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Native American Stories of Resilience

Robert Grey Eagle


All text and audio copyright, 2015 by the Native American Development Center ©

Bob Grey Eagle:          Hello my name is Bob or Bobby Grey Eagle. My Indian name is […]  It means "The Long-Ago Ancestor," or as a friend of mine calls me, "He Brings His Relatives With Him." My tribe is the Lake Traverse Reservation, the Sisseton, Wahpeton, Dakota, Oyate. I live in Bismarck, North Dakota. I've been here since the mid-eighties. A long time.

Lorraine Davis:           That is a long time.

Bob Grey Eagle:          I'm married. I have two sons. Levi who's going to be twenty-two this year, and Skyler, who is just turned eighteen this past December. My educational status is I got a associate credential with the Open Bible Churches. Basically entered the workforce and been wanting to go back to school but never had the chance to just put down full-time work. I can go back and do the generals and have an associate, but it's equivalent to the associate degree but because it doesn't have the general's, that's why it's not. Career, I work for the Transportation Security Administration. As their training specialist, I'm responsible for the hundred and sixty TSA officers within the State. I'm responsible for their training meet and the to include the Federal Security Director's staff. Their training meets also.

Davis:                          Is that a State job or a federal job?

Bob Grey Eagle:          It's a federal job.

Davis:                          Federal job.

Bob Grey Eagle:          I've been there. I'm going on fourteen years there.

Davis:                          Wow.

Bob Grey Eagle:          I started at the entry-level as a part-time TSO. Worked my way up to Federal Security Director of staff.

Davis:                          Sounds like some strong work ethic. Dedication. Learned it yourself.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Learned this work ethic from my step-dad. That's the one thing that he did teach me.

Davis:                          That's sweet. We're going to go into that too a little bit. Robert, is that growing up we're going to start with learning a little bit further about your past and can you share with us where you did grow up in your childhood?

Bob Grey Eagle:          My childhood was spread from ... I was born in New York and lived there for about four years. My mother moved us back to Enemy Swim and we lived there from four to, I'd say, probably about ... My goodness, fifth grade, so what is that? Eight or nine. Somewhere in there. That was, she moved us up to Bismarck. While she attended school at a United Transfer Nursing Degree. We stayed out there for two years before we moved into town.

Davis:                          Born in New York City?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Brooklyn.

Davis:                          State? Brooklyn.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Brooklyn, New York.

Davis:                          Oh my God. You were four?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          Oh my goodness. Then from four years old, to ...?

Bob Grey Eagle:          To, I'd say, my goodness. It had to be about let' see ... eight to nine maybe? Somewhere in there.

Davis:                          Then she moved us to Bismarck so she could attend United Tribes.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Then you been here ever since?

Davis:                          Yeah.

Bob Grey Eagle:          To now old age?

Davis:                          Yeah.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Just kidding.

Davis:                          You probably, I don't know, I probably shouldn't assume. Do you remember what it was like living in Brooklyn?

Bob Grey Eagle:          It's crazy. I remember some of the smells. I remember some of the things that I don't know, they just seemed important back then. I remember catching a bug jar of butterflies. Then thinking that they live and they didn't. I had to pour their dead bodies away. The apartments were so high, so I remember just putting them down and they went down to the ground or whatever. I remember the smells walking by the pizza shops. I remember there's a Hot Wheel shop there that I must've been around four when that happened when my real father took me there to pick up one Hot Wheels car. I remember the ... grate that was right outside our window. You could go out there but you couldn't put a chair on it or anything. I remember being able to look down and you could see all the business in the streets and all that.

Davis:                          That's a big cultural shock from ... Do you remember the transition coming to South Dakota from New York?

Bob Grey Eagle:          That's one of the things I don't remember. I remember traveling back to visit. It must've been really early on. We traveled back to visit my dad's dad. I don't really remember making a jump from New York to Enemy Swim. It was just like we showed up. I know that Mom relied heavily on family. Probably moved in with Grandma or something. I don't remember.

Davis:                          At what age do you start remembering, you think?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I think when maybe it was ... We were back and forth. She had us going to a Catholic school in Watertown. I just remember being us kids called it like Hi-C or something like that. I can't remember. It was really weird why we called it Hi-C. We attended there for a little bit and then we went to a public school. Then that's when we started transitioning to we went to Waubay. I was a dragon.

Davis:                          Were you?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I would say that it was just between those times. We were jumping back and forth in where we lived in Watertown for a little bit. Then we moved to Enemy Swim and we lived just outside Waubay with my grandmother. We were all over the place.

Davis:                          Are those public schools? Waubay and Enemy Swim?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Waubay's a public school. I can't remember. I don't think ... I had to go to ... Even though I lived in Enemy Swim, we used to, if I remember correctly, we still got bused to Waubay. We did because that was the thing. I'll catch you after when we get dropped off by the trashcans. That's where all the fighting happened.

