Watch a documentary film. While you are viewing it pause it to explore any images that strike you as interesting to get a piece started after the movie is over. Keep your notebook/laptop open to jot down images, thoughts, single words. Include at least one quotation from the movie in your piece. In short, turn a documentary into poetry.
Background for the piece:
Paha Sapa, the Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota people. While this is not what the movie is about, it is where I went to escape Means’ hatred. Or possibly salve it (although I am certain Means does not welcome or respect a white woman’s salve). Having the United States’ Presidents sculpted into a sacred mountain at Mount Rushmore, was a slap in the face to the Sioux/Lakota people living nearby. Think about it. Sturgis, the biker rally runs through the belly of their sacred place. America has made the area a joke. Shame on us.
Pine Ridge South Dakota
Give them the Hills
The mountain slides
open between two cliff legs
as Jay Red Hawk’s
indigenous tongue creates trails
bracketed by sleek black braids
before camera segues to
black mold growing oxygen masks
on American Indian children
four and five years old
On reservations in South Dakota
23 July 1980
United States versus
Sioux Nation of Indians
Supreme Court rules
Black Hills illegally taken
Supreme Court orders
remuneration of initial offering price plus interest
— nearly $106 million — be paid
Lakota people refuse settlement,
in trust it grows to over 700 million
(Accept settlement and
validate US theft
of sacred Lakota land.)
National life expectancy rate
for Native Americans living on
the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
in South Dakota
is 48 years for men
is 52 years for women
Indian Health Service created by century old treaty
promised quality health care exchanged for land
one dentist pulls healthy teeth
again and again
leaving rotted teeth in mouths
one big oops
lack of industry and 80% unemployment
drives bodies fueled by firewater
government surplus foods
contribute to obesity
diabetes eats lives
those diseased with alcohol
receive higher health benefits
creating a system
where addiction pays
smoke wisps and curls
around old ideas
An angry Russell Means
pisses on the BIA
sure that I cannot understand where
he comes from he says
“Culture breathes life into us
I can’t make an American understand
because they have no culture.”
“Every American is a racist.
Be oppressed for a century or two—
Do you want to know how I felt when the twin towers went down?
Intensity underscores the anger in his voice.
Yes, Russell, I do want to know.
We drove you to your narrow mind.
America, honor and respect our treaties.
Stop breaking promises.
What kind of precedent
do we set for our citizens
when we offer to pay off a people?
Let us demonstrate true honor and
return to them what we stole from them.
Swallow pride and belch hope’s dazzling light.
Give the Black Hills back to the Lakota people—
that’s what they want. Not money.
Give them victory.
Reinvigorate a sense of place.
Jay Redhawk’s boys play with arrows
crafted from feathers and straight on sticks
family spirit fills a movie’s frames.
Russell Means will still erupt
it is his warrior way,
but children’s lives might improve
in the open air of Paha Sapa
where indigenous ancestors once