All text and audio copyright, 2015 by the Native American Development Center ©
Heather Demaray: My name is Heather Demaray and my Indian name is Waterbird Songwoman. I'm not sure how to say it in my language, but I know that it can be said in any language. The man who gave it to me said that. My tribal affiliation is Mandan, or the MHA nation – three affiliated tribes, and I'm currently residing in Bismarck. I've been here for 6 years, since 2008, so 7 years.
Lorraine Davis: Seven years?
Demaray: I'm currently a student at United Tribes Technical College. I have received an associates in nutrition and wellness, and I'm a certified dietary manager. I'm currently in the bachelor program for business administration, and I will be graduating May 2015.
Davis: Okay, well thank you. Thank you Heather, and thank you for coming today, and to participating in this interview. Just to share with you the intent of these interviews is to share those life stories of Native Americans who had some type of challenge, or challenges, and in being able to share that and educating our natives, and Native Americans, about some of our social challenges that come with us, that we bring along with us as stems from historical trauma. Here today, we have you in a very good place, you're going to graduate with a bachelor's degree, you already have a 2 year degree, you've lived here for 7 years now. Share with us a little bit about where you grew up.
Demaray: I was born in Dickinson, North Dakota. My mother was from Mandaree, which is on the Fort Berthold Reservation. The first 7 years of my life I lived with my mother, so we kind of moved around a lot. Those first years I lived in Mandaree, and Dickinson, Williston area, just kind of in the western North Dakota, Hazen and Beulah.
Davis: Can you share with me now, do you know the reasons why you guys moved around a lot?
Demaray: My mother was an alcoholic, so we just moved around a lot. Her sister had lived in Zap, so I know we lived there for a while. She had a boyfriend from Killdeer that she was with for 5 years, that I can remember. That's what it was like, she was wild, so we just moved around.
Davis: That was up to about what age?
Demaray: I lived with my mom until I was almost 7, so I remember we got into a car accident that year, and I had went to a foster home. It was kind of like those between 5 and 7, I became a child of the state because ... Had gotten taken away from my mother due to her drinking, and the car accident, and so I had gotten placed I a home outside of Killdeer. Eventually they contacted my dad, and then he had gone to court, and he eventually got custody of me.
Davis: Your father?
Davis: Oh, okay.
Demaray: That was between 1st and 2nd grade because I had gone to school in Beulah for 1st grade, and then Wahpeton for 2nd grade. Then I was in kindergarten in Wahpeton too, so we went to kindergarten in Wahpeton, we moved to Hazen for part of 1st grade, but then I went back to my dad's, and then went back to my mom, and then back to my dad's.
Davis: Your dad lives where?
Demaray: He had lived in Wahpeton at that time.
Davis: Wahpeton is ... Okay.
Demaray: Yeah, so my mother was in a pretty violent relationships. It was just real dysfunctional, and so that's why we moved around a lot. Her had broke ... I watched a lot of the abuse, he broke her arm right in front of me. I don't know, so she would just take off and drink, and eventually we got into the car accident, and that was a very bad car accident.
Davis: Then at what age then did you start leaving your mom?
Demaray: Between 5 and 7 through the courts, my dad had eventually gotten custody of me. From that point I was staying with different relatives, and they were just trying to ... I don't know. It was just eventually my dad got custody of me, I'm not sure exactly what. I seen some court papers, I think, I was about 5 or 6 years old. It was just that round of my life my mom partied, so I witnessed a lot of partying, and dysfunction, abuse, sexual abuse, all that stuff happened at that time in my life. That's why my dad had gotten custody of me.
Davis: Okay, and so you mentioned sexual abuse, if you're comfortable talking about that or not.
Davis: Is that from your mom's boyfriend?
Demaray: I'm not sure. I have blips, like different memory flashbacks. I can remember being in a room with him and his brother, and then I remember they had put ... There was porno on TV, but then I can just remember them covering my eyes, and I don't remember anything. Then I've witnessed stuff with cousins, because we were left unattended for a lot of times, because our parents drank a lot. I just remember seeing stuff with my cousins, and ...
Davis: Cousins like fornication kind of things with each other?
Demaray: Yeah, like just sexual experiment stuff, I'm not sure, and then babysitters. When I use to stay with my grandmother, my mom's mom, they use to put us in the closet. We'd have to sit in the closet all day, I didn't know that until I was talking to one of my cousins. I was always wondering why I had different memories of being in the closet, because me and some cousins would be in there. I can remember different sexual stuff going on in there, but then I had talk to one of my cousins, she had said that they use to put us in the closet all day while they drank. Her mom would say, "Stay in there. Don't come out," because there would be a party going on in the other room.
Davis: Who would tell you to go into the closet, did you say?
Demaray: My grandma, or an aunt.
Davis: Your mom ...
Demaray: My mom had just been ... She would drop me off at my grandma, I would be there for weeks.
Davis: Oh, and then grandma was drinking too?
Davis: Oh okay.
Davis: I see. Okay, wow. That's just ... I can't imagine.
Demaray: I just think about it all the time, and I'm just like, "Man." It just seems so normal, just growing up in the lifestyle, and that environment, at that time, you just get use to it, because that's what you're born into, and you just think that's the way it is. Everybody takes care of each other, like my cousins, and I, would just run around Mandaree, just free birds. No supervision, I would be hungry. I know when I would go stay with my dad they said that I would always eat a lot because I would always be so hungry when I lived with my mother. Then when I would go with my dad I would eat so much, and then I would throw up, because I was starved.