Davis:                          That was integrated with both Native Americans and then Caucasians?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yep.

Davis:                          Was there any other nationality that you remember?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No. It was mainly white and natives. Mostly white.

Davis:                          I'm from that same area there, so I'm similar. I was over next door in Agency Village. Did you go to tribal school?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No.

Davis:                          No tribal school at all?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No.

Davis:                          Interesting. You’ve seen the Indians. What was your perspective? Looking back at it now. You were Native American. Did you feel like you were Native American?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I guess ... Yeah. Family, my grandmother is full, my mother's full. My dad wasn't around during that time, so we grew up with her side of the family. You were seen as Dakota. We were just, that's just who you were. You were always going to the funerals, the pow wows, the feasts.

Davis:                          Family was a big value?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          You grew up that way?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          That's culturally the Native American way.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Even though my mother struggled with addiction, she always ... I can always remember that she always made sure that we were taken care of. We were at an aunt's house or an uncle's house or whatever.

Davis:                          What ages do you remember some of your mom's hardships?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Goodness. It's crazy because they're all over. I think in the elementary years, probably the maybe ... second grade is when I think I really started taking notice that there was something wrong. Then that just continued. In second grade, I believe, I was going to Waubay. Just her not being there. Picking us. I remember her taking us into a bar. They were, like, dates, maybe. You can't do that now. Back then, you take your kids back.

Davis:                          I think even rural towns; it's not necessarily a Native American thing. It was just the more rural town thing.

Bob Grey Eagle:          That's probably what it was with Waubay. It was a rural town. She took me into the bar. I remember the guys. I remember all the guys. The guys that I didn't like. That couldn't measure up to who I remember of who my real dad was. I remember when my ... one of my cousins, an older cousin, who would always come and pick up his aunt. Then go out and they'd all drink. They'd pile into ... They'd drive these nice vans. They'd pile into that. We wouldn't see her for the whole weekend. Like you said, second, third, fourth grade, that whole three year stretch in there. Just remember her always gone on the weekends. Always drinking.

Davis:                          You were always ... You were just going through aunties? Did you have Grandma?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Every once in a while we'd be with Grandma or my sister, Angela, would take care of us. Which Angela's really like completive because her dad was white. She always had it tougher. She had to battle all the time on the res. Even though she had Indian blood, they didn't ... Most of the kids in Enemy Swim didn't ... They were jealous of her because on top of that, she was really pretty. They were just always trying to fight her and stuff and jealous of her.

Davis:                          They were threatened by her because she was pretty?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          Not just that she didn't look Native, they weren't picking on her, bullying her, but because she was pretty?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          That was your older sister?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yep.

Davis:                          Oldest sister?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yep.

Davis:                          How much older was she than you?

Bob Grey Eagle:          She is, let me see. For some reason six years. She's chosen to ... not be in touch with the family. She feels like my mother still has some emotional things that she needs to work through. She says I've forgiven her, but I choose not to be around that sickness where I disagree with her. I think that she, if she truly forgave her, she can still try to have a relationship with her. Even though she doesn't agree with some of the things my mother does.

Davis:                          Your mom isn't drinking today?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No.

Davis:                          No?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No. I think it was in, for some reason, fifth grade comes to mind is when she really made the change. Maybe it was sixth grade. I just remember being us going to family week at Heartview, it was in Mandan. It was just ... I don't know. I didn't like it. I knew that she was there for a good reason but I didn't like it. I think the whole thing was family week. I hated it. Everybody sat there sharing and I'm like, "Holy cow. I'm in here, that means I'm going to have to do what all these people are doing."

Davis:                          It's very personal. Then it's very hard. It's difficult because you're bringing the pain to surface.

Bob Grey Eagle:          She didn't respond to it. She didn't respond to my sister or my aunt. I can't remember who else was there. She just sat there. She just sat there and just was like ... I don't know. Some of the things I didn't like that she would do, she'd just be cold. She'd have these moments where she'd just get cold and stubborn and dig her ... Just dig your heels in. I remember her sitting there and she's just like doing that. I'd just leaning into her.

Davis:                          That was your mom?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          She was not liking being there?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Even though she put herself there.

Davis:                          She did?

Bob Grey Eagle:          It didn't seem like she was ... I don't know, she was getting it. I just laid into her and just brought up the things that I remember and said, "You know, you embarrassed me. You wanted me to ..." She'd always make me come to the table and she had all these people. I can see them now. They're all around the table. There's ashtrays all over and beer cans all over. She'd always ... She'd be with her boyfriend or whoever, and she'd always bring me to the table and have me stand right here. She'd mess with my hair and she'd have my sing to them. I'd be singing Chicago songs.

