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Hello Poets! Another Haibun Monday is upon us, where we write that Japanese form that combines prose poetry and haiku. I am Frank J. Tassone, your host, and today, let’s celebrate all things indigenous!

Johns Hopkins University observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the first time in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Tom Jefferson Jr.) Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-american-indian/2019/10/11/indigenous-peoples-day-2019/#imxMyo4CXkhzVafF.99

The United States officially celebrates Columbus Day, celebrating how Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World. But over the years, many Native Americans asked, “What gives?” A brief sample from the Smithsonian explains far better than I can:

The first documented observance of Columbus Day in the United States took place in New York City in 1792, on the 300th anniversary of Columbus’s landfall in the Western Hemisphere. The holiday originated as an annual celebration of Italian–American heritage in San Francisco in 1869. In 1934, at the request of the Knights of Columbus and New York City’s Italian community, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the first national observance of Columbus Day. President Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress made October 12 a national holiday three years later. In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making the official date of the holiday the second Monday in October.

Generations of Native people, however, throughout the Western Hemisphere have protested Columbus Day. In the forefront of their minds is the fact the colonial takeovers of the Americas, starting with Columbus, led to the deaths of millions of Native people and the forced assimilation of survivors.

In 1977 participants at the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas proposed that Indigenous Peoples’ Day replace Columbus Day. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that Native people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the lands that later became the United States of America. And it urges Americans to rethink history.

While Columbus day remains the Federal Holiday, many communities in the US celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year. Now, I know this is a heavy beginning, and I don’t want to derail a harmonious Haibun Monday with politics, but I needed to set the stage for this week’s theme, indigenous.

Don’t all lands have an indigenous people? A cursory glance at a Wikipedia article on the subject suggests they do. The legacy these people have left varies, but without question we benefit from the trail the indigenous blazed. The following poets exemplify how the indigenous experience can enlighten us today:

“Earth Blessing” by Jack Manno

May earth’s song reach us in our deepest and wildest places.

May it be heard as we move upon her, as we partake of her sustenance,

as we nestle in her waters and grasses

May we hear the voices of the stones, the winds and waters,

creatures and plants, above the human chatter,

softly but not silently, so we can heed them when we must.

May all those who try to conquer earth’s powers learn instead from

compost and humus and take from them humility,

knowing any force conquered is lost forever to the conqueror.

May compassion wrack the polluter’s heart,

so stunned by earth’s gifts their poisons cannot be released.

At long last, may earth’s protectors throw grand parties

where victory is declared in a mighty sigh of relief.

May this exhalation resound in ocean depths,

reverberate in humpback flesh and please all the watery souls.

May whales and wolves rejoice with weird shouts that all is well.

May we have a world’s celebration where everyone stays put,

our roots seeking amusements together deep in the earth,

our branches entwined in the winds.

May our grandchildren’s grandchildren share legends of when

we brought about the end of the time of arrogance and waste.

May they toss stones from shores, hearing our names echo in the ripples.

So May it Be.

Jack Manno is emeritus professor of environmental studies, SUNY ESF, and a member of the executive committee of Ska nonh – Great Law of Peace Center and the steering committee of Neighbors of Onondaga Nation. Poem courtesy of https://waldo.villagesoup.com/p/a-poem-for-indigenous-peoples-day/1780617

Once the World Was Perfect

Joy Harjo – 1951-

Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world.
Then we took it for granted.
Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind.
Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head.
And once Doubt ruptured the web,
All manner of demon thoughts
Jumped through—
We destroyed the world we had been given
For inspiration, for life—
Each stone of jealousy, each stone
Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light.
No one was without a stone in his or her hand.
There we were,
Right back where we had started.
We were bumping into each other
In the dark.
And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know
How to live with each other.
Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another
And shared a blanket.
A spark of kindness made a light.
The light made an opening in the darkness.
Everyone worked together to make a ladder.
A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world,
And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children,
And their children, all the way through time—
To now, into this morning light to you.

From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does Indigenous mean to you? Is it your culture? Is there a time and place that speaks to you about the Indigenous? Or is there an experience of time and place that marks it as your own indigenous moment?

Use this as your jumping-off point and write a haibun that alludes to it. For those new to haibun, the form consists of one to a few paragraphs of prose—usually written in the present tense—that evoke an experience and are often non-fictional/autobiographical. They may be preceded or followed by one or more haiku—nature-based, using a seasonal image—that complement without directly repeating what the prose stated.

New to dVerse? Here’s what you do:

  • Write a haibun that references memorial as described above
  • Post it on your personal site/blog
  • Copy your link onto the Mr. Linky
  • Remember to click the small checkbox about data protection.
  • Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so
  • Have fun!