Reflections from a 2020 High School Graduate


By Eldayshun Big Bear Mille Lacs Band Member

Band member Eldayshun Big Bear gave this speech at the graduation ceremony for Isle High School on July 17.

Growing up as a young Native American kid in America has its pros and cons. At a younger age, I was always viewed a little different because of my skin color, the clothes I wore, and the music I listened to. It took some years to grasp, but eventually I embraced it. Growing up, I started to realize that motivating and inspiring people has always been my interest, so I hope this speech has true meaning to some of you.

I was never the smartest kid in the classroom. I don’t remember a lot of times that my test scores stood out to anybody, or many times that I made the A and B honor roll. I would just show up, learn, and turn in my work. My grades were never the best, but as long as my mom knew I was trying my best and was able to dress up on game day, we were good, so that motivated and scared me into getting my work done.

I made a lot of memories with these amazing people right here; we are a family and one of a kind. I’ve learned a lot on this long (but short) journey. First, no matter what, you’re always going to have people criticize you, no matter the accomplishment, no matter how much money you make, or how many followers you have. Whether it’s to help you out or not, you’re going to have some words said to you that may hurt your feelings. Just take in what you want and sometimes consider it. Only you know what’s best for you.

Another thing I learned is to accept people for who they are. Every single one of us is unique in our own way. If their intentions are bad, you know you shouldn’t associate with them, so just always do what’s best for you and your future.

Life isn’t fair sometimes. This is a touchy subject for me, but for example, when my father passed away, it hit me like a truck, out of nowhere. I asked myself, “Well, what now?” I didn’t know what life would be like without my father, who I wanted to impress every day of my young life. But you need to make goals, small goals even, to keep yourself going. Don’t get stuck in your head with those everlasting negative thoughts that kill your mood, and remember, you live to fight another day. My favorite music artist, Montana of 300, says a lot of motivational quotes, but one of them stuck out to me: “Success is proof that you’ve evolved and mastered difficult times.” You have to go through some rain to see the sun some days.

Another important thing I’ve learned throughout high school is that it’s okay to have fun and it’s okay to stick to yourself sometimes, like myself. All my friends and teachers know I’m not much of a “people person” unless I’m comfortable around you (so this public speaking stuff is not my thing).

Another thing is, be your own kind of “different.” Don’t go miles and miles to try and impress people; just be yourself no matter what people think. Like I said, we’re all unique in our way. We all have a story behind us, so don’t let negative words determine how your path is going to turn out. Appreciate your loved ones, of course, and just BE YOU. Be great at what you’re doing and take opportunities. Greatness has no limit. It takes all of us together to bring this world to what it was before.

Lastly, something I’ve learned within these past 5–6 months is to cherish high school and enjoy being a kid. These are the most important years of your life, and it goes by way too fast. Enjoy listening to all the drama in high school, because in the end, none of it will matter later in life. It’s a journey worth taking, if you view it from a positive angle.

Now to move on, there’s a couple people that I want to thank, but first, I want to thank all of my teachers, coaches, family, and friends throughout the years. You’re all loved and appreciated. Thank you for the endless amount of support.

The first person I’m going to start off with is my brother Todd, one of the only men I’ve ever had in my life. We both had to fight through adversity. We’ve seen each other both laugh and cry, and of course we would fight sometimes, but at the end of the day, that’s my best friend. He’s a good father and an amazing brother, and fun fact: He’s the one that told me to start playing basketball, so thank you for that. I love you, Todd.

Next, I want to thank my stepdad, Joel Potter, a true man in my eyes with a sense of humor like nobody else (but when he gets mad, watch out). But dad, I just want to say thank you for showing me what a real father looks like. You’re the heart and soul of the Potter family. You gave me one of the most important people in my life, and that’s my little big brother Joel Potter Jr. If you’re listening to this, bro, I love you.

Real quick, before I move on, I want to make a tribute to my father, Michael James Day, in heaven. Dear Dad, if you’re listening to this, I did it, 18 years later, with only a handful of memories that we share. I still fight through every day, wondering if you’re still as proud of me as you were when you left this world. I will never forget you and your voice; it’s forever engraved in my heart. Thank you for motivating me to not go down the wrong path, and thank you for trying to be there. I love and miss you every single day. Love, your baby boy, Eldayshun James Big Bear.

Okay, there’s two more really important people that I want to thank. One of them happens to work here at the school and goes by the name of Travis Turgeon. You either love this guy or you hate him, there’s no in between. He’s a family man, a natural coach, and a bucket getter. That man can hoop, but can’t guard me. In all seriousness, Coach, you’re my idol. You’re a family man who works hard day in and day out to provide for your loved ones. You’re always putting smiles on people’s faces, and you’re always in the mood to help someone and coach them in any way possible. We’ve had some deep talks throughout my high school career. This man knows a lot about me, and he’s one of the few people I trust with my feelings and words. Thank you, Coach, for giving me the opportunity to be myself around you on and off the basketball court, but most importantly for being there for me when I needed you the most. You give me hope that there’s still positivity in this world, and better yet in this town. God bless you, Coach.

Lastly, I want to thank my mom, Darcie Big Bear. Everybody give her a hand for me. Mom, you’re my hero. You took the role of being both the mom and the dad of our little family, and I never once saw you make excuses or give up at any point in time. You’re a warrior, one of the strongest, most hard-working people I know. You never failed to put food on the table, never failed to get us gifts for Christmas, never failed to be the loudest one cheering at basketball games. You’re the Michael Jordan of all moms in my eyes. Raising two boys at a young age is a hard task to do, but look where we’re at now. Your youngest son graduated high school, and it’s only up from here. We’re gonna make it together, Mom, I promise you that. It always has been and it always will be me, you, and Todd for life.

Thank you everybody for listening. I love y’all, and stay safe and healthy.