Davis:                          How old were you? Second grade?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Oh my goodness … That was probably ... That right there was probably third, fourth grade. Somewhere in there. She knew I liked to sing, but then she would pull me in the weirdest ... It was crazy. I hated. She'd always kiss me and stuff and I'd smell that beer breath and stuff. It was crazy. I didn't like being around her when she was that way. I liked the attention, you know what I mean? I just like ... Here she is, bragging me up. "This is my boy, Bobby. He's got a good voice." I think when she pushed me down to, believed in me, that's why I joined Bismarck Boys’ Choir in fifth grade. I think it was sixth grade. I remember we sang at the seven seas and she comes in drunk with my now step-dad. I was, "Oh my goodness," I was so embarrassed. People are trying to talk to her and she's like, she just kept on messing with my hair. She wasn't even acknowledging them. She just tanked. I'm like ...

Davis:                          So proud of you? She was being ...

Bob Grey Eagle:          She was so proud of me but this person's talking to her. She's so drunk. She can't even acknowledge them. She just like ... I'm like, "Gosh. They're talking to you, Mom!" I just wanted to die. All my friends are there. I'm just, "This sucks, man." I just laid into her. I brought up that situation. That memory, and I said, "You know, these people came. You came to it but I wish you wouldn't have been there because you were just ... you were drunk. So-and-so was trying to talk to you then teacher, or Ms. So-and-so was trying to talk to you. You didn't even look at them. You just sat there. You just smelled like beer and you're messing with my hair." I remember I was balding. I said, I just laid into her. I said it was embarrassing. She just broke down.

                                    My older sister, she, because we met each other. One time I was traveling through Minneapolis. She lives in Minnesota. We hadn't seen each other for years. She goes, "You were the one that broke Mom down. She didn't look like she was going to ... the sobriety was going to stick. You went in there," and she's like, "You were so brave. You just went in there and you're like, 'You did this and you did this,'" and she said ... She couldn't fight that. I don't know what it is, but she's always ... I don't know. Maybe it's firstborn son thing or something. I don't know. She's got a special place in her heart for that firstborn. I don't know.

                                    I was just laid into her. Then after that, she's been sober since. She's with some ... I don't know. She's got something good. When she did that to my now step-dad, followed suit too. He got sober too.

Davis:                          That's good. Earlier on you mentioned all these guys. You remember all these guys being around. They never measured up to who?

Bob Grey Eagle:          To my real dad. The crazy thing is my real dad, I don't ... He was only around for a little ... I say a little while because I don't remember exactly when he was put in prison. He was put in prison because he ... I don't know how raw you want me to get.

Davis:                          As far as you're comfortable with. If you're going to elaborate on the story, then make sure of that.

Bob Grey Eagle:          He was physically, emotionally, in every way, abusive to my older sister. He was taken away because my sister ran away. Basically told the authorities what he was doing. It escalated.

Davis:                          He told himself?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No. She told ...

Davis:                          She told.

Bob Grey Eagle:          The authorities when she was caught. When they found out, they basically had ... They told my mother that the way the story got back to me. I can't remember if it was my older sister who told me. They gave her a choice. Your daughter gets to come home with you tonight, or your husband. Which they weren't married, so ... She chose my sister. When I saw all these guys come in, it was just ... My dad took me out hunting. He was a artist. He just drawed stuff. Showed me how to ... He was always ... Took me down to, got my first BB gun. I was his first, I was his son. He's just always investing in me. I was just ... When he left, I didn't have that anymore. I remember he knew that he was going to prison. He gave me his 22 long-range. Really nice rifle. He's like, "You're the man in the house. Blah blah blah."

                                    When all these guys started coming along, they didn't measure up because all I saw of them was all they were doing was party. One guy actually tried ...

Davis:                          You already had a good value system of manhood.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Well and he taught me the manly stuff, but he wasn't really ... He didn't have any core values. You know what I mean? He was a great hunter. He was a great artist. Things like that. When it came to being a man, like what we know as a Dakota warrior being protective and looking out for and generosity – all those core values. He didn't have those. But I still, as a boy, you idolize your dad. That's where that came from. These guys never measured up. One gentleman, I remember one gentleman ...

                                    My sister was visiting New York because we had grandparents there. She was visiting New York and she called home. This gentleman was ... My momma's passed out. This gentleman came. I was trying to get her attention. She's in the backroom knocking on the door. He comes out. He just choke-holds me. He's like, "You little ..." Starts cussing. He's always got me out. I can't remember who called. My sister called and someone else says that, "Marvin's choking Bobby!" She calls from there 9-1-1. Says, "Hey, they're living here and this is what's going on."

