Monday, August 5, 2013

Indigena Awry - Annharte

Today's book of poetry:  Indigena Awry.  Annharte.  New Star Books.  Vancouver, British Columbia, 2012.

Annharte (Marie Baker) is Anishinabe (Little Saskatchewan First Nation, Manitoba), but she is not aboriginal.

This articulate woman has published three previous books of poetry which I now will have to read because Indigena Awry is not just fine revolutionary type poetry, it is a manifesto.

South Dakota News

The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls printed
news years ago about militants.  Today
Indian people no longer blame anyone but
themselves.  No matter how you treat them
it is the other guy gets the breaks in the news.

     South Dakota to South Africa
     a long road to walk
     Mississippi of the North

     arrest Indians
     not city businessmen
     damned embarrassing
     walking around
     drunk Indians

     get them out of society
     individuals not Indians
     50 years integrated
     after all it makes sense

You stand over a dead cow in the middle of the
road on a checkerboard reservation.  Only one
side is tribal.  The rest go by blanket rules.

You line up all the Indians to sentence them.
Whites go one by one.  Only 10 percent of the
population of South Dakota make up 20 percent
of the arrests.  Nothing new in the news.

     next generation will be worse
     young men and women grow up
     never being punished
     Indians lack ambition
     carry a chip on their shoulder
     when if you see them walking
     on the road gravel paved or ruts

Whites drink in private bars in their own
neighbourhoods.  Indians can't afford to
drink in the nice bars, you see them on
the street.  You invent more stories.
They are people without a home unwelcome
even on the reservation or border towns.

It's insulting then to say "go home".
You know all the answers even to that one.
If you can't beat them up, join them for
a drink.  Spread your kind messages.
Indians must become white to succeed.
A reservation is a perfect place for crime.

Different mantra:  Whites must become Indian
to fully understand.  Make Elvis Presley chief.
One warbonnet he deserved for flaming star.
Elvis was blood brother.  Part Cherokee.
You put any group of whites on a reservation,
they'd do the same.  Shaky at first.

     sweat lodge
     pray sister pray
     for a better way
     our flag is frayed

It's a cop out to say that two whitemen
killed an Indian woman and spent 3 months
in jail.  The cops went out for coffee excuse.

Wasichu paper doesn't get all the news.

     walking on the right side
     of the road
     sun going down
     they hit me

It reports that these people live in violence.
If you do something violent to them, it doesn't
hurt them nearly as much.

     uncertain it was human
     might have been some garbage
     maybe she was lying
     on the road

More Indian cars are stopped.  Never pick up
white drunk ranchers.  No one spends a day in
jail.  For first degree manslaughter, you get
a suspended sentence.  An Indian was killed.

     remember Chief Eagle
     he was cold and hungry
     he got 5 years
     stole that can
     hot dog & beans
     from a parked car
     on Main Street

You have to hire people that don't fit the image
of Indian so they can see cops as people.  They
are harder on their own kind.

     pour the wine on the ground Chief
     turn the bottle upside down
     let me pour you a drink
     inside your pocket
     let's put this one
     in a dumpster
     check on him later

White people fear Red people on the front page.

     lonely stretch of highway
     patrolman pulled this Indian over
     tell me I'm a racist
     put me on the defence
     I am asking for it


Annharte is so far beyond fear and enmeshed in truths, her poems fight against oppression of all kinds, gender, race and thought.

Rev Me Up Double Take

In Nicaragua, a woman revolutionary celebrates
with her cadres.  One of them might notice her
dark colour.  Ask her if she has been to the beach.
It is a subversive way to ask if she is an Indian.
Stories told about solidarity & racism in Nicaragua
divulge greater quandary of how colour & class mix.
Woman thinks she must be Inca.  Let's hope she is that.
She confesses she has many resemblances to one.
Cuna might be another possible rival ancestry.
For sure Cuna because she is so like a friend I know
who is genuine San Blas Cuna when dressed in regalia.

It is not always the convincing evidence we need.
Someone at work told her she has the hands of
a potter.  Generations sculpted those hands.  Proof.
Five hundred years have faded our recollections
of who we are.  In 1992, we trade past glimpses.

I remember I am a Mohican queen not half
wit half baked half hearted descendant but one
total regal caste in blood bones bare chested
Indigena who paddled out to check her weir.
Never precious Pocahontas or Matoaka waiting
for discovery in original Tsenacomoco land.
Takes five centuries for resurgence take back
ancestral dreamtime before us forgotten women
use imperialist nostalgia to reconnect the power:

resistance revitalization regeneration revolt

Taken for granted a woman juggles identities
poet, revolutionary, Indian, mother, daughter
wife, ex-wife, grandmother & cultural worker
I catch a peek of who I am when she talks.


Indigena Awry addresses a litany of unending indignities with a scathing, all-seeing laser sight vision.  It's not just Silas Erminskin and Frank Fencepost Annharte wants to kick in the nuts.  Annharte wants to reboot the way we all look at the world.

"let's not worry about being mean to them
we're going to be very busy
building a barricade
they won't know we mean business
they must see the barricade
they will have to send in the army

to stop us from reading our books"
     -from Help Me I'm A Poor Indian Who Doesn't Have Enough Books

Each and every poem in Indigena Awry tweaks at our belief system, all those static "knowns" that are in fact false.  Annharte is in those cracks hammering away and happy to tell us about it.

These aren't easy pills to swallow, but the best medicine never is.  Eldridge Cleaver put an axe through Black consciousness back in 1968 when he published Soul On Ice.  Annharte is writing incendiary poetry full of political wisdom and hope along with many suggestions for steps to enlightenment.  She challenges not only how "white" society sees indigenous peoples, she throws down the gauntlet for "red" people to see themselves differently.

Annharte is a powerful poet, warrior princess, politician and whatever else she says she is.  Indigena Awry will most likely make you feel uneasy, stirred up, agitated....

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