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Vern McFalls

Vern welcomes readers to read his words here.

Mostly raised in Topeka, Kansas, Vernon R. McFalls was born in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother was a member of the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska, (there are two bands of this tribe, one in Nebraska, one in Wisconsin). Vern's father was African-American and Cherokee. He says that there's "a little French floating around somewhere in that mix, too." He was adopted by a great aunt (also a Winnebago) and a great uncle, also of Cherokee and African American decent.

Vern says that his mother paid dearly for her penchant for children. He was the 11th child to enter the University of Kansas for open heart surgery, and was given a 50 percent chance of surviving. His mother stood by him and made sure he lived.

He went to school in Topeka, growing up mostly in the area of Highland Park. At that time it was not part of Topeka proper but an unincorporated township. Vern didn't encounter discrimination in his semi-rural school system. He says, "As a child, my life was wonderfully free of racist sentiments. My mother was also a tigress when it came to defending myself and two siblings, also adopted." Vern adds:

"We led what can only be called a rather idyllic life. My mother was rather well-read. She was also one of those rare women who could, as my dad put it, 'do any thing.' I remember my mother building a new room addition on our home, (with no help, I might add) and wiring it. She also was able to do any thing else that was necessary from keeping books for my dad's trash route (his second job) to canning food. Mom really was a jack of all trades. Her signature words of wisdom were, 'If you don't know how to do, get a book and teach your self how.'

"She believed you could do any thing you set your mind too and accepted no excuses. She was also a very warm and compassionate person. She attended church, but told me after I attend with her some at the age of 5 that that I was free to continue to go or not that was my decision. We'd had some previous discussion on hippocracy and human behavior before that questions. I opted to not do so and have not looked back to this day.

"Both my parents were of the mind that religion was all right, but that action, compassion, honor and truthfulness would hold you in good stead and guide as well as any thing. She and my dad believe these things could be found inside most human beings. I was also given some guidance into the ways of traditional Native American spirituality and thinking. For these I thank my mom and dad eternally.

"My dad worked hard, was truthful and humble to no one. Always meeting each new person with fairness, courage and an extended hand. My mother passed on early, my dad we were lucky to have with us until his 90th birth day. He was always well liked, loved children and respected in our community. These qualities I have always tried to hold close as they are the cornerstone of being a good human being.

"We did spend a good deal of time on the reservation. When Indians say they are going home for a while, they mean, 'They are going home for a while.' It was common to spend three weeks at a time, sometimes more on the Rez five or six times a year. Basically, you brought groceries, and moved in for a few weeks. So, I was exposed to aunts, uncles and every one on the Rez. I also learned how to fight there. You had to fight all your cousins. So you learned another thing inherent to Native American life. As my mom put it, 'Never be afraid of any thing!' These things shaped me."

Vern has worked previously as a photojournalist, a reporter, and assistant producer. He has also worked as a marketing director and has managed a couple of small businesses. In years past, he has also worked at a community organizer, once winning a substantial sum of money from a north east Kansas city government for its citizens. He helped to established regular airing on cable of local city council meetings in that city; probably the first to air council meetings in Kansas.

He still produces video commercials and promotions, as well as writes scripts and copy. Vern is experienced in most aspects of commercial, field production and electronic news gathering. He writes for a local publication the Topeka Magazine and has done so since it started. He freelances as well, doing video, promotions, and consulting regarding strategy for independent films and other projects.

Vern teaches media, video and computer skills at an area high school with an amazing bunch of kids, (most very disadvantaged) and has done so for 13 years. Vern says that he originally had no intention of staying this long, but he has found the students fun and fascinating.

He keeps up with current events and teaches his students that it's important to be informed and knowledgeable about your surroundings in order to be a good citizen. He's a people person and loves meeting new people. As his mother always told him, "We are all part of the same family."

We look forward to Vern's writing here at Kansas Free Press and are happy to welcome him to our citizen journalism project.

Readers can browse Vern's archives here.

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