Genre: Native American (historical)
PATHS TO RESERVATIONS
Many, many decades now reversed,
“We the people…” feebly put ashore
Trembling ships from seas accursed,
With tattered sails and rats galore.
Each drew an icy, mournful breath
For rations gone and malady to show,
Appearing doomed to certain death
In winter’s barren bungalow.
But then a man so strong and kind
—Standing proudly—called us brother;
And by his fire we warmly dined,
Accepting largess from another.
We ate his food to give us strength,
Even quaffed strong medicine for ills,
Wholly dependent through winter’s length,
And viewed the rewards that help instills.
But we learned no lessons I’m afraid
—From those compassionate and selfless ways—
For we did scoff and laughingly upbraid,
While plundering their sunlit turquoise days.
We robbed this land and pushed them out,
Stripping its resources and killing the game;
Then from booms of ridicule—a victory shout,
To hide the squander and the shame.
Gone by our rash and thoughtless vows
Are those massive forests of pine,
That once combed the air with richly scented boughs,
Leaving it clearly pure, vital and benign.
In their stead rise fallow stones
And scattered prickly ash,
Where tempest-charged winds dry out the bones
That roaring floods did smash.
A promise was granted to the Ojibway—
That if their tribesmen now behaved,
Upon this land they might stay
And not to reservations be enslaved.
Naïve and sad they trudged along:
Believing the pledges that were given;
In search of kinsmen who did us wrong,
Since once again they were being driven.
They have their reservations now,
Where the land is harsh and rough;
And we have ours, while heads we bow,
Listening to voices that cry, “Enough.”
But down through history one thing is for sure,
And like it or not we all know it is true,
That things never stay quite the same as they were—
That the earth and her children must begin life anew.
The pendulum of time takes a mighty swing
To right the wrongs that have been done
—To change the course of freedom’s ring—
And the backward thrust has just begun.
So please be patient my sovereign friends,
For there is good in every race;
You know the strongest tree is the one that bends,
And things will change by God’s good grace.
The white man’s greed took this land
By deceit and brutal attack;
Yet “Indian Gaming” extends a welcome hand—
And the white man’s greed will give it back.
—Sandra J. Hookham
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