Monday, June 21, 2021

Special Feature: Selected Poems for National Indigenous Peoples Day

June was already a sociopolitically significant month for Indigenous Peoples in Canada. It's this month when Shannen Koostachin, the Attawapiskat campaigner of "Shannen’s Dream" for safe and equitable schools for First Nations kids, died tragically in a car crash 11 years ago. So is the sixth anniversary of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s summary report and 94 Calls to Action. Most importantly,  June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day recognizing and celebrating the cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Indigenous peoples of Canada. As most celebrations for National Indigenous Peoples Day have primarily moved online, I believe it is still “a day of reckoning” for Canadians to grapple with:"

We still have systemic problems, systemic denials of rights, so it’s a day to celebrate, but it’s also a day of reckoning where we need to recognize that we’ve come a long way, but we aren’t nearly where we need to be... 

-- Charlie Angus, NDP MP, Timmins-James Bay

The following is my poetic reckoning: 

yesterday's newspaper
dancing with the wind
First Nations elder

Haiku Canada Review, 8:2, October 2014

FYI: Story by Story, Canada’s News Media Built Indigenous Oppression: How relentlessly racist framing helped ‘write’ the Indian Act — and persists today, The Tyee, June 21, 2021 

Nothing New under the Sun

Sunlight slants in through the study window, reaching the front page of today's newspaper on my coffee-stained  desk.  The headline story details the latest Auditor General's report. His report states that the socio-economic  gap on  reserves hasn't improved in the last two decades, and the gap in high-school graduation rates has actually  widened.According to the reporter, things got a little nasty Monday afternoon at the Indigenous Affairs meeting as  MPs grilled civil servants over the gap. One MP even warned, "heads need to roll if bureaucrats don't shape up on  First Nations education." His warning becomes today's eye-catching headline.

sixth graders
in the windowless classroom
on the reserve
a new teacher talks about
thinking outside the box

Atlas Poetica, 36, 2019

An Indigenous Mother of Seven

Tied to a gurney, she pleads for someone to get her out. Her cellphone video is live- streamed on Facebook as dusk gathers outside the hospital. Nurses dismiss her worries that the medication she's receiving could aggravate her heart condition.

“You’re dumb as hell,” one nurse yells at her, then mutters, “You’re better off dead. Better to f*ck than for anything else.” Another nurse scolds her for making poor choices and getting sick, adding, "and we’re the ones paying for it.”

She dies alone that same night. Silence shrouds the room until an orderly finds her the next morning. She was 37.

candlelight vigil ...
another hardcover report
on racism

Cattails, April, 2021

indigenous girl missing ...
the minister’s response
with a twist to his mouth
I'm working on it

PoemHunter, May 6 2021

bulky reports
on indigenous peoples
gather dust ...
we just lower flags for the kids
in an unmarked mass grave

NeverEnding Story, June 1 2021

To conclude to today's post, I would like to dedicate the following haiku to Kashechewan First Nation children: 

the end of a playground tunnel
dappled sunlight on their warpaint faces

Happy Reading

Added: written in response to CBC News, June 24: Sask. First Nation announces discovery of 751 unmarked graves near former residential school

This Brave New World, XI

to Justin Trudeau who feels sorry about the "terrible mistakes [Not Crimes] of the past."

unmarked children's graves
found in summer heat ...
another report on racism
waiting to to be written

FYI: To the best of my knowledge, I'm the only poet who has been written about Indigenous peoples in North America (Turtle Island, a name used by some Indigenous peoples as well as some Indigenous rights activists) [maybe with one following exception, a LGBT2S tanka whose L1, a term coined by Elder Myra Laramie at the 1990 indigenous lesbian and gay gathering in Manitoba, refers to the gender and diversity of indigenous peoples across Turtle Island (What is Two-Spirit Identity?)

this (wo)man revered
by one culture
how could (s)he be
so reviled by another

ATPO Special Feature, Ying, Yang, and Beyond, 2015

Debbie Strange 

1 comment:

  1. Inuk MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq marked National Indigenous Peoples Day in the House of Commons by calling on her fellow parliamentarians to feel “extreme shame” for the ongoing mistreatment of Inuit. She says without their own strength and resilience, Indigenous Peoples would no longer be here...

    -- "MPs should feel ‘extreme shame’ on Indigenous Peoples Day: Qaqqaq," The Canadian Press, June 21,