By JOSEPH DIAZ
Twelve-year-old Robert Looks Twice appears to be the quintessential all-American boy. He is the quarterback of his school’s football team, student council president and one of the top students in his class.
But he hasn’t forgotten his Lakota Sioux roots. Unlike most kids on the reservation, he keeps his hair long, a symbol of strength and he performs at powwows, traditionally known as wacipis, where he is a champion of the traditional Lakota dance. His moves emulate rituals performed by his ancestors. Robert was inspired to start dancing by his grandfather, John Tail, who had a small role in “Dances with Wolves.” Six years ago, John passed away and Robert wears little wolves on his outfits in his memory.
We are told his last name “Looks Twice” came about because his ancestors were cautious and always took a second look.
Robert lives in a trailer with his grandmother, uncle and eight other cousins. When he gives us a tour, the trailer is falling apart. “It getting ready to cave in,” says Robert of the kitchen floor. The family also put trash bags on the ceiling because it’s leaking. “When it rains it gets all my shirts wet,” he says of another leak in his bedroom. Often the electricity goes out and the family must use the burners on the stove to heat the house.
This kind of poverty is typical of the reservation. It’s the third poorest county in America and Robert’s community, Manderson, is known for its high crime rate. But despite all the temptations of drugs and alcohol around him (it is estimated the alcoholism rate on the reservation is as high as 80 percent) Robert remains focused on being the first person in his family to go to college and then a very big dream.
“I want to be the first Native American President,” Robert told Diane Sawyer. “I want to build better houses, clean up the [reservation] because it’s bad. Get people off the drugs and alcohol and spending that money on their kids. Build a better school and playground. Try to get a mall down here to help people get work.”
Learn more about Robert and the challenges he and other Pine Ridge children — like Tashina Iron Horse — face Friday at 10 p.m. ET on “Hidden America: Children of the Plains,” a “20/20″ special with Diane Sawyer. Watch a sneak peek of Diane Sawyer’s interview with Robert below: