October 11th is Indigenous People’s day. Living in America, it is a duty we have to not only acknowledge and celebrate Indigenous lives, accomplishments, and history, but we must also do the active work towards centering their experiences as people full of life.
As readers, we must actively work to deconstruct and decolonize the white-washed stereotypes and tropes of Indigenous people in literature. Today and everyday is a beautiful day to read indigenous literature.
Of the many wonderfully brilliant poets from Indigenous communities, here are three amazing poets we wish to highlight today!
The first violence against any body of water
is to forget the name its creator first called it.
Worse: forget the bodies who spoke that name.
An American way of forgetting Natives:
Discover them with City. Crumble them by City.
Erase them into Cities names for their bones, until
you are the new Natives of your new Cities“exhibits from The American Water Museum,” from Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Let the new faucets run in celebration, in excess.
Who lies beneath streets, universities, art museums?
I will always take the opportunity to recommend Natalie Diaz, because she is honestly the best person and one of the most talented poets around. Her poetry is body of body, light of light, and existence of existence.
Diaz herself is Mojave and a member of the Gila River Indian Community, and her work centers the experiences of Indigenous people, their sadness and joy, and their very human existence. Her past work includes When My Brother Was an Aztec and Postcolonial Love Poem.
cracked hawkweed sacrum
nectar bitter from the flower
its pelvis dyed matter dark
petal to sepal frazzled
limp like a lazy eye
weed bud calcified
on a bottle of muddy gin
water swollen in the body
yellow madder crushed into sand
fresh blood oozes at the lips
the hair matted root“The Body a Bottle,” by Jake Skeets from Poetry Society of America
inlet of a river done in
Jake Skeets is an immensely gifted poet from the Navajo nation. When I read his poem above, I was so amazed by his mastery of metaphor and the images that his words are able to conjure up in my mind as I read. His debut poetry collection, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, is the winner of the 2020 Whiting Award in Poetry.
A stunning poetry that centers queerness, existence, and balances both vitality and the harshness of life and love (both carnal and emotional), Skeets is a must read.
Layli Long Soldier
my first try I made a hit it dropped from morning gray the smallest shadow both wings slipped
inward mid-flight the man barked Now I shot again and again a third time with each arrow
through the target I thought was it luck or was it skill luck or skill as the last one fell
its awkward shape made me run there pulsing on the ground I was astounded by its size a“Talent,” from Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
gangly white goose throbbed heaved its head my eyes dropped blood flowers opened in the
snow of its neck behind my shoulder stepping down from a yellow bus
Our last poet recommendation is the exceptionally wonderful Layli Long Soldier. She is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and her work includes Whereas. Long Soldier’s Whereas, written in English and Lakota, is the direct response to the silently passed 2009 U.S. Congressional Apology to Native Peoples signed by then President Barack Obama.
Her book explores poetry through a linguistic landscape, and the systemic violence of Indigenous people and their cultural erasure under the federal US government. She has strength and intelligence in her poetic voice, and her poetry is stunningly innovative and creative in her grasp on language. Long Soldier’s observance of history, culture, and life is clear and she sets the story and her intentions straight immediately.
Explore these writers and discover more; these are only three of the amazing poets and artists from Indigenous and Native communities! Celebrate Indigenous People’s Day by centering and listening to Indigenous people today and everyday following.