been here so long it feels like I can’t leave even if I wanted…..and I did only to find things harder off the rez. Leaving me no choice but to come back to the rez, and be even more depressed because of how hard things are over here on the rez. I guess you can say Im reztutionalized hahaha for real though….feels like the rez is one big cell……omly difference it is from jail is you get to move around a lot more than being in a small excluded place…..where the government runs things….kinda like they do on almost every single rez………Im a huslter here on the rez if ya know what I mean….only way to make money here …..because their arent many jobs here to choose from…….so I hustle and thats how I stay keepin up with what I need to keep up with…….the rez life its just something else you know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  48. It’s quite fine to hear from you, Travis, and I am glad to see you’re in school and working hard.
    I hope you will be able to find a way to escape the circular prison of rez life you describe. I know you can do it if every decision you make from now on is pointed to getting up and out.

  49. yeah travis is right.. i’ve been looking for a way to describe it and that is exactly the way it is. we are looking for something that just isn’t there anymore. In my city there is alot of racism and like travis said.. if u dont fight for money, respect and power your looked down on people. we used to fight to protect.. but we dont have nothin to protect! he is totally right when he says we fight each other now to. Im d*mn proud to be native.. and i try to be the best i can be to show people that native people aren’t totally gone and aren’t totally brought down by.. you can say “the system”. Believe me i am going to get off the rez and everyone is going to know who i am and i wish my native brother Travis the best of luck on his journey also.
    [Comment edited for content by David W. Boles.]

  50. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Dylan, and I’m glad to see you shining your light on what Travis has to say. That kind of community bonding and open dialogue is invaluable.
    You have some excellent ideas and goals and I am certain you will earn your righteous place in the world.

  51. thanks for your support.. why did you start this? were you just curious? what is your story on this subject and what are your observations. i have noticed alot of people has posted on here. it would be really nice to find out what you think about all of this

  52. haha okay thanks. where are you from? im from canada, things aren’t as bad around here with gangs.. but the poverty,drinking,drugs,domestic violence is all the same

  53. hey gangs on the rez r gettin more violent. i see that u guys are tryin to find a answer for the problem but native american gangs are not goin to go away. we dont have respect for our elders like in the old dayz. now its all about gettin ahead of the next man by all means. on the standing rock rez gangs are a group 10- 15 of people from the ages of 10-30. they are willin to hurt their own family for their set. all they do iz drink and use drugs all the day. i also noticesd that alot of gang member from off the rez come bac after they are wantd bi the law. they start their gang up here. the major gangs on the standing rock rez are GD, native, mob, crips and bloods. there is no way anybodi can stop gangs from spreading.

  54. Hi, I am from Canada, Regina Sk, and we have gangs. Youth gangs, street gangs, and to date we have lost 15 to gang violence, our gangs are Native Syndicate, Redd Alert, Native Syndicate Killers, and furhtert to our north, Duece, Indian Posse, Saskatchewan Warriors, and man, we are in a mess up here. I have been working with youth here for a long time and have never seen it this bad, right now I am working on pulling a program together called RAGS, Regina Anti Gang Services. I spent some time down in California researching gangs, and I kept saying the whole time I was there, that I was so glad that we are not that bad yet, we are that bad. In the last 4 weeks we have lost two youth from the same family, Sad stuff happening up here, but I have to say that our youth, the ones that are gang involved, are really looking for a way out, I wanted to share a ryme one of our girls wrote the other day,
    [content removed by David W. Boles for Copyright issues.]
    She has dropped her rag, but after the last stabbing death, I believe is almost ready to take part in the retalliation. I would like to hook a few youth up to this site, I enjoyed reading all of this and just felt the need to share. Thanks

  55. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, jacqui, and we appreciate you taking the time to post such an informative comment!
    I had to to delete the original content you quoted due to a Copyright issue. We can’t republish her work here without her permission.
    I’m glad we have a clam and quiet place to discuss this matter and to help each other search for solutions.

