no one would ever call you traditional
you’re not an oldschoolindian bristling with sage and sweet grass
you sing in church, sit in your chair strum your banjo smoke drink
shoot squirrels and raccoons from the porch.
But your mother wrapped you in the Indian way, and she taught your sisters
who swaddled me tight and secured, stopped my squalling
I fell asleep right away
You were in the bush when you were three years old
(did you carry a gun bigger than you)
(did you talk to the spirits then, did you walk in their world, before the priests?)
I’ve seen you hunt; I’ve seen you clean your kills. You taught me.
I know you beat that priest up when he hit your brother
that you ran away from the residential school, that you made it all the way home
how many days, how many nights, did you spend alone in the bush, on the road
(but you were never really alone, were you?)
You joined the army then, you’re a veteran now. You carry the flags
into the pow wow grand entry, handsome in your pressed uniform, shined buttons
Mishomis, you’re a warrior, aren’t you, but no one would ever call you traditional.
Who would you be
Who would I be if they never took you? Would your low voice
burn warm with the words of our people? Would you sit next to me in ceremonies
I got my clan from you. What’s your name, the one
Creator gave you before you were born in the same room where you watch TV?
My mother reads the missionaries’ records and tells me stories
she translates to English from French from our language,
Nimishomis, those stories should come from you.