Archives for posts with tag: Native Americans

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Snapshots
by Tiffany Midge

I. April, 1969 “…they are fighting again.” ~ Walter Cronkite

They are fighting again. My plastic, green soldiers are marching across the dense shag carpet capturing POW Fisher Price animals and GI Joe action figures. They are fighting again. Barbie and Skipper are taken hostage by Ken and drowned in the bathtub. They are fighting again. My Black baby doll Tamu is tortured by the Velveteen Rabbit, her talking string gets stuck on one lonely phrase, sock it to me baby, sock it to me baby, sock it to me baby. They are fighting again. My Etch-a-Sketch draws a picture of military intelligentsia popping war buttons and planning strategic defenses. They are fighting again. The Brothers Grimm are cutting fillets of Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid and choking the princess on her pea. They are fighting again. Betty and Veronica turn Jughead’s and Archie’s top secret mission into Viet Cong Headquarters. They are fighting again. All sixty-four Crayola crayons grind the heads of the box of twenty-four in its built-in-sharpener, leaving no survivors. They are fighting again—they are fighting again—they are fighting again.

II. Halloween, 1972

It’s Halloween night. This year more than anything I want to be a real Indian. But my mother didn’t have time to make me a costume, so I wear a billowing, white sheet and go out as Casper the friendly ghost.

III. Birthday, 1971

It’s my birthday. I ask my mother: when I grow up will I be a full-blooded Indian?

IV. Cowboys and Indians, 1972

They are fighting again. It’s raining cats and dogs outside and they are fighting cowboys and Indians inside. I don’t know which side to take, either way I’m branded a traitor or renegade. I have no loyalty for either side. All I can do is sit divided somewhere in the middle of their war and wait for this damn rain to stop. Wait for the thunder to break and the clouds to separate into two equal parts that don’t add up to the confusion in my fractioned heart. Then, maybe the sun will come out and my parents will forgive the broken pieces of themselves.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author in 1972 at age 8, Snoqualmie Valley, Washington.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Snapshots” is a result of growing up cowboys and Indians in a small Pacific Northwest town in the Cascade foothills, where my father (white) taught middle school and my mother (Lakota Sioux) worked as civil servant for King County in the years before their marriage dissolved. Those formative years were gauzed with the kind of malaise that winds up as the raw material for future stories, as fodder. These “snapshots” are from a larger piece from my book Outlaws, Renegades and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-Up Halfbreed (Greenfield Review Press, 1994), which is a chronicle of my childhood in poems and prose poems.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tiffany Midge is the recipient of the Kenyon Review Earthworks Prize for Indigenous Poetry for The Woman Who Married a Bear (University of New Mexico Press, forthcoming) and the Diane Decorah Memorial Poetry Award for Outlaws, Renegades and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-Up Halfbreed (Greenfield Review Press). Her work has appeared in North American Review, The Raven Chronicles, Florida Review, South Dakota Review, Shenandoah, Yellow Medicine Review, and the online journals No Tell Motel and Drunken Boat. An enrolled Standing Rock Sioux, she holds an MFA from University of Idaho and divides her time between Moscow, Idaho (Nez Perce country), and Seattle.

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two-coyote day at Rinconada Canyon, New Mexico
by Richard Vargas

black rock mesa walls
eternal gift from
distant volcanoes in
quiet deep sleep

high desert sage winter-dry
brittle skeletons anchored
in ancient dirt peppered
with rabbit droppings

etched into cold hard
flat rock surface
shapes and figures of
another time when

man heard wisdom
carried on the breath
of the mesa winds

at night listened as
the stars whispered
dark stories of
the beginning
and the end

SOURCE: Guernica, revisited by Richard Vargas, Press 53 (April 2014). Order a copy at press53.com.

IMAGE: “Black Rock Mesa Walls” (Albuquerque, New Mexico) by Richard Vargas

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The petroglyphs on the westside of Albuquerque are mysterious and other-worldly. Animals, humanoid stick figures looking like crude drawings of space aliens, weird designs and scribbles. What did the artists really see, or were they just f**king around? Shamans high on ‘shrooms or a bunch of kids taking swigs from the bottle and doodling? No one really knows, and we probably never will. (Photo by Richard Vargas.)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas was born in Compton, California, and attended schools in Compton, Lynwood, and Paramount. He earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin and Richard Lee. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980. His first book, McLife, was featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac in February 2006. A second book, American Jesus, was published by Tia Chucha Press in 2007. His third book, Guernica, revisited, was published in April 2014, by Press 53. (A poem from the book was featured on Writer’s Almanac to kick off National Poetry Month.) Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, and was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference. Vargas will facilitate a poetry workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, and he has read his poetry in venues in Los Angeles, Chicago, Madison, Albuquerque/Santa Fe/Taos, Indianapolis, and Boulder. Currently, he resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he edits/publishes The Más Tequila Review, and will facilitate The Más Tequila Poetry Workshop this July at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference.

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AH, AH
by Joy Harjo

for Lurline McGregor

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.
 
Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.
 
Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.
 
Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.
 
Ah, ah tatttoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.
 
Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.
 
Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.

“Ah, Ah” appears in Joy Harjo’s collection How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems:1975-2001 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joy Harjo was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is of Native American and Canadian ancestry. Strongly influenced by her Muskogee Creek heritage, feminist and social concerns, and her background in the arts, Harjo frequently incorporates Native American myths, symbols, and values into her writing. Her poetry tends to emphasize the Southwest landscape and need for remembrance and transcendence. (Read more at poetryfoundation.org.) Visit the author at joyharjo.com.