Davis: Unbalanced ...
Davis: ... kind of thing, you were starved.
Davis: Okay, wow that's traumatic. Thank you for sharing that, I know that's private information. We appreciate those, those that are listening who have experienced these kinds of things, to know that you're not alone, and that these things are not acceptable. To talk to somebody, to go to a safe place to heal from these things. Share with us how have you healed from that? How have you moved forward from that up til today?
Demaray: Yeah, that was ... It's been a journey. I'm 34 years old, and I kind of have to back track so then it all makes sense. If I explain when I lived with my dad from the time I was 7, I lived with him from 7 to 17. Thinking that would be ... It was a more safer environment, but then growing up, too, it was dysfunctional because I had to deal with a lot of abuse there too. My dad was an alcoholic, and he went to school, and he was a good person and stuff, but sometimes he would just take off because he had an alcohol problem too. My stepmother had to raise ... At the time there was 4 of us, she had a son, and then she had 2 other boys with my dad, well along the line they had 3 boys together. It was through that ... It was so dysfunctional too, because my dad would take off, and then my stepmother would be working so hard to support our family, and then she had to deal with me too, like an extra child, and whatever. Then she had ... Was really abusive too for that, and then just different stuff with that.
From there, when I was 17, they were finally getting a divorce. My dad had sent me off to California, and then during this time I had gotten into a relationship. It was an abusive relationship also, but it was like he had gone through so much in his life, we shared some sort of emotional bond. He was my first relationship, or whatever, so then it was like we shared our stories. It was like we had that bond. Then I spent the next 10 years of my life dealing with trying to both move forward in our lives, and help each other. Try to find a better way of life, but then he couldn't ... He had alcohol problems, and drug problems, and then he was stuck, but then I continued to move forward. Eventually we had a daughter, and I always had it in my head that I had to get an education, although I dropped out of high school.
I was a senior in high school, I was a good student, everybody knew me as I was so smart, and whatever. Because so much was going on in my life, I don't know if i had withdrawn or anything, but it was just everybody trying to tell me what to do, that I just ... I dropped out. I was like, I know if I go to college, and I knew I could get my GED, and I got it in like a couple days. That was the next year I had gotten it. I worked. I also worked at the grocery store at that time too, so it was ... Let's see where. I lost my train of thought.
Davis: You mentioned you got into a bad relationship.
Demaray: Yep, so everything in this bad relationship, everything that we were dealing with in his home, because I had lived with him when I came back from California. When my dad and my step mom got a divorce I had moved out to California with an aunt, but it was right before I turned 18. I was senior in high school, and then they were getting divorced, and then I moved out with my aunt that summer before my senior year. Then I had gone to college, not college, I started my senior year in high school in Sacramento for the first semester, but then I turned 18 in November. Then I moved back to New Town right before I turned 18, and then I had stayed with an aunt until I turned 18, and then I ended up moving in with my boyfriend, at the time. He was the one I had been with for the next 10 years, and so moving into his home, their family, his mother, was an alcoholic, and he was an alcoholic. He had been drinking since he was between 14 and 15, I think he said.
It was just connecting, and trying to ... I don't know. It was just I was really codependent at the time trying to fix him, but then it was like we shared that bond and going through all of the ... Our home life there, because his mom would take off for a couple weeks, she had 2 kids, and so then I worked. I did that for about a year, but then within that year we kind of would try to get away from that, so then we would go and live with my mother in Killdeer. Then we moved to Minot, because during this time it was when I was back and forth. I started college in Dickinson, and then it didn't work out because our home ... He was really mean, and I couldn't keep a job because of the abuse and the dysfunction. Eventually I had moved to Minot, and that's where I had actually finished a semester of school. Then I got pregnant with my daughter while we were living in Minot.
Davis: How long were you guys together by this point?
Demaray: By this point I had gotten pregnant with my daughter in 2002, I had her in 2003, so I was about 22.
Demaray: Then ...
Davis: How many years into the relationship would that have been?
Demaray: Five years.
Davis: Five years?
Demaray: The first 5 years before my daughter it was like we drank, and then I tried to help him get ... It was like we would try to be ... We tried not to drink, and then we would drink. It was just like a cycle that happened over, and over, and it was ... My family was so upset, I didn't have no contact with my family eventually, because I'm sure they would hear stories and stuff, because it was pretty violent. He had almost taken my life a couple of times, choked me so bad to where I couldn't talk for 3 months afterwards. It was just so much stuff, just running with him, that abuse that had gone on during that first 5 years before my daughter. I don't know why I stayed, because he would take off, and then I would wait in our bedroom, or I would go and eat in his home, and I would wait. Then he would come back, and then I would get made, and it was just so violent.
I can remember going through a very extreme depression for 3 months, I laid in bed for 3 months, and nobody came. My family, by then, had just backed off, because I always went back. They were always there when I would go away. I remember that 3 months, that time I was in depression I can remember having some sort of epiphany. I had a dream, and it was like a god dream, like a dream of faith where I can remember seeing this stream, and all these different rocks, and it was just so calm and peaceful. There was this greater voice that just said don't give up, life has its obstacles, and it's like a river that just flows, and you're going to go through all of the different trials. I don't know, one day I just woke up, and I took a shower, and then it was like I just had to get away. I think that's when I moved to Minot, and tried to pursue my education.