  56. As a native american I know and have seen poverty at it’s best; however,
    we all have choices to make in this life. We can keep accepting the role of
    victim or we can honor our elders by learning about our past and educating
    ourselves for the future. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our children
    to be stronger. We all come from great warriors and we dishonor them by
    accepting defeat in life. I go from pow-wow to pow-wow and I see kids wearing tee-shirts with Chief Sitting-Bull and Chief Joseph on them. I see
    kids with shirts that say NATIVE PRIDE yet they go around and terrorize
    elders, teachers, parents etc. That is not what those Chiefs stood for, and
    that is not what NATIVE PRIDE is all about.
    A-Ho

  57. Im from the Mdewakanton dakota sioux rez in MN and the closest native gangs where i live is in Mineapolas of the town i live in and in the south mortin n granet falls of where i live but i know ppl that are in it in some way. there are gangs in my town but there not Native gangs there mexican LK n what not but some of them who clame it are fake maybe a small handfull are full on LK and theres 2 others that ive seen n Bloods only seen 2 but doesnt mean there aint more. I often tell my bro how easy it would be to start a gang in my home town n get backing from other native gangs and he agress not that i would cause it doesnt make sence fighting over this boring a** town. if they were to do something about gangs they would need to make it harder for gangs to accually start up instand of waiting befor its to late. The only thing thats taring my rez appart is money and i see it other might disagree but come money comes the drugs and other vices. i tell my bro that we are the whitest rez in mn because of it almost everyone in our rez forgot who they are. I agree with wardancer i see kids wearing clothes that have Native Pride on it then pushing around ppl acting tough at pow-wows. we have one of the biggest pow-wows in MN so theres alot of ppl and i see the native gangs walking around in there colors. pow-wows are about Native pride and coming together but not to show ur gang or being punks.

    1. Yea, I spent the first five yrs of my life on a rez in mn. My bro used to run wit a local gang and i remember errday he would argue with and threaten my fam. i also kno he is currently under witness protection in an illinois fed prison for murdrer. i am trying to start a movement called GOtRM or Get Off the Rez Movement. I kno that the main reasons they start gangs is cuz like they wanna feel a part if something like tig said. i still got fam up there n we be n8ve til we die!!! i hope this movement helps because it is because of the environment. when i was 5 the state took me and 1 of my sisters from there cuz my moms was an alcoholic. that sister is going to college and was very succesful in school. my other sis is doin ok. she and my bros up there are havin probs tho. our stories are so different and its jus cuz we grew up off the rez. i jus wanted to get that out there.

  58. I think the reason why gang life is so popular among the young is sometimes what they see in movies “scareface” and tv like the “sapronos” also i think its because of the power, money, and having someone affried of you because who your with and whos got your back doin almost what you want with no one to tell you what to do. I dont think old ppl join gangs its usually young ppl. if there are old ppl in a gang its because they have been there since the begining or they joined up with the gangs in the prison for protection. as far as i know the only old gang members that i hear about is from the Biker gangs like the Hells Angles.

  59. Thanks for your keen analysis, sinnergod. It’s fascinating how cultural entertainment can so quickly turn into a deadly reality.
    Do the older people run the gangs or do the younger members rule the operation?

  60. UPDATE:
    Please do not try to place comments that are gang shout outs or that celebrate killing and criminal behavior.
    We are looking for insight and analysis concerning why gangs are part of Native American life.
    We do not publish comments that use curse words or make threats.

  61. Enjoyed your website. Can you send me additional information on Native American Youth Gangs or direct me to other sites that may offer valuable informtation ?

  62. It’s great to meet you, Keeper, and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
    There isn’t a lot of information or scholarship on Native American gangs. That’s why I started this article to try to give it some definition and context.
    Can you help us?