                                    He never came back. He actually got tossed in or whatever. It was things like that. Even my step-dad now. I was just like no one can measure up to my dad. The crazy thing is the more I understood of who he was, I'm like, "Holy cow." The guy that's actually taught me the most, that taught me the most about being a man, is my step-dad.

Davis:                          You mentioned your father. He was abusing your older sister?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          The older sister is not, that's not her real dad?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No.

Davis:                          Then your father goes away. He's put in prison for being caught because she reveals it?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yep.

Davis:                          He's out of the picture now. At what age was he out of the picture now?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Holy cow. That had to be ... My goodness. That would've had to be around maybe seven, six, seven. Somewhere in there. It had to be around seven or eight because ... five I was in … here in Watertown. I'd say so. I was around seven or eight.

Davis:                          Step-dad comes in?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Step-dad comes in shortly after we moved Mom. I think she was dating him out at United Tribes towards the tail end of her last year or something like that. Somewhere when she started dating him. She was because I remember I was in sixth grade at that time. That's when I was in Bismarck Boys' Choir.

Davis:                          You were sixth grade, so you were about eleven? Twelve?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Twelve or eleven. Yeah somewhere in there.

Davis:                          You're in Bismarck by that time. Did you move to Bismarck around ten, eleven?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Let's see. Yeah. Nine, ten, eleven. Somewhere in there. I know I went to school two years out at United Tribes. Or maybe it was a part year … I don't know. It's just foggy in there. I know I did my fifth grade for sure out at United Tribes at Jamerson or something like that. Then I did my sixth, my sixth grade. I did at Jeannette Myhre in Bismarck so ... Fourth grade, I'm not totally sure. I think part of it was United Tribes.

Davis:                          Roughly around ten years old?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          Somewhere around there.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Somewhere in there.

Davis:                          The step-dad comes into your life, then when you're about eleven?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          Twelve. Somewhere in there. Then was the drinking still going on at that time?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. She was starting to get to the point where she getting really, really to the bottom of the bucket. She came home one time. She had gauze all the way. My goodness, almost ten inches of gauze on her wrist. My sister's crying and I'm like, "What the heck's going on?" Here they were out partying and the bottle, a bottle was busted open on the floor. She reached down and just ... got her. I think that was one of the turning points too, where she was just, "I got to get it together."

Davis:                          She was a student at college? Student at United Tribes at this point?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I think at that time, she had graduated or she just ... We were in Bismarck. We were in a trailer at that time. Then I remember she started working after that. She was working at the Missouri Slope as one of their LPNs.

Davis:                          She started working at sobriety then after this? Shortly after this?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. They separated a couple times in there. Like I said, it was bottom. It was bottom for her.

Davis:                          What are the impacts to you, then? As a child, it starts from second grade all the way to ...?

Bob Grey Eagle:          The main one was I was forced to grow up a lot quicker. I had to learn how to ... My goodness, I can't even remember when I learned it, but I know that I learned how to change a diaper real fast. I learned how to correctly burrito a baby. Really tight and all that.

Davis:                          The proper ways of taking care of a baby.

Bob Grey Eagle:          You got to hold them. You got to change them and feed them. I was doing that for my brothers and sisters. I was forced to grow up entirely too fast, really.

Davis:                          Was your older sister helping with those kind of things too?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. I think when we got to North Dakota, she started pulling away. Especially when my step-dad came into the picture she started separating. For the most part, I do remember taking care of my brothers and sisters a lot. That was the main impact. Having to grow up quicker and then having to ... I don't know. There were times. I think it was hard for her to ... She could be soft with me. I don't know. That's one thing I don't always remember. When even though the moments when she was cold, she had these moments where she was just really ... She was really nurture and she was just ... I'd have a cold and she'd just make it a point to take care of me. Put Vic's on me and stuff like that. There were times when she was just like ...

                                    I don't know. Around her, I could cry where some of these guys it was like you can't cry. Especially around my uncle. I couldn't do that.

Davis:                          You don't do that?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No.

Davis:                          Is that back home in Sisseton?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          That macho …

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Most of them were Vietnam vets and they just refused me crying. I couldn't cry. When I could, it was around her. There were moments where ... she would let her ... Not her, I don't know if it was letting her guard down. She'd definitely had moments where she could be nurturing and comforting and all that.

Davis:                          The times that she wasn't nurturing and comforting, what was going on with her at that time?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I think she was just chasing these voids that she was trying to fill in her own life. These guys, these guys and this drinking was her ... The chink in her metal or her big weakness or something. I don't know exactly what she was chasing, but it just seemed it was a new guy. Especially through the elementary years. I don't know if she was looking for ...

Davis:                          Looking for love in the wrong places?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Looking for love or what.