Davis: What age were you at by this time? When you had this dream, and this ...
Demaray: I was between ... I was about 21, 22.
Demaray: Between the time I was 20 and 22 it was like I was just trying to get it together.
Davis: How did that go from then on? You have this dream, and so that kind of ... Did you take that serious?
Demaray: I did. Even though I had that dream there was still ... I would still backtrack, and I would party with my friends. I could never be ... I would go just to go and have fun, and forget all of this stuff that's going on, but then it was just all inside. It was building up, building up, and then I would run into my dad. My dad would be out sometimes. I remember this one incidence, I ran into my dad. They were going to take me home because I was ... They didn't want to party with me. It got to the point where I'd drink, and then I would cry, and then running into my dad that night I remember I was just so mad at him for everything in my life. He was never, I felt, he never stood up for me, he never ...
Davis: Protected you.
Demaray: Yes. He just listened to me, but he never said anything about it, he just listened. I had gone through all of the emotional stuff, drinking, and it wasn't working for me. I had gone to college in Minot, so then I was just trying to get away. I was just trying to break that cycle. Eventually when I got pregnant with my daughter ... That was ... I'm going to backtrack again. When I was going to Minot, I went to college, but then he had come ... I was staying in the dorms at Minot, and so he would come and tell me he loved me, and try to get back into the relationship. There was a point where we did go to ... We were going to move to Bismarck, I was going to quit school, you know, I just gave in, but I didn't quit school this time. We had come to Bismarck to look for an apartment.
Davis: What age were you at this point?
Demaray: I'm 22.
Demaray: This was right before I got pregnant with Alaina.
Demaray: We were driving, it was late, and I remember we were drinking. It was just like to deal with it. Sometimes it would feel like if I would just ... You can't beat them, join them, type of mentality.
Demaray: It was like I didn't understand why I kept going back, and then it was like I just wanted to make him happy too. I thought, "Well, to hell with it. I might as well drink with him."
Davis: Can I ask something?
Davis: Do you think there was a fear of losing him?
Demaray: Yeah. It was like I was so ...
Davis: If you didn't join him you were forced, if you made an ultimatum and say stop drinking this way, and we need to do good, come on. You were afraid to confront that because he might not come along with you? You would lose him.
Demaray: Yep, but I just didn't understand that at that time.
Davis: Oh, I know. I know.
Demaray: It was like I was just trying to do every angle that I could possibly, to make the relationship work, so we could just move forward.
Davis: Yeah, I know.
Demaray: When we were coming to Bismarck we had gotten into a car accident, because at that point I had ... All of that stuff, it was just like I can remember driving, and we were intoxicated, and I remember we pulled over in Garrison to use the restroom. I remember when we got in the car he had put my seat belt on me and I didn't know it. We were driving, and we were driving along River Road, and we were almost to Bismarck. Along that road, I can remember, I threw out some cigarettes, and prayed, because we were really drunk, and trying to make it safe. Then we had gotten into a fight while we were driving, and I just remember thinking that I was ready to go. I was so sick of my life at that time I just didn't think it would get better, and I pulled the wheel of the vehicle, and we got into a car accident. We hit a tree going 65 miles an hour, in a little tiny Ford Escort. The car was demolished. I can just remember seeing it though, I remember seeing it in slow motion, and I can just remember him ... His arms.
When I pulled the wheel it was like he passed out at that exact moment. I was disassociated where I could see everything, and he had let go, and then we were going. I was just so ready to go. We went, and I could just see all of the mailboxes, the street posts, I could everything just going really fast, and we were heading for the ditch. Finally he woke up and he just grabbed the wheel to try and get control, and then we hit the tree. I seen him hit the steering wheel, and it just went in, and I seen the windshield shatter, and it sunk it, but it didn't break apart, but it just shattered. I can remember my insides snapping, and I could hear it, and I could just hear my breathing, and my heartbeat. I had grabbed the door and I just braced myself, and I was ready. Then I didn't die.
Davis: How old were you at this ...
Demaray: I was 22.
Davis: All this is all during 22. You were pregnant, you had ...
Demaray: No, I wasn't pregnant yet.
Davis: Oh, you weren't pregnant yet.
Demaray: Yep. This was before I got pregnant. It was a turning point for me because I ended up going ... We both went to jail that night. The ambulance came, but I didn't have a broken body, so they took us to jail. I just remember I was so sore, and I couldn't even get into the cop car. The policeman didn't even help me into the car. I was crying in excruciating pain, and then I just threw myself in the car. We went to jail. I woke up in the detox cell, and I couldn't move. Eventually they gave me a wheelchair, and then his step dad came and bailed us out, 3 or 4 days later, he got us both out of jail. We went to New Town for a couple days, and he just said we were so lucky to be alive. He said he seen the car, and it was like ... They couldn't even believe we walked away from that. I ended up going back to Minot, and in my head I was like, I'm done. This is it, I need to just move forward, I was going to get on birth control, and just move forward. Then I found out I was pregnant.
Davis: Oh okay, wow.
Davis: This is when you were 22 still?
Demaray: This is 22. I continued school, I stayed in the dorms until that next semester, until I could move into the family apartments. I just went to school there for a year, but then that following semester I ended up quitting college, and then I moved to Killdeer with my mother.
Davis: You're 23 by this time?
Demaray: Yep, because by then I had Alana.
Demaray: I had quit college that ... I don't know why I quit, it was just hard because ... I don't know.
