Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Indigenous Voices of Abya Yala (2011) Contributors

Joseph Ames is of Irish descent and is currently attending the Peralta Colleges in the East Bay.

Joel Kurke is a Blackfeet, Irish and Polish poet and emcee living in Seattle, Washington.

marcie rendon; white earth anishinabe, mother, grandmother, writer and sometimes performance artist.

Jennifer Lisa Vest is a mixedblood (Black/Florida Seminole) gay poet born and raised in Chicago, Illinois.

Mica Valdez is Native and mixed (mexica, swedish, irish, spanish, and african), two spirit artist working on Indigenous global issues to effect social change and protect mother earth.

Rebecca Ruiz-Lichter, xicana, born and raised in the bay area works with Decolonize Oakland.

Gerri L. Williams is from the Pacific Northwest; she is a writer, poet and singer with the Muckleshoot Canoe Family.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Poem by Joel Kurke

I’ve got a medicine bag
  full of poems and songs that treats
  like a natural antidote
 That was once lost but lives on
   with this smoke
   that floats off flames
   from these rhymes that I wrote
Then sprinkle me
 with the ash and remains
 so my pores will absorb
 these quotes to defend and cope
 with the ghosts of past mistakes
These words are like a life boat
  better yet a Red Cedar Dugout
  used to float
Past my old self
   who still crys
   for HELP
Beggin for change
   and cash on the Ave.
   one more hit
   one more brown bag
   with an aluminum can
   to withstand
   my PAIN
That’s why I PRAY
   all day
   to maintain
 Manifest Light Rays
   to blind old ways
   from coming out
   the dark place
   of my MIND STATE
So this day
I choose my fights wisely
  because the right way
  is to pave Red Roads
  Guided by my Ancestors Soul
  where the buffalo still roam
  on Pow-Wow Highways
Where the fresh water Always Flows
   From the Cascade Peaks
  Where Heaven and Earth meet
Towards Rocky Mountain Snow Caps
Melting from the sun
 Rising like yeast
 from the East
 to clear land
Where our Children live and play
   not growing up too fast
   but are able to understand
   what it means to Grass Dance
What it means to bring back
   The Ghost Dance
   our souls chant
Ancient Vibrations from Nations
That have been lost since the INVASION
That are now being Cultivated
 Communicated through
  states of
  Prayer and Meditation
This is the Voice of Creation
To all my Relations
 Spoken Words
 To kindle the Flame
 for the next Seven Generations
To nourish the ROOT
In the youth
With the Water that’s Fresh
It’s the TRUTH
   Happiness cannot be shot
   Through a needle that shoots
  Can’t be measured
  By the size of
  Your platinum necklace
Time cannot be bought back
From the choices we’ve made
   the only choice
   is to choose
To some life is just a game
Playing the high stakes
But who’s really getting played
   have we not had
   enough of getting sprayed
   with mace
   foot and ankle chained
   to Lies-N-Hate
It’s time we Remember
Our Elders Wisdom
   That is slowly fading away
   like other natural resources
   that face Extinction
My Grandmother’s Eyes
Tell a story of Traditional ways
  That existed before culture rape
   and black plagues
A time before
 Gang Violence
A time before
  Crack babies
 And mental Slavery
We used to live in HARMONY
   balance with all living things
   created in unity
Giving Respect
Because the Creator is
A Reflection of All Things
   The source
   The season
   The Life
   The Teachings
The Song is still Breathing
The Drum is still Beating
Connected to mother earth’s heartbeat
   Through Urban Jungles
    And Concrete
We rejoice and Give Thanks
For Good Medicine Willz
  Used to help Heal
  The ill ones
  Still suffering right beside us
A new beginning
All things go in Cycles
  Old souls are being reborn
  In the child
  Look at the Grandfathers Smile
                                                    We Missed You

 A-Ho Mitakuye Oasin
(We are all Related)

Hawk Littlejohn Native American Flute vintage 1996

Monday, May 9, 2011

Short Story by Gerri L. Williams

Winter Nights


Looking back on those years when I was out there on the streets I have come to realize it wasn't everything good. But also it wasn't everything so bad either. I would have rather lived a life of struggle than a life of having everything handed to me. I would have rather experienced the hardships and pain, because, it was a gift of strength to me. Not in the birthday presents or Christmas gift kind of way, but, a gift only hunger, cold winter nights and homelessness can give you.