Davis:                          How did that impact you though? You mentioned they didn't measure up, but what were your feelings? What was the effect that that took on you then?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I think I coped by ... I became ... I'm a huge extrovert, so I just fell into my friends. I just was always gone. Always doing stuff with friends. Always out and exploring. Always running down to ... Walking down the road to Sandy Beach down in Enemy Swim lake. Always ...

Davis:                          Always gone?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Always gone. Always gone. I was never home.

Davis:                          Grew up fast, always gone, just sought a way out?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. You didn't have to be home or whatever.

Davis:                          Would you say that growing up in that environment, then, brought a lot of insecurity? Does that bring insecurity at some level?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I think so because some of those guys that were there were really negative. They were always. I was a skinny kid back then. It was almost like they were always picking at me. That I wasn't man enough or something. For Pete's sake, I was only six ... Elementary kid, how can you be a man then? Even my step-dad. My step-dad would ... I still tell my mother to this day that he needs to ... He still struggles with his issues. One of the things he used to do is he'd stand me up next to my sister, who was just ... When she hit puberty man, she was just ... She had some guns on her. She just like ... taller than me.

Davis:                          Tall?

Bob Grey Eagle:          She was like monstrous. I used to call her horse because she was strong as a horse. She was like poomph! I'll haul you into a wall. He had me stand up next to her one time and he's like, "Um, um, make a muscle!" Don makes a muscle. He's like, "Bobby, make a muscle!" This is front of my brothers and sisters. He's like, "Oh, everybody look at Bobby! He's orange. He's got girl arms and ..." They're all laughing at me. I told my mother. I said, "You know," I said. "He might not've realized it," I said, "but at that moment," I said, "I started hating him." I said because he was always telling me that my friends were no good. That I was not going to be no good, nothing, a hooligan and all that. I said, "He'd always just tell me what was wrong about me. He never ..."

                                    I don't ever remember him telling me anything positive. I hated him too, I hated him for it. That's why I started into drugs and alcohol early.

Davis:                          What age did you start?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Twelve.

Davis:                          Twelve. You're in Sisseton or Bismarck?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I'm in Bismarck. We just moved to our new house. I think ... Maybe it was thirteen. I think it was that summer before that, but I know I got my first taste of it and dabbled with it here and there. I know that I got addicted fast. I remember my sixteenth birthday we couldn't find a buyer and I was just mad. I was just like, "Holy cow!"

Davis:                          You're twelve? I'm sorry.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Back?

Davis:                          Did I miss something? You're about twelve years old when you started?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          Diving into the alcohol and drugs?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          You're in Bismarck at this time?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          Living in the trailer.

Bob Grey Eagle:          I think then we moved closer to Bismarck High. We were living on Seventh Street.

Davis:                          You were in weren’t in Highschool yet?

Bob Grey Eagle:          No.

Davis:                          Step-dad was all negative and it just, it was just daunting?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          It contributed a lot to "might as well just drink"?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. We started like I said, around twelve. Twelve or thirteen, somewhere in there. I know I got my first taste and the addiction didn't start then, but I think some of that stuff ... moved fast. Especially when you just talk about when I did start hanging around folks that were really messing around with this stuff. He almost forced me to go down that road. It was easy. Not that he forced me, but he made it easier for me to go down that road because why would I want to sit at home with you? When I can head out with these guys. These guys accept me.

Davis:                          The family? It becomes you were searching for some type of family support?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. They became my family real quick. It was easy to stay away from my mom and my brothers and sisters. I became selfish real fast. I remember moments when I knew that I was stealing from them. My brothers and sisters are probably going to suffer because I just took twenty bucks or whatever from his wallet or something, because he was making some good money as a kitchen manager. Managing these kitchens and stuff because they paid kitchen managers pretty well back then. I don't know if they still do.

                                    I think so I moved ... I started junior high around thirteen. I remember everybody was twelve. I must've got held back somewhere. I remember I was older than everyone in seventh grade. I remember seventh grade was actually ... Even though I tasted alcohol there and doing, getting in trouble doing boy things. Stealing and whatever. I remember seventh grade was my prep year, where I hung around the rich kids. I got good grades. I went out for football and stuff. I think that's when it really started changing. My step-dad starting saying the same things to me even more. I was just like "pfft whatever." I started hanging around some back then, they called them loads. Starting hanging around the loads, the long-haired guys. The weather and all that.

Davis:                          The grunge?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          That was back in the grunge days.

Bob Grey Eagle:          I started hanging around them and they took me in real fast. I started getting, because of the people I hung around with, I started having a reputation as a scrapper. I just loved it. I started getting real respect. Why would I leave that? Even though I was getting in trouble and being pulled into police stations and all that, it didn't ... It was just that over here I got respect. I didn't want to give it up.