Demaray: Child, yeah.
Davis: The transition.
Demaray: Yep, and she was a baby, and I just didn't trust anybody to take care of her. We went back and forth, we went to my mother's for a little bit, but I could only stay there for ... She lived out in the country, and she was ... I don't know, I just couldn't live with my mom for more than 2 weeks. Then I would go back and forth between her and my aunt in New Town. I could stay at my aunt's, I stayed there and then eventually I worked at the casino, and I was bar tending in the evening. By then too, my daughter's dad had gotten on with a welding company out of Fargo, because my mom's cousin had gotten him a job. He would go to work, he would go for like a week, and come back on weekends. He did that, that was his ... He left and did that, so I was kind of going back and forth. He was drinking, and our relationship was unstable, I couldn't deal with knowing that he was drinking, and I was sitting at home, and working. I know he was working too, and I think back, but it ...
Davis: But he was probably drinking right after that.
Demaray: Yeah, drinking and womanizing. Women would call the phone when he would come back. I just couldn't deal with it. He was off working. I was going back and forth between my mother's and my aunt's, and then eventually I stayed at my aunt's, and I worked at the casino. I enrolled back in school at our community college for a semester. I can remember that New Years, he had come back, and he was like, "Let's move to Fargo." He was like we've got to make it work, we have our baby, whatever. We eventually moved to Fargo, and then we stayed there ... This is the first instance we moved to Fargo, and then had gotten the apartment in my name. I was taking CNA classes, because I knew I couldn't work a minimum wage job and survive, and take care of my daughter, and just be able to live. I had gotten my CNA license.
Davis: Now your age was ...
Demaray: I'm 23, 24.
Davis: Still 23.
Demaray: About 23, 24.
Demaray: About this time I had gotten my CNA license, and I found a job, and I was working, but then it was like ... It was just the abuse, it was the dysfunction, the abuse, and everything. It was bad. It had become so bad to where I couldn't do it with being a mother, and I had always told myself that when I had kids, I was not going to put my daughter through everything that I had been through. Although I told myself that, I could just see it happening. I tried so hard to get away from it. I remember 1 time where I was holding Alana, and he hit me. I'll never forget, she was 9 months old, and she just stiffened up. She knew something so scary was going on. I just had to protect her, and it was just like ... My dad had to come and get us. I just left my apartment. There was so many times I would just leave my furniture, my apartment, everything. I'd just take our clothes and I would go back to safety with a relative. That lasted for ... It was just like I always just had it in my head, even though I went back home, I had to move away. I had to go and get ... I had to go to school.
It was just such an energy where I was always trying to get away, so I eventually went back to Fargo, and again with him. I remember I had saved, I had almost $1,000 saved from bar tending, and then he had wanted us to come back. He was like, "We'll make it work again." Then with his company they stayed in a hotel, and he was like, "Well next week, we'll go." We were going to file taxes that year. We had gone, we filed taxes, and we were still in this hotel for this week, and they were going to leave for a different town that week. He made sure I spent my money, and then when they left, he just left us in that hotel room. I had no money, and I remember using the last of my money. I went to the grocery store, because I needed formula, because I wasn't on WIC or anything at that time. I had run into my friend's mother at the grocery store, one my best friends from high school, and so she gave me her daughter's number. I ended up staying with her for 2 weeks. I had gotten a job, I had gotten my first pay check, and I threatened him with the cops to get some of that income tax money, because it was my ... I was just ...
Davis: Yeah, yes.
Demaray: I could remember threatening them, saying, "I'm going to tell your company that you guys are drinking in that vehicle." Then they came and brought me the money. I had gotten my apartment, I had gotten settled, I was working full time, and everything was going good. He came back.
Davis: Came back into the picture.
Davis: It's a cycle.
Davis: It's up and down, up and ... You build up, you build it back up, and you're taken back down.
Demaray: Yeah, and it was always after I had gotten everything good, and everything was going great, but this was the last time.
Davis: What age are you by this time?
Demaray: I'm 24, well I'm right before 24. This was the day before Mother's Day, and I just remember he was really violent, and he took off. Then I just had my dad come and get me, we talked to the landlords, and my cousins. They were going to clean out the apartment, and so I wouldn't have a bill. The landlord, he was really understanding. It was like my landlords they always knew because they lived on the bottom floor.
Davis: Oh okay, so they actually tolerated it for some time.
Davis: They worked with you guys.
Demaray: Then I had moved with my dad that summer. I had worked at the bar, because the bar would always take me back to bar tend. That summer I just made a choice, and I was just ... That's when I moved to Grand Forks, and I was going to be a nurse since I was a CNA. Oh yeah, and I was working at the nursing home at New Town at that time too.
Davis: I missed something here, because you had moved to Fargo. You got your CNA license ...
Demaray: Then I moved back, and then I moved back to Fargo, and then that's when he left us, and I had gotten a apartment the 2nd time.
Davis: You went from Fargo, you went to New Town or to Grand Forks then to New Town?
Demaray: No, to Fargo I went to New Town, for that summer I worked. Then I went to Grand Forks.
Demaray: I had no car, I had nothing. My dad had given me his old beater S10 pickup, with the camper, and it was all rusty and old.
Davis: But hey, it worked!