As winter slowly arrives. Snow in the mountains. Winter chills outside, I am reminded of those nights that I lived on the park benches at the waterfront when I was 12-years-old. I don't know why I slept there with the Puget Sound underneath me but I did. I only had a backpack then. Jean shorts that showed my knobby-knees. And the blackened sky. The water pounding underneath me. And most of those nights I was wrapped in a winter chill with a pillow of silence. I wasn't scared. Although my stomach was begging and pleading with me for anything edible and threatened me with slight pains; I fell asleep OK.

I was curious waking up each day. Where would the food come from? What would happen today? Who will I meet? It was more of an adventure than anything. I would think of my family at times back home on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation but slowly tucked those images away, those thoughts. There was a greater purpose for me out there in Seattle. I dont know why, but, it just seemed easier to me being out there in Seattle than being back home. A child knows their environment. The atmosphere. The warmth and coldness of a home. A child knows if the home is fractured or whole. A child knows.

I used to carry around with me many, many blank journals. I used to write down everything that happened each day. I recorded most of those stories in the journals that had family photos on them, mostly pictures of my little cousin Glorianna (who grew up calling me Auntie), but over time I lost every single one of them. Some people stole them at the homeless shelters. Some people stole them from my youth home (La'ba'te'yah) when I got there when I was 15. And the rest I lost in a house fire. Almost five years of my life when I was on the streets of Seattle lost. I remember the most important things though. The people. The love. The family we had. The hardships. The good times. The bad. But most of all I remember the ones who wanted something more for me. Those who wanted something better for me too. The ones who would invite me to Westlake Mall to get something to eat. The ones who would get a motel room for me for the night. The ones who would walk side by side with me and let others know that no one is to harass me, or else. And, the ones who invited me into their lives and stood side by side wtih me out there on 1st and Pike.

Yes. I am a sentimentalist. I was told that is my biggest weakness as a writer. But, this writing here is just for me. Not for a class assignment. Not for a college professor. Not for a publisher or an editor; just me. I have been writing since I was 4-years-old. I have since gone to the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2000 and learned more of the professional art and creativity of letters, lines, space and pacing. Stanzas. And point of view. Writing was always my greatest strength; poetry was always my first greatest love. I had all those journals with me in Seattle full of poetry, memoirs and thoughts. I wish I had them today, but, I believe there is reason and purpose for everything.

Even though I was 12 when I first got to Seattle, there were others who ran away at 8, 9, 10 or 11 years old. Some of them ran away with their baby brother or sister. Some ran away by themselves. But, we were all there just the same. Winter was the worst time for all of us. I think snow is one of the most beautiful of creations, but, to have to live in it, sleep in it and let it fall upon you insn't so beautiful.But, I always respected it and appreciated its beauty.

I am only reminded of those dark nights because of how cold it has been getting lately. Today is something beautiful and warm, but, the night is reminescent of my first days in downtown Seattle. Tears fell like crazy as I walked from my Burndale Home to the bus stop ten blocks away. Whenever I went to Seattle before that night I walked to 7-11 and caught the 150. It was a two hour bus ride between Burndale and the City of Sealth. Seattle was named in honor of Chief Sealth. Seattle was like an old Sepeh (Grandpa) gathering his children in the heart of downtown and uniting them as family; like an old Sepeh who still loved from the other side.

