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

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