Demaray: Yeah, we loaded up all my clothes. That's all I had was clothes and a TV, and he gave me some pots and pans. I went to Grand Forks when school started. I enrolled in the RAIN Program, which was Recruiting American Indians into Nursing, and I had my heart set on nursing. It's a really good program. We had droven ... I can remember being so scared, because Grand Forks just seemed like a whole different ... Like I've never been there, and whatever.
Davis: It was a learning curve in how to get around.
Demaray: Yeah, but I was really scared because of the controversy, the local controversy.
Davis: Oh sure.
Demaray: At that time it was in the news, and that's why I never went to Grand Forks. Then when I went there it was like the middle of the night, like midnight, and I was lost, and I couldn't find the hotel. I had brought the baby sitter with me, and we were trying to figure out where it was, and then I can remember telling her I was so scared. We drove by the south McDonalds, and this car full of kids, they ended up throwing an apple pie at me. I don't know if they threw it specifically at me, you know?
Demaray: They might have just threw out the window and then it hit me, ironically, because I was so scared.
Demaray: I can remember wanting to turn around and go back home, but then I didn't. I went to the hotel, and then started school there. We moved into the apartment. I had gotten our school money, and whatever, and had gotten the furniture, and ended up buying a cheap vehicle, and gave my dad his vehicle back. I did good, I did good for a while. Then I partied a lot there.
Davis: I was going to ask you about that. While you were with your boyfriend, the father of your daughter ...
Davis: ... he was drinking a lot, you mentioned a lot of alcoholism, abusing that.
Davis: Were you drinking along side ... You were drinking along side with ...
Davis: Not always.
Demaray: No, when he ... Not always, there was just a few instances where we did drink together, because we could never drink together. It would become so violent, we would fight, and it was really awful. We could never fight together, that's why nobody ever wanted to drink with us, or anything, because ... If I was drinking with my friends they didn't want to party with me because he would come and find me, knowing I was out.
Demaray: Or I would be looking for him, and then we would fight.
Davis: I think that happens a lot.
Davis: I think ... We have domestic violence as an epidemic.
Davis: Especially in Indian country. It's a lot of jealousy stemming from insecurity. I think that goes deeper into abandonment issues that we have as you boys, or young girls.
Davis: I think that comes up as a very controlling spirit as they get older, as we get older, because it goes both ways, I think.
Davis: One feeds the other.
Davis: It's just toxic when you're both together, and both insecure, and been abandoned. It's like you're deathly scared of being left.
Demaray: Yeah, yeah.
Davis: You're hanging on with all your might, and I've seen this. I've seen it, I've experienced it. I familiarize myself with this whole relationship you're talking about, and understand it because I went through a similar thing. It's your first one.
Davis: You latch on, and you hang on for life. You really think ...
Demaray: That this is love.
Davis: ... this is forever.
Demaray: Yep, and because you want that life where you have your family, your married, you have kids, and then in my head it was going to school. I found him, we're going to get married, then I'm going to go to college, you know? We did get married but it only lasted a year. We got married right after Lana was born, and then we divorced the next year because I'm like there's no way I could be married to somebody that's ... I couldn't tolerate that kind of behavior in my family, because I didn't want that for my daughter. Then when I had moved to Grand Forks that's where I finally was just like, I can't do this, I've got to protect my daughter, and I've got to give her some stability. We had moved 9 times before she turned 1 years old, back and forth, it was so unstable. I knew I needed to get it together. We were good in Grand Forks, I had connected with a couple friends who were single mothers, and we were there, and supported each other, but we just went out a lot. We went out every weekend, practically.
Davis: It's kind of like everybody has their own issues.
Davis: Then you kind of all go together and get through it that way. It's almost like that's your way of coping.
Demaray: Yeah, instead of latching on to him ... our friends. We were latching on to friends, we'd stay over at each other's house, it was just like none of us wanted to be alone. That's what it was, but those friendships helped me break away from that other dysfunction.
Davis: You stayed away from him, this was the final, at 24 ...
Demaray: I stayed away, but he came back a couple times, but we never were back together. You know what I mean? In a relationship, he didn't live with us, he come to see Lana a couple times, but then I'd say, "You can't stay here." Eventually I got pregnant with my 2nd child, and then I knew that that was really it.
Demaray: He was there when I was pregnant, and then he helped me. He was there when my son was born, because I was scared to be alone, but in my heart I just knew that this was it. I could never trust that somebody could take care and love my kids without hurting me. That's what I had in my head.
Davis: You were about how old when your son was born?
Demaray: I was almost 28.
Davis: Okay, so you had about a good 4 years between there of being with friends, being a single parent, and trying to get through this.
Davis: And get through life.
Demaray: Then when I got pregnant with my son I was scared in Grand Forks, because I didn't have ... I had my friends, but I was too scared to think that I could do it on my own, so I moved to Bismarck that summer. In July I moved to Bismarck, the month before my son was born I moved, because my daughter's grandmother, they were a big part of our life, and they said they were going to help. Just that comfort of knowing that somebody was there. My mother lived in Killdeer at the time, and she said she would come and help. My son was 3 years old, and then my mother had gotten into a car accident and she died.
Davis: Oh my goodness.
Demaray: She was killed by a drunk driver 3 months when he was born. Then it was like everything that I thought was going to happen didn't happen. I had enrolled in school, and I was going into the nursing. Then to deal with my mother's death, that was a hard ... That was really hard. My son had gotten sick from 3 months to 11 months, every month he'd end up in the hospital, because he had gotten RSV, and every month he would get pneumonia. He had to do breathing treatments every 2 to 4 hours every day, and then it was just like he would get sick, and then he'd go into the hospital, and then he'd get better, then he would get sick again, almost lost him twice. When he'd get better though, then I would take off. My daughter's grandma said, "You need a break, just go." Then I would drink.
