A foot in two worlds

A foot in two worlds

Darryl Lazare Jr. values the freedom of growing up on the Mohawk Nation territory of Akwesasne and loves his family here. But he wants out.
Published: May 30, 2019 | Updated: June 8th, 2019 at 4:59 pm
Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds
Darryl Lazare Jr. goes fishing with his grandfather on the Saint Lawrence River, the same water his grandfather fished on with his father. A bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada looms in the background.

Trying to balance the many demands of being a high schooler has left Darryl Lazare Jr. with little time to learn the language and customs of his own people.

Lazare Jr. is a junior at Massena High School in Massena, N.Y. He plays saxophone in the band, goes on McDonald’s runs with his friends, and plays the video game Call of Duty — which he even dreams about. He enjoys math and science, mostly because it comes so easily to him, he said.

He grew up as part of the Mohawk tribe on the Akwesasne Nation, the only Indigenous Nation that cuts across the U.S.-Canadian border. At his parents’, the house is in Canada, and the backyard is in the United States.

Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds

Lazare Jr. and Sarah Ward, a freshman at Massena High School, enjoy one of the first warm Saturdays in early April. The two used to date, but took a break when things got too serious too quickly. They are still friends and went to prom together this year.

Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds

Lazare Jr. leaves his grandparents home, where he lives, to go hang out with friends.

Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds

Lazare Jr. doesn’t know as much about the Akwesasne culture as he would like. He can’t speak Mohawk and doesn’t attend many festivals.

But he would like to to learn or at the very least he plans on making his children learn and carry on the culture.

And while he loves and values the freedom and family that enveloped him on the reservation, he wants to get out. “There is no room for achievement here,” he said.

Through a Promise Scholarship, which pays for first-year students who are certified citizens of one of the Haudenosaunee nations and have “resided on one of the Haudenosaunee nation territories for a minimum of four years,” Lazare Jr. could go to Syracuse University.

But he doesn’t know what university he wants to attend yet, or exactly what he wants to study, though engineering is a possibility, the 17-year-old said.

Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds

Ward and Lazare Jr. on their drive home from dinner. They spend their time playing video games, driving around and just doing normal teenager things.

Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds

Lazare Jr.'s parents' house on the Akwesasne reservation is in Canada while the backyard is in the United States.

 

 

 

 

Lazare Jr. often takes refuge on the Saint Lawrence River where he fishes with his grandfather.

Lazare Jr. says the water isn’t very clean after years of companies dumping their waste in the river. Thus anything they catch is less desirable and many people in the community refuse to eat the fish.

But Lazare Jr.’s grandfather will still eat the fish and also brings them cooked to community elders as a sign of respect.

The importance of community and family is prevalent throughout the Akwesasne nation, where sometimes whole families will live on one street for generations.

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Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds
Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds
Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds
Lazare Jr. and his grandfather spend some of their free time on the Saint Lawrence River.
Akwesasne: Foot in two worlds
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is a photojournalism junior and NewsHouse visual journalist.