Daughter of Tokens
She says she doesn’t feel like an Indian
and sometimes people, tourists mostly,
don’t think she’s an Indian, but when they find out,
they want their photo taken with a “white one.”
She says she doesn’t know how to write
like an Indian, doesn’t know how to talk about
I tell her—maybe it’s because you drive a refurbished
Honda with a Toyota engine and your regalia
is your hoodie and you go berry picking in a hat
that makes you look Chinese.
Tonight, there’s a “whoo hoo” celebration
(as she calls it)—Native American Month. She puts on
her best Indian t-shirt, the one that says, “I’m half
white but I can’t prove it.” She flings her waist-long,
dark hair behind her back, pokes the silver labret
below her lip. She heads for the stage to read
her poems. She speaks in her dying language—
tells them she’s a Raven, a Snail; her grandfather’s
people are Bears and says something about her colonization
therapy and makes them wonder why their seats
just got harder. After, she says to me—reading poetry
is all about Indian warfare and they don’t even know it.
The American Indian Holocaust Museum
I read the poem of the same name
by Sherman Alexie, five days after my friend,
Andy Hope III, died at 58 from cancer
and I thought about what I could do to honor
what people called Andy’s “politically
incorrect views” and wondered why
we couldn’t buy Sheldon Jackson College
that used to be a boarding school
where missionaries swatted our kids
for speaking their language, punished
them just for being—the after-affects
are still killing off our generations.
Andy and I had conversations like that.
But I wonder who would visit
this island in order to walk down
Lincoln street past the boat harbor,
past the Russian Bishop’s House, past the past,
to pay five or ten dollars to enter
the American Indian Holocaust Museum
and stand beside a picture of Andy grinning.
Hair Like She Wore It
My daughter once claimed
a right to dye her hair green
since her grandmother declared
alien status from another planet.
And when she grew up, she dyed it pink
and the public school questioned
her ability to be a foster mother.
And once she shaved it off;
no water at the hatchery barge,
said salmon slime stuck in it,
got tired of picking out the scales.
Now it’s long, down to her butt
where she flips it back
so it doesn’t drag in the toilet
and the tourists she shows around town
politely ask to touch her “Indian” hair.