Doing homework with my son, sometimes has incredible results (well you have to find the positive in things), on this occasion, I found myself drawn into the fascinating and disturbing history of the Native Americans. I was amazed to read just how many various tribes there were across the far west of America, in California, Wyoming, Montana. The rich history of the chiefs, the lyrical names like Sittingbull and Chief Crazy Horse, Geronimo.
It’s hardly surprising this violent part of America’s history has inspired so many films and launched the acting careers of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
I was also humbled and intrigued by a people so unique and wedded to the earth and traditions. that I was inspired to write a poem, it’s called:
‘Cheyenne’. I hope you like it.
Melodious tribal names, sweet calling cards of the past
there is gentility in your call, dear Sioux, brave Navajo, gentle Arapaho
Cheyenne rings like the clearest bell: shhhaaaaaaay ennne!
That faraway look in your eyes,
it is the look of centuries, of bloodshed and pride
like a totem of self-determination
a plumage that stands atop your soul and quivers there.
You dare to gaze upon my beauty
when it was you who plucked me bare
and left me bleeding under a grey expanse of sky?
Laughing crows picked at your carcass in bleak rain
the battle was fought hard and hard won
you were warriors of the wild west
slaves to no-one
flag bearers of the original American Dream
in the land that you called home.
If you’d like to find out more the history of the Native Americans, here’s a short article about the history of the American Indians living in Oklahoma: http://www.theamericanindiancenter.org/oklahoma-tribal-history
The images are sourced from public files on the internet and I’m grateful to be able to use them to illustrate this poem.
Suzy Rigg 2014
Writing every word