Who wants to read some poems?
I write poems for many reasons, but mostly because I need to. They help center my soul and core values. It also helps with questions or hopes for myself, my family, our community and our tribes.
I read and write a lot of Native history, case law, and policy. Poetry helps transition from this intense process. Sometimes, I'm just processing things in Native life. I started sharing my poems many years ago in middle-school and nationally in 1999 through pageants.
A poem as a talent
I had to find a traditional talent, so I read a poem I wrote It's Never Too Late: A Life Story in English and our Ichiskiin language. The background of this is if my tribe wanted me to represent them, then I would share my voice about the impact of alcohol and having doubt or judgment in our tribe. I realize the irony now, being on stage talking about the judgement of Native women as I am being judged in a pageant. At the time, I would say it was surreal as I wondered if people would accept me. A part of me did not think I would win, because maybe they could not accept women's voices and choices. Again, I went forward with poems because along with the fact an elder asked and believed in me, at least I could get new moccasins from my mom and represent myself and my family. By winning two pageants with this poem, my tribe and others validated that teenage voice. Even to this day, it means a lot.
Have you been scared to share your voice?
I recall being a teenager, standing scared on stage reciting this poem while looking at hundreds of Yakamas. Then later in California on stage reciting this poem to hundreds of tribes. At the center - our people - ourselves - need to continue to believe.
Sometimes, I'm still scared to share my poems. I feel the pressure and pause.
We all get scared sometimes. It's about looking at our core values of ourselves and our religion or culture and making sure it's aligned and trusting the process of life.
I have been compiling my poems for a book. If you subscribe, follow me on social media or been to one of my presentations, you may have heard one.
Are you a visual learner?
Sometimes, my poems are the core script for short films. The Silence Within: Crevices at Tribes was screened at a Northwest Native Film Festival. Sometimes, I just want to add some visuals to my words. (see below for links to The Silence Within and Truth Teller Tribute).
Below is a list of several poems and the links for the blog. For space, I have given a preview of the first four lines.
They Sang a Warrior Song for Her
Ataw: Dark & Light
Truth Teller Tribute
Poem & video
We have Native Languages along with English
Like dances - sometimes we explain
Like ceremonies - sometimes we don't
A naxsh here
Shiyax maytski there...Click to read the rest of poem.
The Silence Within
Poem & video
It's Never Too Late: A Life Story
Blog Post Coming Soon - For Now, read the poem below
The poem was read at Miss Yakama Nation and Miss National Congress of American Indians respective talent shows. I was 1999-2000 Miss Yakama Nation and Miss NCAI.
Maybe you write poems or want too. My daughter, age 8, tells me she's writing a poem and asks me to help her spell some words. "Okay," I say, quietly excited and curious. I put in my best calm mom helping face. She comes prepared, she hands me paper and a purple pen, aw, so cute. She smiles. I look at her poised to write down what she's going to say. She asks, "Ready mom? Here goes":
Inside I'm wondering what's this about? Who?? This is deep! But I remain calm and take it as her expression. Perhaps like many of us, she writes about something she saw or is anticipating. Later, she was able to tell me about her sister and some kind of random kid-thing, like spilled juice.
I drive to a meeting with my girls in the backseat visiting. We reflect on some things. Little things, that they have been thinking about, but they are big things to them. What a friend said or what they learned. In a way, I am preparing them to be able to handle and process life. I also want them to know, that I am here for them. To listen or to help.
Now that I think about it...
Don't those little things build up for us too sometimes? One of the ways I am able to address those little things with myself or communities is through my poetry.
Our Native people and tribes are strengthened by our voices.
I hope you enjoy the poems. I will be updating with more poems and be launching a book soon. So, subscribe to get updates.
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