Born in Fort Washakie, Wyoming, a trouble maker and full of attitude, Devin Nagitsy moved from a reservation to his great grandmothers in Idaho in 2006. Today, he is a Future Marine recruited out of Pocatello, ready to leave for recruit training and earn the title of United States Marine.
“It was culture shock,” said Nagitsy. “I went from living in the middle of nowhere, going to a school with all native students and teachers and only 100 students, to a school with 400 white students. I quickly adapted though and became friends with the kids on my block. It was this way until about freshman year when I started visiting Fort Hall Reservation. That’s when I started reconnecting with my roots.”
Nagitsy is enlisted in the Shoshone-Bannock tribes of southeastern Idaho and has bloodlines of four tribes; Northern Cheyenne, Eastern Shoshone, Shoshone-Bannock and Navajo.
“I started connecting with my old traditions,” said Nagitsy. “When my great grandpa passed away, I was gifted his dancing regalia and feathers. I started to make bustles for my own regalia and make them to order too. I learned how to do this from what my great grandfather left for me and the local tribal elders. I also started to dance and became one of the only young original Shoshone-Bannock traditional dancer.”
For his last two years of high school, Nagitsy once again moved schools. This time to Shoshone-Bannock Junior/Senior High School, experiencing another culture shock.
Nagitsy said he didn’t fit in because he hadn’t been to a native school in so many years. But he was soon offered a place on the basketball and football teams. It was the first time in four years the school had a football team and he was proud to be a part of it.
“I managed to do all of this without drinking or doing drugs, which is a really big problem,” said Nagitsy. “Most kids my age had dropped out of high school and now can’t get a job. I stayed away from all of that because I have seen how it changes people.”
Nagitsy started to realize that he liked being a part of something bigger than himself. It gave him a sense of pride and belonging that he never really had growing up.
“I grew up with an alcoholic father. My great grandmother raised me and our family hasn’t been together or the same since my great grandfather died in 2008,” said Nagitsy. “I have 10 siblings that I want to inspire. I hope that by becoming a Marine, I can encourage my younger siblings to strive for something better, to be the best they can be. Especially my little sister who is two. She needs a positive role model.”
Despite the many challenges growing up, Nagitsy seeks to improve himself and to move on with his life while still staying connected to his roots.
“I am afraid of having a boring life,” said Nagitsy. “I want to wake up every morning having something to look forward to. I feel that the Marine Corps will give that to me. But I also want to inspire the younger generations here at home to not be scare of a different environment or becoming a different person. I have already created a glimmer of light for the community being the first of our tribe to raise my right hand in over ten years. I will continue to strive for this and to positively influence my community as a United States Marine.”
Nagitsy’s great grandmother, Leola Nagitsy, said she was shocked when she found out her great grandson wanted to become a Marine. She said he is such a good boy, always by my side giving me a helping hand.
“It took me by surprise, but when I thought about it, it is his own choice that he made and I am proud of him!” said Leola. “I feel good about this, he is doing something good for himself. The community is praying for him and I told him to pray and always be strong, to pray with the earth, the dirt and water. We will be here when he gets back. I love him.”
Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Purcell, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of RSS Idaho Falls, says he doesn’t think Nagitsy fully comprehends the extent of the impact he has on the local community and how many people are looking up to him. He is very humble about it and that is why he will succeed.
Leaving for boot camp on Jan. 16, 2018, Nagitsy said he is ready to challenge himself, to become a role model and to impact his community by inspiring them to become better versions of themselves.