Indigenous Diaspora: Out of Place in Place

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Indigenous diaspora

to be out of place yet in place

a displacement

causing a mind-body-spirit dis-ease

with symptoms no doctor can identify

there will be no diagnosis of an illness

due to being placeless today


The spectrum of diaspora doesn’t cover this

the experience of reconfigured landscapes and loss

while you are forced to stand by and watch

has no fancy concept to back it up

no diagnostic description under the DSM

so we fly under the radar yet again


You see,

there are stories just beneath the city streets

that your bones are trying to remember

there are trail ways laying just behind those barbed wire fences

that you just can’t reach

there are ancestors bodies in these manicured landscapes

that have mixed and mingled with the earth

knowing this, you try to listen closely in these trafficked spaces

holding breath, keeping silent

knowing that a blood memory might be trying to speak

These losses accumulated result in a type of trauma known only by the dispossessed

something intangible that you don’t have the words for and don’t know how to grieve


The landscape continues to shift

gets a facelift according to Eurocentric definitions of beauty

These acts

redefine connection to land to that of owner to property

We know that these waters had dominion over themselves

long before man ever had the audacity to plug up the rivers with dams

or the stupidity to turn the potable into poison

Water has a long term memory

every place tells a story

There are still attempts at the erasure of our history

by the continued writing of stories overtop of our own

In the form of buildings and pavilions

through roadways and oil rigs

through the creation of structures that act as a testament

of our absence


Out of place in place


I watch as history repeats itself

I am only 29 but 1867 still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth

My mind is still sharp you see but

I am rapidly losing my place-memory


I weep over empty berry bowls


There are more bushes elsewhere

Someone will surely cry

but not the bushes where I first plucked bulging berry

placed it in my small mixed blood mouth

and tasted home

                  tasted land

                                      tasted connection

Where I brought my son

so he could eat more berries than he would ever place in his bowl

boasting berry blues and reds on his hands and face

as he stood in place, in place


Maybe this is just an Indian girl dilemma

Mourning the loss of berry bushes

the loss of access to river to lay offerings

the loss of place to pick medicines


Out of place in place 

What is the word for that in your language?


My Grandmother reconfigured her identity

to adjust to shifting maps and dreams

I will do the same

to give my son the best of me

Give him new memories in old places

so that he will not forget

the taste of home

                            the taste of land

                                               the taste of connection

all jumbled up in his little mixed blood mouth

because no matter the changes that come to pass,

there are some stories that refuse to be forgotten


In Spirit,


Helen K


  1. Oddly, there is a growing psychological literature that tries to get at all of these pieces. Maybe there will eventually be a diagnosis, or at least an agreed upon term for the experience, other than “trauma”.

  2. Pingback: Art History blog

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