Davis:                          You began fighting and then you liked the respect that you start receiving there. Then so that became your place?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah.

Davis:                          Your identity. You're looking, you're seeking the identity thing, right? Where did it go from ... You hung around the prep kids at seventh grade into the grunge kids?

Bob Grey Eagle:          That happened fast. I think it happened that summer.

Davis:                          That was in a year's span?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Wait. No. Seventh grade and then eighth grade I was doing all right but I just started hanging around other kids that were hanging around other guys and then it was that summer. I got held back. I had to do eighth grade twice. It was easy. I could hang around those guys and that's where I started just really going downhill.

Davis:                          Was it more of a self-esteem thing? Is that where it comes to play in where you fit? Do you feel judged or something or you don't measure up or how did ...?

Bob Grey Eagle:          I don't know because it was really weird because within the groups that I was in, even though I was a part of the load population or whatever, the pot-smokers and the party-ers, I was accepted by both sides. I was respected by both sides. Among the close-knit guys that I used to hang around with, just a bunch of ... There was eight of us Native guys just always come home to my house and we'd sniff glue on the piece. Among those guys, I carried a respect level among them that was ... I don't know, just like addicting. I guess they would, I would ... If I said something ... There was supposed to be a big fight. We were making fun of this gentleman. He comes. He's walking on the way to school and he lifts up his shirt and he's like, "I got a pentagram carved in my chest." I'm looking at it and I'm like, "You drew with a red pen on your chest." We started laughing at him.

                                    Anyways, this guy, I forgot how it all went down. He knew some friends from South Central. South Central Highschool in Bismarck. Got those folks to come up and say that they were going to fight us. The loads. The South Central loads were going to fight the Indians. At that time, folks are coming up to me and I guess I'm in about six periods. About fifth period. "Are you guys fighting? Are you guys fighting?" We're all like passing each other in the hall. We're like, "What's this fight that we're supposed to be doing after school?" "I don't know, I guess we're supposed to be fighting the loads." I'm like, "Guys. Half of us hang around with that crowd, why would we be fighting the ones in this school?" It just didn't make sense.

                                    Even then, it was like the jocks were coming up. Guys in the eighth grade football team. "You guys gonna fight? You guys gonna fight?" Everybody's like, "Holy cow." We knew we had to show up at that time. If we don't show up, our street cred goes down. We show up and we walking out to the parking lot south of the football field there at Hugh’s. There are cars all over the place and there are guys out there. Not kidding. One dude was swinging a chain. I'm like, "Holy cow." We'd just look at each other. At that time there was one of my friends took off. He just took off running and another friend just took off running too. They lived several blocks away. They took off running. I'm like, "What the heck?" Two of our white friends were with us and I was just surprised that they chose to stay with us and fight with us.

                                    I'm like, "Are we really going to do this?" Everybody's like, "We have no choice." We just walk over there and we actually got a lot of recognition by not even fighting. We showed up because PYP showed up. PYP showed up right on time. The assistant principal was telling us, "You guys better not go over there. I'm going to suspend you." We're walking over there. PYP shows up and half of those guys that were in the other parking lots are like, there had to be at least thirty of them. They all get nervous. They take off. We're like, "Holy cow. We're going to have to do this sometime. They're going to want to ..."

                                    Crazy thing is we're starting to walk home and all of a sudden these three trucks pull up and they're big, football guys. We're in Bismarck Demons like, "Holy cow." Big Indian guy jumps out and I knew who he was. His name was Judson. He comes out. He says, "Where are those so-and-so's at?" I'm like, "Holy cow." I look like a little miniature Lord Helmick because my hair is all like dude. I'm like, "What?" "I heard there are loads, you are going to fight the Indians over here." He's got all of Bismarck High's football team. They're all like, I don't know.

Davis:                          Sticking out for the Indians?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Sticking up for the Indian.

Davis:                          Wow.

Bob Grey Eagle:          All of a sudden, they're cruising. One of the vehicles was cruising down because they're wanting to catch us on the way home. He goes. I said, "Well there goes one of the cars," and they all jump in their vehicles. They go booking after them. The fight was supposed to go down again. I think later on that weekend. It never happened or whatever, but just we showed up. It was just, I don't know. It was intoxication because those guys ... They walked with me. I just made the decision. I was like, "We're going to go get pummeled dudes." We just showed up. Even because that event, the next two years of it, the last two years I spent at that junior high, we just, the rep went up. They're like, "These guys are the real deal. They'll show up to fight. To fight when they're outnumbered." It was just crazy.

                                    I share that story because it was just, I don't know. It's a common thing is that I've always been able to lead. I don't know. It's just like, those guys were going to follow me in to get hurt. I was just like ... Being in that group and being among the loads, the party-ers and all that. I still had a following. I didn't want to leave it even though I was getting in trouble and my mom had to come pick me up. It was just ... I did have an identity there. It was just like ...