Davis: Grandma helped?
Demaray: Yep, and so I would take off and just wallow in my own sorrows, but then I'd have to go back home. I'd have my little break and go back home. During that time I never dealt with my mother, because by then we were really close. I had forgiven her from all the stuff that happened in the past, because she was sober for 15 years, so we established a relationship when I was 16, and had gotten really close to her when I came back, when my dad and my step mom got divorced. She was a part of my life, she took me and my baby in, and whatnot, and dealt with me going back and forth with my daughter's, my first born's dad. Losing her was really hard. It was just trying to get through that, and then go to school, and I was working, and I just had a breakdown. One year after she died, because it was that next year, it was still so hurtful, and painful, that I remember that I went and had gotten drunk, and then that night I came home and I just remember just wanting to die again.
It was just so hard. I remember cutting myself because I use to cut myself in the early stages of my dysfunctional relationship with my daughter's dad, because it just would hurt so bad. I don't know why I did it, but I did it. I didn't want to die, but I just cut to feel alive. It was like a weird process that happened, I don't understand it, but I did it. I remember that year, later after my mother had died, and I had gone, and I drank, and then I cut myself. I just remember cutting, and cutting, and cutting, just thinking, can I do it this time? In the back of my head it's like, I have my kids.
I had a friend who had committed suicide and she had her kids. I just seen what it did to her kids, and that was always in my head. I just felt like I couldn't do it. Even though I was getting the idea of wanting to do that, and knowing my kids' needed me, my kids they needed me. It was just like there was a thought in my head that was like I'm either going to be like this for the rest of my life, or my kids are going to get taken away from, or I'm going to straighten up, and I'm going to make better choices to get that stability, and build that foundation for my kids.
Davis: Your kids saved your life.
Demaray: Yep, yeah.
Davis: Their existence.
Demaray: I had called my cousin, in the middle of the night, and I was crying to him, telling him. He just listened to me, and everything, and then the next day I had called my aunt, because I had called her a couple months prior to that, and telling her what's going on. She said whenever I was ready to go to treatment ... It was ready, it was there. She had lived down in Eagle Butte, so I had called her that next day. She sent her daughter up, and they just came and got me, and I gotten stuff situated for my kids, and then I left. I had went to my aunt's house, and I detoxed for 4 days.
Davis: Are you still 28 when this happened?
Demaray: Yep, about 29.
Demaray: I had started the treatment, I lived over at their little halfway house, and I lived with the other gals that were in treatment too. I just went to the treatment, and talked about everything, and they really helped me cope with my feelings. The biggest thing was I never have been able to deal with my feelings. When I lived in Grand Forks I had gotten myself into counselling, and I was in counselling for about almost 2 years. In my early 20s, too, my mother had me in counselling. She had me go see her counselor, and so I just never utilized their strategies that they had given me. In Grand Forks I really did, I took it serious, because I didn't want to go back and keep doing what I was doing. When I had gone to Eagle Butte, it was kind of like I lost all of that, because I had withdrawn, and I wasn't thinking straight, because I had just withdrawn. They really helped me, I just have a ... There's always going to be a place in my heart for the treatment center in Eagle Butte, I don't even remember what it's called.
Davis: Oh wow.
Demaray: They helped me, their RAs were a good support, I'm friends with them to this day, one of them. They just kind of touch base with me every now and then. When I had gotten back home ... While I was in treatment it was like my step mother had been harassing me, she would send me messages. Like my daughter had gone with one of my cousins, and then my son had ... My sister had him for a week, my dad would check on him, and he just didn't want him staying there, so then he took him for that 2nd week. My step mom, she was going through health issues, and she was really upset that it got put on her to have to take care of him, so she would send me such hateful messages while I was in treatment.
It just messed with my head, it was just like I didn't understand, like I'm here trying to get help, and then it's like no support. It was like I couldn't focus. I did, but then it was like constant worry about my kids too. Then my daughter's dad, he had picked my son up, so then he took him for that last week. It was like the last 2 weeks that he had picked up my daughter too. He took him home for the last 2 weeks, to my apartment, and then I finished it out. I finished the ... I think it was ... I want to say it was 40 days I was gone, but then I'm not sure if it was 28 or 40 days, but it was like 4 ... I had gone home at Thanksgiving.
Davis: How did that help you?
Demaray: It just ...
Davis: I'm sorry. Did it help you?
Demaray: Yeah, it did.
Davis: It sounded like it.
Demaray: It helped me, I had gotten some clarity. I had just taken time knowing that if I didn't help myself, I couldn't help my family. I can't take care of my kids if I can't take care of myself. They had instilled that in my head, to have to be scared, and be by myself, and cut off from all stuff in the world that were influenced by. I had to step outside and collect myself, and have some good ... Just some prayers, and good talking to, and just sharing stories. Remembering why we're here, and what our purpose is in this life. Seeing others who had it worse off than me, and I'm thinking, what am I doing here? I know I can get it together, and I can take care of my kids. I do not want my kids taken away from me, you know what I mean? It was just like if I continue down that road, this is what it's going to be for me. That's what I took from it, and so when I get home, I did good. I enrolled back in school, and then I just kept going to school.