  63. I wonder if Native Americans appreciate our interest in their culture and their problems.
    I haven’t had the chance to talk to someone who could give me an answer to this lingering question since a good deal of my time is being spent by research on the history of pre-colonial America.
    Sometimes I think scholars have lost touch to the people they research, so long there has been a cherry-picking going on. The brave Plainsindian with his feather-bonnet has been the icon of all Native Americans and the everyday problems just have been ignored, so Native Americans today may consider our whole interest as colonial behavior or some New-Age-Thing that just won’t refer to the feelings of other people.

  64. My possibilities to actually talk to Native Americans are very limited. I am from Germany and my knowledge about the First People is mostly out of books, that is why I sometimes think that I am blinded in my views and considerations.

  65. Hi yahi: I am also Native American and can tell you that the others I personally know don’t really care if you are interested in us. The way of my ancestors was obliterated by the ancestors of those who now take an interest in us. Why should we care about what they think?
    Obviously I don’t speak for every Native American, just those I know personally.
    So many I know are still so very bitter and angry about past events in this country’s history (it wasn’t all that long ago) that no, we, in all honesty, don’t care what you think or if you are interested. Many of us would like to see life go back to the old ways, without the white man here. Many of us feel like dolls on display to be examined and scrutinized as if we are the foreigners.
    But nothing is as inevitable as change and considering what we were robbed of not all that long ago … this country is an infant … I think most of us are dealing OK.

  66. Thank your for your answer. It is more or less what I expected. How could we await that you are thankful for us “studying” you like an object.
    I think it was a Navajo Woman who asked:
    -How much in a Navajo family?
    -5: father, mother, son, daughter, anthropologist.
    A dignified man even said that that Native Americans suffer from the worst illness existing:
    anthropologists.
    I am interested in the history of America from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, from the past to present times, but I do not have the idea to make contact to Natives at random jut to say: “I care, I am different and I am without fault.”
    The topic of this thread is one that frightens me because gangs from Central-America already have their branches in the States. They are extremely violent. They consist of Natives and are an outcome of failed social policy. In my opinion the general conditions for them do not only exist in Central America.
    Finally it is just my view from far away in Europe.

  67. yahi —
    P.S. This matter may be related to the same sort of disconnect between “Negro” being acceptable in some parts of the UK and being wholly unacceptable in the majority of the USA.
    This suggests to me power over perception and the strength of the minority vote to control agendas and to reclaim and reject the use of old labels.
    I thank you for bringing up this topic and I hope you will, in fact, do some research and offer your insight into your interests in these Native/Indigenous Indians who are marginalized and rejected by most of mainstream society.
    I think it is the intent and the genuinenesses of the researcher that matters most in the field — a phony can be spied and smelled from miles away — as well, I don’t think only Egyptians must research Egypt; just as I don’t think women should only write about women; and the Spanish should only teach Spanish.
    Creativity, intuition and passion must rule the day over regionalism, nationalism and the temptation to press vested interests against those viewed as foreign or outside cultural memes.
    You can tell early on in this thread some of those who stake Indian roots did not want me asking about this topic and they wondered why I was here and what I wanted — and I explained my interest and my drive to convey and foretell.
    Just because something doesn’t want to be discussed doesn’t meant it shouldn’t, or must not be, investigated by those who have an interest in knowing and a need to understand.

  68. Ok, I see. I read a lot about history of anthropology and the intentions to establish: “Red Indians” or “Amerindians”. That failed.
    In particular cruel are the names US Army gives to their weapons: Apache, Comanche, Tomahawk, etc.
    There is also a weapon called “Sheridan” named after the general who said those words: “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead”
    Something is awfully wrong here.
    I have to excuse that I have contributed little to the original thread, bit I learned a lot and I will follow up the discussion.
    Kind regards

  69. yahi —
    Yes, The “Redskins” football team uses stereotypes to logoize their team. Here’s a good article with more examples:
    http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_tol.jsp?id=168
    You’re right about the military naming of weapons! Excellent! Isn’t that curious and telling of American intent in pluralization and labeling?
    I encourage your want to know and to investigate — if not you, then who will step forward with your driving interest and passion for learning and creating context? Keep us updated on your progress and I do wish you all the best.

