Be Like the Red-Tailed Hawk

O Si Yo! (Oh See Yo)

That is how we say Hello in my mother’s language of Cherokee. I was raised in the Cherokee way by my Cherokee mother and grandmother. Grandmother ‘Mom’ as everyone called her taught me much about our native traditions, medicines, stories, and ways of surviving. One day as Mom and I watched a red-tailed hawk sail the bright Oklahoma sky she pointed out three small blackbirds circling the hawk, making dive bomb attacks on it. She explained the little birds were trying to take the hawk’s food, or trying to steer it off course, or maybe just being mean to it. Then she encouraged me to always be like the red-tailed hawk. Even when being bothered, teased and picked on, the hawk keeps flying in a straight line toward its destination. At any time, this big hawk could turn its sharp talons and destroy the small birds, but instead stays steadfast, fixed upon its goal. Through this focus, the red-tailed hawk stays on course and achieves its destination.

To this day, I remember those words, especially when I see examples of this teaching in our world today. We have child predators, substance abuse dealers, and a myriad of other issues that befall our Indian Country. Let us all be like the red-tailed hawk and focus on our goal of helping keep our children safe, our goal of being educated and well informed so we can keep our tribal communities healthy.

We have many things in common. We want our children to be safe. We want our tribal sovereignty and our communities to be strong and we want our families to be healthy. It will be my pleasure, along with other writers like Jim Walters, our AMBER Alert in Indian Country Program Administrator, to bring to this site a discussion of subjects and issues that concern child protection partners and community leaders across Indian Country.

As family members, educators, law enforcement and other public safety professionals, we are all jointly invested in working together to protect and promote the safety and well-being of our Native youth. We will partner with you to discover information and find inspiration, through the sharing of ideas, efforts undertaken, and lessons learned.

I was born in the first half of the last century and am very fortunate to be approaching fifty years working with our tribal communities, youth, tribal councils, and elders. I have worked with over 200 Federally Recognized tribes, and look forward to working with many others. I do not pretend to have all the answers, nor any quick solutions. Yet, over my many years working in Indian Country, I have had the opportunity to learn from programs that have worked well, along with those which have not. I and my AMBER Alert in Indian Country colleagues look forward to sharing our experiences with you, and more importantly, learning from you and your community as we venture forward together.

Some of our upcoming topics of discussion will be recognizing and responding the child commercial and sexual exploitation; working effectively with law enforcement in cases of missing, abducted and endangered children; developing child protection programs in your community, mentoring Native youth, and much more. Please follow our blog, and share with us your comments and thoughts on topics for future posts.

There is no word for good bye in our language. What we say is Do Na Da Go huh I (Doe Naw Daw Go Huh ee).

Until we meet again.

Ron Gurley, Native American Program Specialist,

Associate with the AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program