Davis: That just ... Everything, this whole story, is just been ... I can't even believe ...
Demaray: I can't believe ...
Davis: ... that you're here today.
Davis: Successful, graduating with a bachelor's degree. You have 3 children.
Davis: Single parent. I know you've had trials even beyond this point.
Davis: Just only because I know you personally. Of course, I didn't know all of these things, and I just ... You're so positive, you're very full of life, you have light in you. I'm amazed at your resiliency, I just really am amazed. These are the stories that people need to hear, all of these things happen but that doesn't mean we have to stay a victim.
Demaray: Yes, exactly. You know it's like all of this stuff, you go through life. I think a lot, because I try to rationalize all this stuff, like why me? Why did this happen to me? I can put myself in my mother's shoes, because I ask questions, and I ask how ... What it as like for her? We share what it was like for her so I could understand this is my life from her choices, and then from ... I have a grandmother that I visit, so I can really understand how everything evolved to where we are today. I look back at my own, and I just think what I want for my kids. Everything happens for this reason, and we all interact, and we're all connected in some way. We all can learn from each other, we can all take that positive. There's something good, and there's something bad, and it's whatever choice we make, that's what takes us to that next step.
Davis: I remember visiting with you before and it sticks with me what you had said, and it's what you are talking about now, turning a negative into a positive. That's everything, you take a negative, and you just have an attitude of it's unacceptable.
Davis: And you make it into a positive.
Demaray: Yes, what I wanted to say, it just reminded me of what I was going to say. All of the stuff that has happened in my life, yes a lot of it was negative, but all these different that I can meet, I can relate to different people with their different experiences, and to say, "Hey, yes this stuff happened, it sucks, but what's done is done." It's how you're going to move forward, and just learn from it, accept it, and be able to let it go, and know what you want in your life to be successful.
Davis: To allow them to choose and define what success is for themself.
Demaray: Yes, yeah.
Davis: How they see that, that's their vision. To each his own kind of thing.
Davis: To not settle for less.
Demaray: Yes, exactly.
Davis: To withhold high standards, to see your own personal vision and just go and get through it, see through it, no matter social challenges come along in your path.
Davis: Keep the end in mind.
Davis: Get help, have a support system to get through it, so that you can reach your goal.
Davis: I really think that this really sheds light on the need to have an Indian Center, here, to have a supportive network for life.
Davis: To get through just life. I am so glad to hear this because I've always, personally, thought it was a need, of course, and that's the reason for incorporating. It was really the vision of seeing it as a life center. You know?
Davis: Bringing in our culture, bringing in a unified place where all these different tribal backgrounds can come, one place, not saying 1 way is the right way over another way, but bringing it all in, in unity allowing our Native American people to pick and choose what they want to do, what they want to follow. There are, and I spoke yesterday in an interview, who was somebody enrolled in Turtle Mountain, and didn't have access to the Turtle Mountain ways and tradition. She was actually taught to because she lived in Bismarck, she was actually taught by somebody that was in Standing Rock. She practices Dakota ways. We're hungry to practice our own Native American ways, there are similarities per tribe, but there are slight differences amongst each tribe.
There is a need, I can hear that, there's a need for us to unify to have a supportive network to do the teaching of it to our children as well. We're not 30, 40, 50 years old, just barely trying to learn. This is something that moves me as well, personal experience of all the trauma. I know my parents had trauma before me, and so I know my grandma and grandpa had trauma before them. There's a cycle, I think, what it sounds like is that there's a vision of a cycle to be broken.
Demaray: People need to talk about it, a lot of people they don't want to talk about it because it brings shame to the family, or whatever. We're very proud people. I think the more people can share their stories, and actually bring awareness. That'll help them heal, and it will also be like, "Hey, yeah. This happened." It happened, and you have to learn from it, and be able to let it go, and move forward. That's all part of a healing process.
Davis: Oh my goodness, and you know I'm just really ... I'm in awe here because I hear really spiritual things throughout this whole process. It was just the seed of faith, the Holy Spirit as I was taught, that was in you, taking care of you the whole time, speaking to you.
Demaray: Through my whole life every dark moment I always had something. I've always had a friend that come from a family of high faith, like in high school, in elementary school, even riding the bus home from California I sat next to a Mormon and he was talking about faith and whatnot. I've always been connected with somebody who has that high faith. I have relatives that practice our native ways, I want to say it's all connected somehow, like we all have our beliefs and our faith. There's that 1 creator, and he sends us our message through whatever, he channels it with whatever he can so then he can give us that understanding.
Davis: Yeah, so it's kinda ... Just agree that there's one god.
Davis: Not worry about those little traditions, the little how you do it, what you do. Because that gets religious, in the church for example. I remember growing up as an Episcopal, Episcopalian and we sand Dakota in the songs. It was from the Bible, we believed in the Bible and everything. I learned as I grew up that it is similar to Catholic.
Davis: I didn't know that for so many years, actually until just a few years ago. My husband is Catholic. You have to pick and chose once you ...
Davis: I haven't even been practicing faithfully, and obediently, my own Episcopalian practice. I found a church here in Bismarck called All Nations Assembly of God, and why I went there is because I was seeking where the Native American population was to connect, and that it had a focus on us. It spoke to us, because so many times I think we're use to being ignored, kind of like we're not there. You can be in a whole room of ... I just kind of ... It's kind of that lateral impression kind of thing. Whether non-natives are intentionally doing it or not, because we're just different.
