For me, this is a tough poem to read. For me, this is a holiday full of mixed emotions. Check out this version of Thanksgiving and this site in general. I downloaded their 50 Must-See Modern Native American Movies and Performances and realized how much work I haven’t seen. The list is pretty impressive!
by Jonathan Garfield
Thank you for relocating relations, relocating their hearts, some forgetting or ashamed of their Indigenous roots.
Thank you for alcohol that now courses like blood through reservation veins.
Thank you for teaching our young, impressionable, heavily reserved minds your history and overlooking ours in reservation schools.
Thank you for Catholic boarding school surgeons painfully removing our Native tongue without anesthetic until our mouths bled English.
Thank you for that old white man in the white-owned store on my rez that showed my 8-year-old eyes the color of my skin as he stalked me like prey aisle-to-aisle, always a thief in his adult eyes.
Thank you for the bruises that covered my sister like war paint, painted by fists, baseball bat and a love created and mixed by your reservations, in wars she never won, dying every time.
Thank you for the U.S.D.A. approved diabetes that has stolen uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, fathers, my mother.
Thank you for BIA and its IHS replacing our ceremonial medicine with prescribed addictions that have now stolen so many visions on the rez that it’s hard to see what comes next.
Thank you for compulsory sterilization creating and rewriting so many stories forever left broken and unfinished.
Thank you for the children starving reservations wide, left alone and staying up late, hoping their parent or parents didn’t drink or shoot up all the check.
Thank you for the alcohol-related car wrecks that have turned epic poems into tragic short stories.
Thank for the tiny white crosses plunged deep like hot knives into our land and the reservation roadsides that always claim another victim from families dying a little inside every time they drive past them.
Thank you for the F.A.S. and F.A.E. babies turned high school dropouts because the Caucasian teacher from a different world was never taught enough before coming to the rez to teach.
Thank you for the reservation suicides that have killed the spirits of those left behind.
Thank you for using us as mascots, making our young ones feel uncertain in their skin and redefining honor for them by turning us into a cold, unfeeling, symbol for a sports team where drunken fans honor us by mocking us.
Thank you for leading us on to reservations with no guidebooks on how to live in your world on our land, where we are still stumbling and learning, trial by heartbreaking error, to this day.
Thank you for your stereotypical portrayal of us in film and the movies where the white men are the heroes saving the Indians despite the Native-like titles like Dances With Wolves, Thunderheart.
Thank you for stealing our land, raping it like some woman you never knew the name of, leaving her crying, traumatized, bleeding.
* * *
Thank you for razing our homeland, cutting it up into states, poorly piecing it together and shrouding us in it like a quilt infested with smallpox.
I am thankful for all of this for making me feel too fucking much.
I am thankful for all of this turning me into a clenched fist in times when words don’t hit hard enough.
I am thankful for all of this, for stirring the spirits of warriors dormant in us for centuries.
I am thankful for all of this because, without it, I could never write this.
Thank you for the artillery, arrows for my bow.
Born a few centuries too late and raised on U.S.D.A. approved commodity everything, Jonathan Garfield is an enrolled Assiniboine tribal member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux reservation in Montana. His stories document the tragedy forced on “his people” (which he loves saying ‘cause it sounds cool) that is the rez. Jonathan has been published in various Art & Literature magazines and quarterlies. His short story, “Reservation Warparties”, became a short film, adapted to a screenplay and directed by Angelique Midthunnder. The short film was featured on the program, Independent Lens, on PBS. Jonathan Garfield continues to write poetry and short stories. He is also a practicing trickster.
The snow at our house is starting to feel like sand at the beach. It’s just a part of the terrain. You have to lift your knees a little higher when you walk and when you run, it feels like you’re starring in a slow-motion movie. It inspires me to train like Sylvester Stallone on a Russian countryside farm in Rocky IV. And…we’re only halfway through November. Bring on the snow, Montana. Let’s do this.
I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen… When two people meet, each one is changed by the other so you’ve got two new people.
It snowed again last night. I was going to write something about Weathering a Montana Winter, but then I remembered that it isn’t even Winter yet and even then, it would only be my first. I have so much to learn.
Enter: John Steinbeck holding The Winter of Our Discontent. Then I did a little digging and it turns out that recommending books to read while snowed in as a quintessential must for bloggers. There are so many recommendations. Let it snow.