Elsie moved back to Macy in the early ‘80s and got married in 1985, becoming Elsie Clark. She had a son, who was 15 when she got married, and later had a daughter. Her son graduated from high school and then from UNL but is saddled with large student loans. She is encouraging her son to look at a new Obama initiative to make student loans more affordable. Her daughter, Jenette, did well in high school. She attended a 98% non-Indian school in Dawes District and was accepted to Creighton University. As Elsie describes it, “She kind of went full circle. She went to Creighton, and then she went to Haskell, and then to Little Priest Junior College. I told her she should have started with the community college” (Interview). Both her children struggled with alcohol. Elsie’s son, daughter, and granddaughter now live with Elsie on their grandfather’s allotted land where Elsie grew up.
Back in Macy, Elsie worked for 15 or 16 years with a non-profit: Macy Youth and Family Services. “That was the first non-profit organization our tribe had in our community. I still have the 501” (Interview). When I asked her if it was successful, she replied, “Oh yeah. There are a lot of things that happen in this community, and it’s very sad. The alcohol rate is so high. The standard of education is not that high for our kids to do well, to be confident enough to go to college. They do go to college, but they don’t last. I think maybe it’s the lack of resources. They are not taught those skills, and they should be” (Interview).
On a brighter note, she added, “But we have one girl who went to Creighton from Macy. She did it in 4 years. We now have a lot of people who are graduating from college. We have several Ph.D.’s” (Interview). Elsie enthusiastically described some success stories: one Native girl became a Physical Therapist at Creighton; her nephew, Ed Zendejas’s, biological children all graduated from college; and two of his daughters became successful attorneys. Ed also has a law degree and is the director of UNO’s Native American Studies Program. She added happily that all of her nephew’s kids are also “really proud of their heritage” (Interview).
Looking at those families, the strong point in their lives is their spirituality, and their stability as a family, and all their strengths: their commitment, respect, and discipline. They somehow were able to incorporate that into their family life, as they were going along. All their kids are following suit” (Interview). Her nephew’s family members are all Latter Day Saints (LDS), and her cousin and her uncle were strong members. Elsie grew up a reformed LDS but watched her uncle take his ten kids to church every Sunday, saw the strength of their family, and thought, “There must be something in that religion” (Interview). Click here to listen to Elsie describe her search before joining the LDS church.
I went through Sweat Lodge, and Native American Church, and Presbyterian Church, and now I’m with LDS church. I was baptized in 1984.