Monday, July 27, 2015


I took a Native American literature and culture class. It was the first time I really tried to understand another culture, and it changed me. I loved the books Ceremony, Black Elk Speaks, House Made of Dawn, and other poems and stories we read. I cried again and again as I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. But I also went to a pow-wow. I loved watching the dancing, and went out as a stranger to join the common dances. I went again the next year, and the MC asked all of their white brothers and sisters to come do a dance. I did my best to imitate what I had watched, and it was exciting and embarrassing. Then they said they were giving prizes to the best male and female dancers! The judge started to select me, but was informed that we had to do one more dance. He lost sight of me in the crowd, and selected another man similar in appearance who was also dancing ok--but lots of people recognized it was wrong, including the judge who just seemed a little overwhelmed by the situation. I learned a little more about pow-wow culture as three people tried to rectify the error. They came up to me and put dollar bills in my hand. I have been given $10 for my dancing. I was embarrassed, but since have been delighted. I wore the T-shirt I purchased with the money for years. Now it's part of a T-shirt quilt that sometimes finds its way onto our bed. Here's the poem that came from the experiences.


He dances wrapped in himself
His brothers beat the drum
His family watches on
His ancestors voice the songs they made.
Alone in his circle,
Tied to the flowing web of life
Spinning himself
Spinning the web
His dance spreads outward
The community grows and binds itself
His feet press the earth humbly
His breast weighs him down with desire
His shoulders spread with the faith of his ancestors
His eyes watch the earth, watch the sky, seeing no one,
But his mind hears the drum, hears the voices,
Hears his brothers, feels their feet
Press the earth.

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