Davis:                          Leadership.

Bob Grey Eagle:          I didn't want to leave. I'm like, "Why would I go do something else when I'm respected over here?" It's hard to give up.

Davis:                          It was hard. It was hard to leave that. You found your place?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yep.

Davis:                          So they say. That's interesting. That's interesting that the Native American highschooler, who was big, giant guys, sports prep, but then he wanted to stick up for the Natives. He was a prep. He brought non-Natives.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Brought the Bismarck guys.

Davis:                          To support the Native young guys?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yep, it was crazy. It was crazy.

Davis:                          That's interesting. I always enjoy learning about dynamics. How dynamics work.

Bob Grey Eagle:          It was crazy because the jocks just did not like the loads and the jocks showed up, the Bismarck High football team shows up and I'm just floored by, thinking we're going to get pummeled. Holy cow, we have the South Central loads and here comes the jocks and pummel us. They're looking for the guys, the highschool kids from South Central. It was nuts.

Davis:                          Is there a lot of loads or I refer them to as grunge back then?

Bob Grey Eagle:          There weren't a lot at our school. Like I said, because we had such a high respect level, it was like I would've killed my mom if she would've tried to move me out of that school because it's like you don't understand. We're respected by everyone here. I remember one kid, he was sitting at the table. He flings a pea or something. Trying to get his friend who's sitting across and it comes over and hits on our table. The load table sitting in the back, we had a bunch of folks. People are like, at that time they used to call me Israel or Izzy or something like that. "You just hit Israel!" They're waiting for me to do something. It's a little tiny, Lord Helmick guy going to do something with Chihuahua! I was going to go bark or something. I got up and I just remember it was one of the first times I displayed in a public setting, mercy, and I just went up and the kid thought, "I'm going to be destroyed."

                                    I just went up to him and I can't remember if I had the pea in my hand or something, but I just looked at him. He looks at me and I said, "Um, nice throw." I just went back and sat down and everybody's like, "What the heck!? That's it? That's it?" I remember. I don't know. I can still see the kid too. I remember that it just, it felt good not to go up and bully someone. He was a little seventh grader.

Davis:                          You, I think what you were experiencing or realized was the opportunity to ... because you knew you had some leadership. You knew you had followers. I think maybe you realized the impact. You had an opportunity to influence the others watching. How to be … how to behave.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah, I did. I could feel the eyes. People were watching.

Davis:                          Interesting. Throughout, it sounds like the ... Throughout this whole experience, there is a lot of wisdom and leadership that's stemmed throughout your childhood. Whether you wanted to or not, that's how it played out. That leads you to today. You want to share it, kind of ending, and what you're doing today?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Where I'm at today is because of an encounter I had with Creator God in my home, in my bottom of the bucket. I was on the verge of divorce. Just laid off. Addicted. Couldn't stop. Basically, just read a book that was talking about ... It was called, "Power For Living." Read that book and ended up staying up a long time. I had to jump. Nothing to get me worse than where I was at. I jumped and I decided to follow. Become a follower of Jesus Christ. My life changed. It just changed overnight. I can't explain it. I tried explaining it to my wife. She was like the first skeptic, just out of the gate. "This guy's just lying again and he's going to take our family down ever a worse road."

                                    Over the course of three years after that, because that happened on November twenty-ninth of two thousand. After that happened, it was just like my life just changed. Everything just started aligning. It was like right as soon as I got connected to Heavenly Father, it was just like this vision and this power and this ... I had access to resources I never had before. Just, I was like, "Okay there's something here." I remember when I was nineteen I was convicted of a felony because of a dollar amount of ... Anyways, that felony, that always haunted me. I just remember reading in the Word of what it was described to be a follower.

                                    It says something, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation." I just held on to that. I was different. There was something different. My wife says to me, and her dad, "You need to apply for these new positions with the government." I apply, and get accepted. Then so I'm like “Holy cow!”  Go out there, they give me my paperwork. It's part-time paperwork. When they sign, when they had me sign they gave me full-time paperwork. They gave me full-time paperwork so I actually, they had to honor the full-time paperwork. I got in as a full-time employee. Then I finished, they called it basic screener training. I finished that and I was driving, living University of Mary because that's where the training was. I couldn't help but pull over and I just crying.

                                    I'm like, "Why are you doing this for me? Because you know who I am and why do you want to continue to do this stuff for me?" I just remember I was just crying and then I started ... I was just filled with joy. I started driving away. I'm like, "Holy cow, he like did this." Two years later, I'm working out there and they find out that the company that did our background checks messed it up, so they had to do them again. Holy cow! They're talking like this, like I'm talking right. Talking to God. I'm like, "Heavenly Father, they're going to find it. If they didn't find it the first time, they're going to find out." I've always disclosed every job I've had. I've said, "When I was nineteen, I was convicted of this. I finished what all they said and all this stuff." I always disclosed it.

