Reservation Talk

Greetings from North Dakota! I’m on my second day of a triduum bus tour of the state, sponsored by the University of North Dakota. This morning we visited Sitting Bull College and heard lectures about the college, the Dakota and Lakota nations, and the life of Sitting Bull.

One of the great blessings of my Latino ethnic heritage is that I do not suffer from white guilt, nor do I have to apologize about it. (To hear my thoughts about whiteness, race, and identity see my talk, “White History Month.”) While I did find the lectures and tour very interesting in many ways, I oscilated between amusement and irritation at the predictably large dollops of white guilt; and during the featured lecture, I wrote this poem:

Reservation Talk

Romantic Indians
wax nostalgic for
a world they never
knew, for a self
they’ve never had,
for a life they do
not live. But they do
have a sense of God
of the Sacred, the
Divine. They respect
prayer and ceremony.

They sometimes veer from politics
and political history into
legend and myth. When
the stories shift,
Truth begins to sing.
Seers, prophets, ghost dancers, dreamers,
warriors: all reduced
to nativists, victims,
beggars, cheap Western
relativists. But the grace of God will
not be silent —
so they speak, even in
spite of themselves.

Colonizers colonize (post)colonialists.


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