16 June 2010

a pantoum behind narrow minds

Come on in, close the door. Damn Indians.
It was centuries ago, what do they expect from us?
The Apaches my grandma knew sold drugs across the street.
Westward expansion happened, get over it.

It was centuries ago, what do they expect from us?
Reservations run through several states.
Westward expansion happened, get over it.
They call themselves First People to stake claim.

Reservations run through several states.
Educate them, feed them, their hair still grows.
They call themselves First People to stake claim.
Indigenous schmindigenous, We're here now.

Educate them, feed them, their hair still grows.
Nothing is ever enough. Enemies at the onset.
Indigenous schmindigenous, We’re here now.
Come on in, close the door. Damn Indians.

Check out We Write Poems for more responses to this prompt:
"Take some time to consider a point of view you find distasteful. Is it possible that the people with whom you disagree are well-intentioned? Is it possible that they are not evil? Use this as a springboard to write something. Sarcasm is easy, but you’re welcome to go wherever the prompt takes you.”

I've included process notes, as I fought with myself about posting this.

Process Notes
I’m having a hard time taking on this alternate persona, though I hear it often in my home state, it troubles me deeply to present it. Living in Montana there are large segments of “white” society who embrace the stereotyping of American Indians. I tried to represent that voice in this pantoum.

This was difficult to write because my grandmother said it. She had binoculars in a pocket on her recliner, and she’d watch the people in the apartment across the street. People came and went. She assured me that it was those “damn Indians” selling drugs. Now, I love my grandmother, she had many amazing qualities, but I don’t condone her feelings about the “damn Indians.” People are complex.

For an interesting look at Native stereotyping visit Blue Corn Comics. I’ve linked you directly to the pertinent page, but do take a look around the site. American Indian youth are turned on by the comics. Teachers— it gets them reading! American Indian adults— they are looking for writers to come up with story lines. Give them a look see.

For pieces with a different feel to them regarding American Indians, click on the AmericanIndians label below. One of the pieces, a short story called "In the Barn", deals with the stereotype, "Indians don't pay taxes."


Dina Spice said...

You are so brave Brenda, to take on something you are so uncomfortable with. As always, wonderfully written, but man, it made me cringe.

I have a relative, who also is close to me, who has no problem with similar prejudices, and it's like a punch in the stomach when his words loosely fly.

- Dina

brenda w said...

Thank you for your kind words, Dina. It makes me cringe, too. It was hard to post. I'm not sure I'll leave it up much longer than a week. It's ugly. That punch in the stomach feeling might be worse than a real punch. ugh. ~Brenda

1965 Footprints said...

Very well portrayed. I think your line repetitions are spot-on. As far as entertaining the ideas of another you don't agree with, it is supposed to be good for your brain. I don't see how sometimes. I believe there is such a thing as being wrong. Good poem! It made me think! (BTW.. I'm part Indian-something to be ashamed of in the minds of a generous portion of my ancestors-especially the ones who could make that claim.)

flaubert said...

Oh my god Brenda this brought tears to
my eyes. I have such empathy for the American Indian they never stood a chance. And the same exact thing happens and is happening here in Mexico. Oaxaca state being one of the leading in atrocities against the indigenous. It just saddens me terribly. Your pantoum adds impact to this piece! And thanks for the link to the site.

brenda w said...

'65- Thank you. Funny thing about heritage... some people fight hard denying it. Societal attitudes impact some groups in an extreme negative light.

Pamela- Oh, thank you! Your impassioned comment makes me feel better about posting. I'm happy that you visited the Blue Corn site.

I have not looked into the atrocities in Oaxaca, and to be honest they don't get great press coverage here. It reminds me of Anthony North's discussion of victors writing history in his ABC Wednesday Victors post. (Check out Anthony on Beyond the Blog.)

Linda Frances said...

The loss of identity is so strong in this poem—it makes my stomach turn over.

Mary said...

Brenda, your poem definitely made a strong statement. It seems in every area there is some kind of 'damn group' where every individual in the group is 'painted with the same brush' and not favorably. Your poem is thought-provoking, and I admire the fact that you were able to use the pantoum form!

Dan Rako said...

We all have grandparents in the proverbial closet. Great work.

Stan Ski said...

Hard to wash away those stains of prejudice.
Well expressed.

barbara said...

Good work.
and a pantoum

Uma said...

Brenda, this is a daring poem. We live with stereotypes, we generate a few. True, people are complex, also too beautiful to be rejected.

Thanks for reading my poem. You had confessed you had difficulty in understading what I have expressed. I have added a note, that might help.

Francis Scudellari said...

Taking on such a perspective is a real challenge. Most Americans don't have to live with the consequences of the country's mistreatment of native peoples, so out of sight out of mind. Chicago used to have a sizable Indian population, but it's diminished greatly now. I'd love to explore poetry by Native American writers. It's a shame how much of their cultures has been lost.

Mr. Walker said...

Thank you for taking on a subject that was difficult to write about. The pantoum was a good choice here. And you handled the topic well, a reminder that this is not just history.

Anonymous said...

You took on a difficult subject in a pantoum. Impressive work Brenda.-Irene