Friday, November 4, 2016

Sherman Alexie: The Powwow at the End of the World


November is Native American Heritage Month. In recognition of that, I am sharing one of my favorite poems by Sherman Alexie. I also have an excerpt from an article titled The Human Right to Water at Standing Rock.

The Powwow at the End of the World
by Sherman Alexie

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam   
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive   
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam   
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you   
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find   
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific   
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive   
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon   
waiting in the Pacific.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.


The Human Right to Water at Standing Rock
By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout/News Analysis

As thousands of Indigenous people from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, other Native American tribes, and their allies continue their protest against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), corporate media have continued to focus almost exclusively on the presidential election. Most media ignored last week's vicious attack on the Water Protectors, as they call themselves.
The construction of the pipeline would violate the human right to peace, the right of Indigenous peoples to practice their cultural traditions, and several federal statutes.
On October 27, more than 100 police from seven different states and the North Dakota National Guard, clad in riot gear and carrying automatic rifles, arrived in MRAPs [Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicles], Humvees and an armored police truck. They defended Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the pipeline, and arrested 142 Water Protectors. That brings the total arrested since August to over 400. More than 40 people have been injured, and some have broken bones and welts from rubber bullets fired by officers.
Ret. Army Col. Ann Wright, who spent four days at Standing Rock, reported: "Police used mace, pepper spray, tear gas and flash-bang grenades and bean-bag rounds against Native Americans who lined up on the highway."
The 1,170-mile, $3.7 billion oil pipeline is scheduled to traverse North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois and Iowa. Slated to transport over 570,000 barrels of fracked oil daily, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, just a half-mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's drinking water source. It could affect 28 tribes and millions of people.
An inevitable oil spill from the pipeline, releasing diesel fuel and toxic levels of contaminants into the river, would be culturally and economically catastrophic to the tribe, polluting its source of water and critical farmlands...

Those arrested were held at the Morton County Correctional Center in 10-by-14 foot cages, some in dog kennels. They reported being forced to wait for access to food, water, bathrooms and medical attention. Some charged with misdemeanors were strip-searched. Women were left naked in their cells and male guards harassed them. Some people were zip-tied in stress positions for hours.

Click here to read the rest of the article.
Laura Purdie Salas has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Writing the World for Kids.


Elaine Magliaro said...


Appreciations for your sharing of this important Sherman Alexie poem. And for posting the excerpt of reportage on the ongoing outrage on treatment of protesters in the water-rights issue. This education is important. I feel good to connect in Poetry Friday with your kindred spirit.

Also, please accept my Huzzah! about your forthcoming poetry collection for young readers.

Jan Godown Annino

Linda B said...

I thought I read that President Obama was finding a way to make this happen for those at Standing Rock, but see that more has happened that the news is not giving us. The poem is powerful, and I hope many see it, and work hard to understand. Thank you Elaine.

Jane @ said...

Powerful words from an inspired, inspiring writer. Thank you for sharing this.

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

If all of that is true, it's a national shame. Big money is still committing crimes against people who just want to be left free to enjoy the earth in simple moments, not in lear jets or high rises. That means they are committing crimes against me, too, for I love the quiet peace of the wild places. I want to see our ancient places preserved.

laurasalas said...

Thanks for sharing this, Elaine. Makes me think of Wordsworth's The World Is Too Much With Us. Maybe it's just me. I am awfully tired of a lot of what's going on right now:>( Alexie's poem is powerful and inspiring...

Mary Lee said...

I can't come up with any word more original than...powerful.