                                    They go through it again. Nothing comes up. What was different, I went and I talked to my boss. I said, "This is in my past. Blah blah blah." He was onboard. He says, "Guess what? The FSD says that he's going to fight for you. You are one of his best employees. He's going to keep you." I go through the next six years at TSA and there's a new position that's open. I apply for that one. This one comes with a secret clearance. It means that they have to do a more in-depth search, or background search, on me. I'm like, "Okay. They're definitely going to find it here because they're going to talk to everyone I know." It's a deeper search.

                                    I find out that they ... I disclose it again. Tell my boss. They're like, "Look, we're going to fight for you." This guy was a different guy at the top of TSA at that time. He goes, "No. You were nineteen. That's ... You're a totally ..." That guy and this guy are totally different. I'm going to fight for you. Don't worry about it. I'm like, "Holy cow." He proved it three times that ... Heavenly Father proved it three times that I'm a different man than I was back then. Now, flash forward to this day, all the things in between, so between November twenty-ninth to two thousand to today, he keeps promoting me. Now he has me in a position I designed. They have emergency operations center. No one wanted to design it. No one wanted to get it started. I went up there. I got it started. I didn't know nothing about it.

                                    I got that started. Made an emergency response center that is now hooked in with all the other response centers in North Dakota. They were like, "We need someone to take over the training department. What about Grey Eagle?" They're like, "We're going to put you over there." I'm like, "I'm not done in the coordination center yet. I'm still have a workload over there." "No, you're down there." I'm like, "Holy cow." They move me over there. Got that. Now cleaned that up because my predecessor was a little bit lax. Didn't have some systems in place.

                                    Doing all of this with not knowing. You went to school. I had to learn it on the job. I'm like calling people throughout the country. I'm like, "Hey, how do you do training?" They're like, "That's easy, you just do this. Here I'll share my screen." I knew that right away that I had to network to succeed. Throughout that, he just keeps on blessing me through this. Then on top of all that, he's seen fit to say that I want you to tell folks hope too. I want you to be credentialed minister. I want you to be a pastor in a church. I'm like, "Okay. How am I going to do that? I'm working full time for TSA." "I'm going to make a way."

Davis:                          You're talking about the Lord is speaking this to you?

Bob Grey Eagle:          Yeah. Just showing it to me. People are coming up to me. I attend a Pentecostal Church. Most people are like, "Whoa, timeout. What? You attended Pentecostal Church and ..." These folks are just speaking these words over me and I'm like, "Okay I get it to a point," but saying all of that, he keeps on doing these things. Putting me in positions of influence and positions of authority and stuff. Now he's calling me out of TSA. Every day I'm there, it just feels like I'm not supposed to be there. It doesn't feel right. I work part-time. I work two part-time jobs with the hours that I deal in are unique so I don't ... I do part-time associate pastor with a church here in town, and then the other part of it is Nation's Movement with Campus Crusade for Christ. We actually serve tribal colleges in North Dakota.

                                    I told them my vision. I'm like, "There needs to be some kind of discipleship program and I don't see that anywhere, created anywhere." Since I know training now, that'd be pretty easy to develop and create. They're just like, "When can you start?" "I have a full-time job." They're like, "We need to get you hooked up with some people and we need to raise your funds," because that's how they do it. There was each employee with crew raises their own funds. I say all of that because all the stuff in my past is meaningless. Once I got hooked into God, something I hadn't seen, because I've looked at all these guys. Compared them to my dad, and all of those men are ... All those ... I say I have many fathers. All of them never measured up to this guy that was never there. Now this God is ... I don't see him. He's been the most active and the most faithful thing ever in my life.

                                    Where I'm at now, what got me here, really. I have to give him the credit because I just ... We as Indian people, we know Creator. We know. He brought me in and I can't help but say like we used to as boys. I look at my dad. No one's going to measure up to him. Guess what? No one's going to measure up to my Heavenly Father. That's who I'm going to give the credit to for why I'm at where I'm at today.

Davis:                          That is so great. That is such a great story. I, just by listening, I can see how he set you up. He set you in your path to prepare you for today. He's leading you to disciple. To discipleship. I'm just thankful for you being in our community. Our Native American community needs that strong leadership, our young people, our young adults. We all need it. I just hope you the best in your continued walk within our community.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Thank you.

Davis:                          Thank you for this interview and again, thank you for sharing.

Bob Grey Eagle:          Thank you for the honor to do so.

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