I don't know if you would call it Skid Row? But, my Uncle Jimi told me that he once used to live or hang out in downtown Seattle before, tool? Or, maybe he told me stories about other Natives living there, but, his generation had lived and survived there just the same. I wasn't a drinker. I never did any drugs like most people around me, but, I never thought any less of anyone either. Those were the people who kept me company and told me stories and ate Teriyaki with me on the corner of 2nd and Pike. Those are the ones who would walk through Pike Place Market with me and share a pear, plum or apple with me. They were the ones Chief Sealth placed in my life to uplift and prevent the worst that could have happened to me, because even though he is with our Maker now, Chief Sealth still hasn't abondoned his children.

As you read this you might be wondering how in the world did I end up in Seattle as a 12-year-old girl. Without blame and self pity I will tell you this: It happened because it was meant to happen. It was something that couldn't have been prevented or altered. It wasn't something so good, but also, it wasn't something so bad either. I had the right people in my life who helped me through it all: Demetrius, Playboy, & Tears. Others came and gone, but, those were the ones who solely remained. Omar, NS1 was there as well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day: Remembering the Missing & Murdered Native Women in Canada

Article by Joseph Ames

          The film Finding Dawn is about the unsolved cases of missing and murdered Native women in Canada. It starts by covering the story of a missing Native woman who lived on the East Side of Vancouver, whose name is Dawn. She lived a troubled life growing up Native in white foster homes. She was abused sexually at a young age while living in a foster home. When Dawn grew older, she followed a difficult path in life leading her straight into prostitution and drugs. On the days of her last known appearance, she was living in East Vancouver, a neighborhood known for prostitution and drugs. Several other Native women were also living in that neighborhood. Dawn's last point of contact was her sister. Her sister knew that something had happened to Dawn when she could not get a hold of her. The family reported Dawn missing to the police department and awaited any news. The police did not find anything leading to Dawn.
The director of Finding Dawn, Christine Welsh, brings attention to the unsolved cases of missing Native women occurring in Canada. The film develops many questions regarding the issue at hand. Why are these Native women being targeted and kidnapped? Why haven't the police caught any suspects involved in these kidnappings? Why is the response time for investigating the kidnappings taking so long? This film creates a public awareness in order to stop these outrageous crimes from continuing to happen. The film has brought the Native communities together to fight what is taking place amongst their people.
Many Native women have been kidnapped off of Highway 16 across Canada and their stories remain a mystery. Highway 16 runs from east to west across some of the most beautiful mountainous terrain in the world. There are so many firebreak roads leading off of the highway and heading deep into the mountains; they can be hard to locate anyone traveling on them. Some family members believe that because of the race of the women missing, that they do not have priority for the police department to look into. The families state that if the victims missing were white, the investigation done by the police department would be more thorough and evidence could be found.
The Native community has set up an awareness day on February 14 in Vancouver, Canada for the missing women. On February 14, which is Valentine's Day, the Native communities gather and walk the streets of East Vancouver. The walk represents an awareness that the missing Native women will never be forgotten, or become a closed case. There is still hope in finding them.
The film Finding Dawn was a rude awakening for me. I had no idea that this was going on in Canada. With the large amount of women that have gone missing, it is hard to comprehend that no one has been caught. Hardly any evidence remains in regards to the missing women. The question still remains, why hasn't anyone been caught yet for the kidnappings of these Native women? It is a huge controversy and the families of the victims are looking for answers. It seems that Canada just leaves the investigations up to their local law enforcement of the area the kidnappings took place. I would like to further investigate into the missing Native women of Canada in the future, and hope to see some important evidence leading to the findings of the person(s) of these cruel acts. I would also like to see the missing Native women's bodies be accounted for with a proper burial.


Missing or murdered native women list grows to 582

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rainbows, Teddy bears, and drugs - Poem by Osita


I had a good childhood

Rainbows, Fun, and love

Rainbows at Santa Rita on Bright rainy visiting days

I remember the heaviness in my pockets,

The change I would put on my mom's books, thinking it would make a difference.