  70. Missionaries in Central America used the term Indio /Indias that’s why in Germany the Native Americans in Latin America are often called Indios. The very fact that there is a difference in the choice of terms for people in North, Central and South America is interesting and remarkable. It is an artifical thing, because those words are just synonyms Europeans invented instead of speaking of the people who discovered the Americas and made this their home.

  71. Before I go to a lot of trouble on this, I’d like to know if this thread is still open and are people still responding to it? Thanks.
    Ronni

  72. gangs are not a problem on the rez .atleast not native native based gangs on the rez its the dominant prison gangs that are the problematic on the rez us natives dont bring dope to the rez we dont have cargo ships planes trailer trucks bringing in loads of meth weed coke crack its the dominant gangs that rule the rez us natives are just the middleman wether we like it our not its good and bad for us with the illegal drug trade comes immigrants for work legaly and illegaly which raises the population To which natives push dopes on the new immigrants to which a native on welfare just made what he recieves in a month in a minute just stopping at a crack house so good and bad the natives arent the problems its the kingpins pushing dope but at the same time their increasing population bringing jobs aswell as bringing in grants for more patrol of tribal police increasing jobs for natives so there both good and bad

  73. Basicaly what im saying is that gangs be it white, black, latino, asian, or native american arent a problem on the rez its the drug distributors who find their way to the reservations to make a profit. but be it a little rez are a thriving rez with a high population of natives everyone has to understand that america is a melting pot something we cant stop but thrive on and evedentualy cultures collide and gangs are made its just the way the world is nowdays

  74. Its been a while since I wrote you David……but Id like to let you know I am doing pretty good with my life since last time I posted on this page……..I’d like to let you know that the gangs here still havent changed or went anywhere in the last few years, and they have only gotten somewhat worse in a way…….but as for me Im grown up and past most of that part in my life…. and I got my first born child on the way and Im back in school and staying out of trouble……been out of prison now for over a year, Im staying strong with strong hope for a future that can and will change for me in the long run as it is now.
    I know I am not the best person in the world right now but I know I can be a better person on this reservation right now and I thank the great spirit I am not that person I used to be. I know where I am from and where I have been to know where I am but more importantly to know where I stil am going to go in life. I have gotten a lot smarter and a lot more wiser with my stupidity self-doubt cards. I have also grown in my poetry and my artwork……….just look me up on Dyin’ for Nothin'”. My life is a series of never ending choices you know……

  75. hey davd im a 17 year old native that got sucked in to gangs when is 13 and ever since then things only got worse for me but some how i found the will power to change that im from minnesota and where i grew up it was all ways about a gang called Native Mob and i just got so sick of it one day and me standing up for my self all the time and so i joined a gang when i was 13 even tho it wasent a native gang i was and struggling to get out of vice lord i grew up on fond du lac rez most of my life and i just moved after i got out of lock up for 1 first degree assault and i moved to white earth rez to start a new life and get away from that because im expecting my first child and got a job so i would say im on a good path now but when i was younger things wernt how they are now and for a young native to grow up on the rez its hard and can be even harder depending on your family almost every guy in my family is in agang it was really an endless circle intel i found i break it and now im try ing to teach the younger guys in my family to get there education and stay in school because you will make it farther in life that way

  76. well rez life is very hard and it does test your every day life drugs & alcohol is zero tolenrence on our rez period. hi im Wesley Wells from Nisqually Tribe here on the northwest coast and I almost got anishated into “NGB” (Native Gangster Blood) i do come from a mental and physcal abuse family and having a father that breaks ya older brother leg and telling the younger brother that they are worthless piece of @#$% yeah it plays on the mental mind of being in gangs i almost did im very happy i didnt i took on life head strong i did look back 🙂 and yes on rezs its real suicide rates are still high here in nisqually we got it to stop here every else it still gos on especially those in gangs it happens i think it needs to stop and produce more jobs and oppertunitys for our native youth give them hope 🙂