I used to believe that I came from nothing
I arose from the earth that split through the concrete
The bastard child of two worlds
I played war as a girl with the pieces given to me
My fragmented identity
did not match the Eurocentric definitions of rights to privilege.
Nor could I shapeshift
to fit into the popular portrayal of the noble savage.
My desirable image,
relegated to a dusty history book and staged photographs.
This is what real Indians must look like
So what am I? I asked
My father told me of his youths aspiration
To collect his first welfare cheque
Breeded and bound to poverty
He broke that first link that held us back
Shovelling pig shit and breaking sweat to dig us out
So that we, as children could be replanted, in fertile ground
He sat my brothers and I in a row
One little, two little, three little,
He told us, that is who you are in this life
Tears cut tracks down little cheeks
While our mouths put up a fight
As if our sentences could wrestle with our blood line
And pin it down,
Make it say Uncle, Grandfathers, Grandmothers, I am not of you
In this imaginary fight, we had the world to gain
And everything to lose
Night after night my father told us tales of young braves,
War ponies, and animals that spoke words
The message was that who you are is beautiful
And in your blood line you will find worth
Breaking all lines between here and there.
I spent over a decade rebelling
And running from myself
I used to believe I came from nothing.
Being Indian meant being
The embodiment of all things I have never wanted.
Being Indian meant being my
Alcoholism, my abuse, my anger, my neglect, my sorrowful cries.
Being Indian meant being
Dirty, broken, jaded, faded, a story told long ago in the midst of the darkness of the night.
Forgotten, invisible, it meant holding your head low and avoiding white eyes.
I wanted nothing of this kind.
Undo me Indian, I cried.
Turns out I knew nothing of what it meant to be Indian.
Every single story I had lived was a tale told by the mouth of colonization
I was showed images and taught by voices that whispered assimilation
Conform, rebel and forget were my lullabies
I white washed myself and forgot about my blood line
Who I am is beautiful, trust it.
I began to attend ceremonies, to learn language,
To know my culture, to know the history of a people
That remained and survived genocide
Stolen generations, germ warfare, suicides,
Spiritual restrictions, physical afflictions
I come from a long line of people who have survived.
I find home in the language that escapes
My grandmothers mouth
I no longer wrestle with words
But now I can say them proud,
I am an Indian
I come from the Dane Zaa and Cree tribes
I cannot be undone
My prayer songs will forever be sung
And out of this land I have come
Into the Earth I shall return
My stories and knowledge
Will not be unlearned
I come from strength, pride, and resiliency.
I will not be forgotten willingly.
Hakatah Wuujo Asonalah.
Thank you! You give voice to the experience of many of us.
Thank you for the good words, forming a healthy identity especially when coming from an indigenous or ethnic minority is quite the challenge today, but worth the effort 🙂 🙂
The crisis of identity is a profound mental and spiritual affliction that few who have not experienced it can understand. This is a beautiful poem.
wow! no one has ever sent this message out any better. Reminded of my father. You are someone. you are an Indian and be proud!!!!!!!!!
Many thanks for the good words. It’s all about that healthy pride baby!
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