Walking around Oakland with the cops following us,

Being just a little girl and knowing what it was all about.

We always had it all

My mama took good care of us

Even though she was addicted

To that white powdery stuff

She was like a goddess to us.

I remember playing with drugs, cold guns, sharp knives, and cute little baby dolls.

I didn't even know my dad's name, yet the names of drugs slurred out my mouth.

Till this day I remember clearly the day they took my mommy away

The pigs pulling her away, I cried my little heart out trying to make her stay.

But they did not let her go, not even so she could explain

That day I met hate

I was a little girl who felt pain in her heart and hate in her veins

While other little kids were at home talking with their mom

A tear dropped on the letter I was writing to mine

I loved my childhood with big smiles, emptiness, love, and pain,

I don't want to live in shame when there's things I just can't change.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Poem by Marcie Rendon

Earth Memory

Earth memory holds me

I lay on the bones of my ancestors
Rhythms of silence run deep
As each breath
Each breath gives life

our grandmother’s dust
Is watered with the fallen dreams
of all women
all women
all women
sacrifice dreams for future generations

A breath of wind
Weaves Water
weaving dreams
We live whole lives between
Each breath

Our grandmothers dust
Waters our dreams
This accumulation of hope
Feeds our souls
Breathe life
Breathe life into being

In this season of abundance
Hear grandmother’s breath echo
Her breath moves
All the winds of time
All life intertwined

Earth memory holds me
Holds me to the ground
Holds me on the ground
Holds me in the ground
And sets me free

Poem by Marcie Rendon


a history
Drenched in blood

Oh wa Ya hey
Oh wa hey

There are no
Broken memories
Forgotten destinies

Hey yah hey
Oh wa hey
Hey yah way

My hope rising
Rising hope
De con tam in ates

I hear women call
I hear all women call

You cannot kill us twice

Oh wa hey
Hey oh aay

Lakota Dakota
Ho chunk
Anishinabe quay

I call
All healing
This earth
Calling all
All healing
This land never was gone
My feet never left this earth
Never left this earth
You cannot kill us twice

This earth never lost
My feet never left this earth
This earth never gone

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Poem by Jennifer Lisa Vest



Everybody wants to be an Indian

A pow-wow fancy-dancing

Feather-wearing Indian

Everybody wants to be the

Noble Savage of America

The old man on the banks of the river

Crying about pollution.

But who wants to live on the reservation

Bad coffee, beans, lard, diabetes

And too much TV

Who wants to farm on swampland

Bedrock and waterless sand?

Who wants to wrestle alligators for a living?

Everybody wants to wear suede

And fringe leather jackets

Patterns from Guatemala

Pretty beaded hair barrettes

And turquoise

But who wants to dress up

In fake Indian clothes

For snotty-nosed camp kids

Who call you "Hey Indian"

While you give them a tour

Of your culture?

Everybody wants to be an Indian

To be indignant about

"The crimes of white America"

To be spokesperson for the slighted

And the slaughtered

To write books about ecology

To teach workshops on herbology

But who wants to send their kids

To foreign schools that teach foreign language

Foreign culture


And how to disrespect?

Who wants to be laughed at in traditional dress

And told they have no culture

In the same breath?

Who wants to be idolized, romanticized

And iconized into something

You can never represent?

Everybody wants to be an Indian

A vision-seeking, sage-burning

Dream-catching Indian

Everybody wants to eat peyote

Dance at the Sundance

Sweat in the sweat lodge

Return to "the way things were"

And dress up like Pocahontas for Halloween

But who wants to have

Sports teams

And four-wheel drives

Named after your ancestors

Or your tribe?

Who wants to be studied

And who wants to be questioned

And who wants their every action


By non-Indians who claim

To know more than you do

About your way of life?

Everybody wants to be an Indian

When its popular

When its glamorous

When its easy

When its fun.

From the anthology Turtle Island to Abya Yala