Celebration 2014, the biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska, wrapped up in Juneau last week. Fast on its heels was the historic Presidential visit to the Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota. It did not receive much coverage in the mainstream media, but there was an active following on Twitter under the hashtag #PresRezVisit with some interesting selfies.
In poetry news, the previous month the Navajo Nation introduced its first-ever Poet Laureate, the uber-talented Luci Tapahonso. Those of you who follow on Twitter, will recall that I posted this poem from Sáanii Dahataal/The Women Are Singing: Poems and Stories (which also appeared in Indian Country Media on May 27th):
The cool October night, and his tall gray hat
throws sharp shadows on the ground.
Somewhere west of the black volcanoes,
dogs are barking at something no one else can see.
His voice a white cloud,
plumes of chimney smoke suspended in the dark.
Later we are dancing in the living room,
his hand warm on the small of my back.
It is music that doesn’t change.
The ground outside is frozen,
trees glisten with moon frost.
The night is a careful abandonment of other voices,
his girlfriend’s outburst brimming at the edge of the morning,
and I think I have aged so.
His warm hands and my own laugh are all we share in this other life
strung together by missing years and dry desert evenings.
Tomorrow the thin ice on black weeds will shimmer in the sun,
and the horses wait for him.
At his house around noon, thin strands of icicles drop
to the ground in silence.
Early Saturday, the appaloosa runs free near Moenkopi.
The dog yips, yips alongside.
Since many of you may not be familiar with the incredible body of Native American women’s poetry, I have put together a list of collections under the title “Dive Into Native American Women’s Poetry” with each poet’s tribal affiliation listed beside the collection. Stock your library with titles and please encourage your universities to consider offering an introductory course or workshop, perhaps with Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America as a manageable base.
For more of a fiction-based list, please see my previous post “NDN’s with Pens” for an essential reading list of Native American writing.
And one more somewhat selfish note: since Tlingit poet Nora Marks Dauenhauer has been in the Alaska State Writer post, she has endeavored to bolster the native languages. Please consider giving a donation to the Sealaska Heritage Institute which is working diligently to keep the Tlingit language alive. The link will give you lots of fun resources to play with, including Tlingit holiday phrases and dog commands.
Gunalchéesh Thank you!
And Happy Reading!!!!!