going beyond being indian

as the old people say,

we need to know where we came from

so we know where we’re going


being indian means

you know that genocide comes in many forms

how the buffalo were massacred from the backs of many horses

or trailing down irons rods in boxcars exhaling black smoke

as pistols and 22’s cracked in the air

so, when you find your first buffalo nickel

you swear you will keep it forever

and spit polish it every day at sunrise


being indian means

they came for you and kicked the indian out,

throwing braids in a pile,

ripping away innocence,

splitting your mother’s tongue,

so, playing on a see saw confuses you

and all you wanna do is balance in the air


being indian means

you grow up not wanting to be indian

because the shame you know

is not only skin deep it is everywhere you go

you grow up with an outsider’s point of view

that teaches you about your history

that being indian is not desirable,

it’s savage, wild, and backwards

and you learn that speaking indian

and dancing those indian dances

were once outlawed and criminalized

so, when you see another indian

you nod in that shared knowing


being the indian in the classroom

kids ask if you live in a teepee as they mimic indian dances and war cries

singing hey ya, hey ya, hey ya

like one of them hollywood indians


you see, it’s not just indians that learn about indians

so, you scratch your head, wondering

if you are the only one who knows it’s the 21st century


and sometimes you wish you did live in a teepee

it’s better than these cmhc houses back on the rez


and sometimes you imagine you could ride on horseback

with an arrow aimed at a buffalo

organic and indigenous are far from obscene


and sometimes you grow your hair long

just so you can braid it


and sometimes you pick berries

squish raspberries into your mouth

and let it drip down your arm

just so you can lick it

and taste something real and true for once


and sometimes you remember stories of nanabush

paddling his jiimaan, birch bark canoe

along the manoomin, wild rice shores

singing melodies long forgotten

minwaa noodin akiing, and the wind blows across the land

past the maple strongholds

over the blueberry bushes on the shield

so, when it reaches you

the wind collects in your hair and whispers

nanabush is here


and sometimes you dream of speaking in anishnaabemowin

with all those who walk the milky way

dancing on smoke trails to ancient drums

because after all this time

they were right

they were always right

that language will bring it all back


vera wabegijig ndizhnaakaaz

mkwa dodem

ngashi miinwaa nzhiibige bemaadziwin

niin anishnaabe kwe

wikwemikong miinwaa mississauga ndoonjiba

ndikid, anishnaabemowin


i say, language, is my power

in these syllables

rolling off my tongue

are the same words, one in the same

that my ancestors said once before

and so,


i’m gonna walk with a straight back

smudge with buffalo sage

and pray for visions

where my people will gather with our languages

wrapped around us just how the atmosphere

wraps around the earth

so you see, this vision includes you too

because when i am planning my path by looking back, so should you


3 thoughts on “going beyond being indian

  1. Pingback: Weekend Notes
    • Miigwech for sharing Christian, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I’ve made some new edits on Saturday for the Freedom to Read week poetry reading I had. I will post it shortl. Hope all is well.


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