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"Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians!

I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right

and honorable to use any means under God's heaven

to kill Indians. Kill and scalp all, big and little; 

nits make lice."

--John Chivington, U.S. Army Colonel, Methodist preacher, 1864,

commander of the 675-man Colorado U.S. Volunteer Cavalry

during the Sand Creek Massacre

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"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

--William Faulkner (1897-1962)

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It's been twenty-five years since the skewers were in my chest.

It isn't something I talk much about.

I stood and danced with the warriors of The Real People beneath the Sun Dance tree.

Everyone there had their reasons for being there.

I had two.

A thanksgiving for my life.

And an offering of myself

to clean some of the darkness caused by wasichus.

 

Though I received other gifts along the way,

my mind kept turning to Wounded Knee...

300 Lakota, 200 of them women and children, all in a mass grave.

 

...and Sand Creek...

160 dead Cheyenne and Arapaho; two-thirds of them women and children.

Labeled "belligerents"

even though Chief Black Kettle

flew the American flag

and a white flag of surrender.

They weren't just killed; they were butchered, mutilated, like hamburger.

 

Later in time, Congress and Governors issued formal apologies

but the mind and spirit hasn't changed today.

Sitting in comfortable chairs

covered in hides stripped from buffalo

inheritors of the still-squirming yet never-discussed shadows of American history

receive sanitized, frosty-white spooled-up news streams of disembodied onlooking.

 

Names are uttered at the top of the hour before The Redskins game:

Cannonball.

Dakota Access.

Oceti Sakowin.

Standing Rock.

And the story goes on.

 

500 broken treaties.

The Great White Father taking land again.

Grandmothers and children, eyes filled with tears.

It's why they've been "taking a knee" at Wounded Knee for 127 years.

 

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People are talking about flags again.

This time: Old Glory.

Right on time.

Have you figured it out yet?

There is no 'escape'.

There is no 'exit'

except on the other side of 'through'.

 

There are forces in the land that do not sleep.

There are forces in the human soul that still weep.

There are ghosts in the national psyche

that have not yet been brought to peace or rest.

 

Until the past is lifted up

and talked about openly,

until the past is confessed

and taught to the young freely,

until the past is owned

and we all move through the fog together,

and mourn our parts in it all,

including the un-mourned that's been passed on to us to resolve,

it will go on and on and on.

 

Some will hear this and say,

"But I don't want to have to look.

I don't want to have to see.

Don't burst the bubble of national purity for me.

Let me go back to shopping,

and football, 

and all my other lovely distractions."

 

But if we walk down that road,

we lock future generations in a prison

of memory refractions.

 

Where exactly do you think you were born, traveler?

Did you think you could make a full journey through

without doing some of the work to undo

the darkness done by others who came before you?

We all have to shoulder

some of the deep work

of this Universal Human Job Description.

 

Others before us

tried for over a hundred years

to avoid these conversations,

and the wounds still haven't been redressed.

In fact, new ones are being made every day...

-- another layer on top of ancient hurts

which are punctured again and again

-- every time an unarmed black man is shot in the back

-- every time a defenseless woman dies in a jail cell

-- every time a Cheyenne grandmother takes mace in the face.

 

If we're going to look at the red, white, and blue

and truly honor the blood that has flowed in service of it,

we also have to realize

that none of us will ever be whole

or healed

or free

until we acknowledge

the blood being senselessly spilled under it.


(c) 2017 / Frank Saizan Owen / purelandpoetry.com

To learn more about the stunning sound world, KIVA, by Steve Roach, Ron Sunsinger, and Michael Stearns, visit Hearts of Space' KIVA Bandcamp Page

To learn more about Alio Die's recording Aura Seminalis, visit the album's Bandcamp Page here.

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