PHOTO: “Crow and Palm Tree” by Max ClarkePhotographer’s note: This crow leaves the nest for a movie theater parking lot. Crows like sitting on palm tree branches. They enjoy riding the leaves that sway in the soft breeze. They also like hula music and drinks with tiny umbrellas. (Visit the photographer at photocosm.com.)

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I AM BEAR
Pueblo Indian Poem

I am a Bear.
In my solitude I resemble the wind.
I blow the clouds together
So they form images of my friends.

…from Many Winters: Prose and Poetry of the Pueblos, edited by Nancy Wood, available at Amazon.com

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SKY BEAR
Mohawk Indian Legend

Long ago,
three hunters and their little dog
found the tracks of a giant bear.
They followed those tracks
all through the day
and even though it was almost dark
they did not stop, but continued on.
They saw that bear now, climbing up
a hill, which glittered with new-fallen snow.
They ran hard to catch it,
but the bear was too fast.
They ran and they ran, climbing
up and up until one of the hunters said,
“Brothers, look down.”
They did and saw they
were high above Earth.
That bear was Sky Bear,
running on through the stars.
Look up now
and you will see her,
circling the sky.

…from THE EARTH UNDER SKY BEAR’S FEET: Native American Poems of the Land, a storybook for children 4-8 by Joseph Bruchac, with illustrations by Thomas Locker (Puffin, 1998), available atAmazon.com.

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“I take great pleasure in writing when I get a real voice going and I’m able to follow the voice and the character. It’s like being in a trance state. Once that had happened a few times, I knew I needed to write for the rest of my life. I began to crave the trance state. I would be able to return to the story anytime, and it would play out in front of me, almost effortlessly. Not many of my stories work out that way. Most of my work is simple persistence …

But if the trance happens, even though it’s been wonderful, I’m suspicious. It’s like an ecstatic love affair or fling that makes you think, it can’t be this good, it can’t be! And it never is. I always need to go back and reconfigure parts of the voice. So the control is working with the piece after it’s written, finding the end. The title’s always there, the beginning’s always there, sometimes I have to wait for the middle, and then I always write way past the end and wind up cutting off two pages.”

LOUISE ERDRICH, The Paris Review (Winter 2010)

Illustration: Portrait of Louise Erdrich (Chicago Magazine, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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AH, AH
by Joy Harjo

for Lurline McGregor

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.
 
Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.
 
Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.
 
Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.
 
Ah, ah tatttoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.
 
Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.
 
Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.

“Ah, Ah” appears in Joy Harjo’s collection How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems:1975-2001 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joy Harjo was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is of Native American and Canadian ancestry. Strongly influenced by her Muskogee Creek heritage, feminist and social concerns, and her background in the arts, Harjo frequently incorporates Native American myths, symbols, and values into her writing. Her poetry tends to emphasize the Southwest landscape and need for remembrance and transcendence. (Read more at poetryfoundation.org.) Visit the author at joyharjo.com.

PHOTO: “Crow and Palm Tree” by Max Clarke. Photographer’s note: This crow leaves the nest for a movie theater parking lot. Crows like sitting on palm tree branches. They enjoy riding the leaves that sway in the soft breeze. They also like hula music and drinks with tiny umbrellas. (Visit the photographer at photocosm.com.)

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SKY BEAR
Mohawk Indian Legend

Long ago,
three hunters and their little dog
found the tracks of a giant bear.
They followed those tracks
all through the day
and even though it was almost dark
they did not stop, but continued on.
They saw that bear now, climbing up
a hill, which glittered with new-fallen snow.
They ran hard to catch it,
but the bear was too fast.
They ran and they ran, climbing
up and up until one of the hunters said,
“Brothers, look down.”
They did and saw they
were high above Earth.
That bear was Sky Bear,
running on through the stars.
Look up now
and you will see her,
circling the sky.

…from THE EARTH UNDER SKY BEAR’S FEET: Native American Poems of the Land, a storybook for children 4-8 by Joseph Bruchac, with illustrations by Thomas Locker (Puffin, 1998), available at Amazon.com.

Image
I AM BEAR
Pueblo Indian Poem

I am a Bear.
In my solitude I resemble the wind.
I blow the clouds together
So they form images of my friends.

…from Many Winters: Prose and Poetry of the Pueblos, Edited by Nancy Wood, available at Amazon.com

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Since I don’t own a TV and haven’t been watching the Olympics, I don’t know if the coverage has included segments about Jim Thorpe, the star of the 1912 games in Stockholm, Sweden. In a recent poll by ABC sports, Thorpe was voted the greatest athlete of the 20th century (besting Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jordan).

Of Irish, French, and Native American ancestry, Thorpe was born in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1888 and attended high school at the Carlisle (Pennsylvania) Indian Industrial School, where he excelled in baseball, football, lacrosse, track and field, and even ballroom dancing.

At the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathalon — but a year later the Olympics committee stripped him of his records and medals. The committee contended that Thorpe was not qualified to compete as an amateur because he’d earned a few dollars per game when playing baseball during summers as a youth. After many attempts by many individuals, Thorpe’s Olympics records were reinstated in 1982 and his children were awarded commemorative medals (the originals were stolen from museums).

I first learned about Thorpe when viewing Jim Thorpe All American, the 1951 biopic starring Burt Lancaster. It’s a tearjerker, but enjoyable and elevating in its way. Find out more about the movie here.

I have avoided using the “R” word in this article — but you have to wonder if a European American would have been so treated in the wide, wide world of sports, even in 1912.

Note on the above photo: On the day Thorpe competed in the decathalon, someone stole his shoes. At the last minute, he found two worn-out shoes in a trash bin — and won a gold medal wearing the mismatched shoes, one of which was too large and required extra socks.