Demaray: I don't think they know, you know what I mean? I grew up off the Reservation for a lot of my life. I grew up mostly in Fargo, and then I didn't see prejudice or anything, but maybe I just didn't know about it. I never had no experience at that time, but then we moved to a little ... a rural community, and I experienced it every single day of the time that I was there. People would call me Pocahontas, and Danielson, and Coffee Bean, and Juan Valdez, which didn't even ... I didn't really like ...
Davis: Did you take offense?
Demaray: No, it hurt me so bad. I got into depression, and it was so miserable. It stuck with me my whole ... I just didn't understand it. I got through it, and I eventually had ran into one of the girls when I had moved to New Town. I was in speech, and drama, and stuff, and I had run into one of the girls that was really awful to me, and she apologized to me.
Davis: Now is this ... It's a non-native that was name calling, was it white Caucasian?
Davis: That were name calling?
Demaray: Yep, yeah.
Davis: I just want to clarify.
Demaray: When I looked back at that, it's like I had the experience off ... How it was in Fargo, it was like more urbanized area, and then to this rural development community. It was more ignorance, you know? Then moving to on the reservation, when I first moved to the reservation and I went to school, they picked on me too. I was so scared, and I sat with the non-natives that first couple weeks of school. Then I had gotten some friends who took me under, and they're like come sit with us, and they became my best friends.
Davis: The non-natives did?
Demaray: No, the ...
Davis: The natives actually did.
Demaray: The natives.
Davis: Was it kind of like, okay a new person coming in, even though you're tribal?
Davis: You're from there, but they just ... They're territorial?
Demaray: Yeah, because somebody wanted to beat me up. She didn't know who I was but I was so happy and bubbly, it just irritated that person. It was her own ignorance. Then the new friends that I had they stuck up for me until then. People got to know me, and then it was this ... Then I was part of the community, and I got to know my friends and relatives.
Davis: Threatened, they were threatened.
Demaray: I don't know what it was. It was just I was different.
Demaray: Plus like ... I think the time that I was there and all of my classmates it broke down some of that barrier too. Influenced them some way, because I think ... Then I did make bad choices, after that. But, it's just like, to see that there is ... It just broke down some social barrier, I think.
Davis: You mentioned a little bit about that, if you could just kind of repeat how did you break down? You let them know it was safe? By being bubbly with them, and being very ... more loving to them?
Demaray: Yeah, when people would ... They would say ...
Davis: Try to fight you or ...
Demaray: I just kept a positive attitude, and I just didn't let it bother me. I just continued to disassociate with the ones that ...
Davis: Walked away.
Davis: That used the ...
Demaray: Everybody at school really liked to joke around, and tease a lot. I wasn't familiar. I'm really gullible, and then it took me a long time to adapt to being teased, because I'm so insecure. It was hard for me to adapt to that, but now I can do it, because I've connected with my family and my friends.
Davis: What school was this at? Did you say it was tribal school?
Demaray: Yep ... Well it was in New Town.
Davis: In New Town.
Demaray: It was a public school.
Davis: Public school, okay. That has a mixture of Caucasian and Native American.
Davis: Okay. Okay, I see. I too experienced the difference between a rural Caucasian community, verses not so much a public school, but a tribal school. I went drastic.
Davis: I went from rural ... Well first I went from Los Angeles ... I didn't know color was different or anything, until I moved to Wilmot, South Dakota into a rural, little, Caucasian rural town, farmer town. We lived rural but so we rode bus and things. I remember the school was so small, there was me and 2 other Native Americans in our class. There were some classes that didn't have ... There was only 1 7th grade, there was some grades that didn't have any Native Americans in them. It was a real small network.
Demaray: I think each community ... Like when I lived in that rural community, there was a Native family that lived there, but they grew up there. You know what I mean? So nobody raised heck with them, because they were there, and they were accustomed to the community. I think that's how it is in any community, because there's different ... I don't know what you would call it, like stereotypes, or whatnot. Even with the non-natives, Caucasians, even with religion, even with if you're poor, if you're rich, there's always some sort of stereotype in any ... There's these barriers, cultural barriers, language barriers, religious barriers, everything there's always something it's intertwined of just different little roadblocks. If you can get over those roadblocks and learn, and break them down, then it just makes everything a lot more smooth, and peaceful, and everything more happier.
Davis: It sounds like to really try to accept and adopt the mindset of being open.
Davis: Open minded, just kind of a heart of love.
Davis: Love people for human.
Davis: Instead of race and whether it's what political party you're in, or what ... All these different, like you said, these buckets. I agree, I agree, it's a human factor. We all have feelings, we all have our old beliefs, we should respect them all, and not be judgmental.
Demaray: Just to remember where you come from. Even if you are so successful in your life, you have to remember where you came from, your roots. You get so busy every day, doing your daily tasks, and you just have to remember where you came from, what it took to get there. Some people can get so desensitized by the everyday motion, and just getting through the day, or just worrying about whatever they're duties are. When they talk to somebody who isn't at their level, they just assume that they should know. You have to just remember and just stop, and say a kind word, or just look at somebody as an equal instead of ...
Davis: Would you say this to our own Native American people?
Davis: As well as the non-native American people.
Davis: Thank you so much Heather, I really enjoyed this interview. I know that it's going to help other people.
Demaray: Thank you for having me.