Shaking the Snow

By Kimberly L. Becker

(for Susan)

In the night yard,
the old magnolia is
with all-day
so I go and begin
lowering the branches,
pulling and releasing
just enough
for the snow to shake off
and keep the limbs from breaking
under unabated weight.

I walk around the tree
and when I’m finished
I stand inside the circle.
Just me and the tree
with the rim of cast-off
snow as boundary.
Beyond, the yard lies
pristine except for exuberant dog tracks.

What if someone took our
burden from us lightly?
Shook us just enough
that we let fall
whatever weighed
our spirit

You did that once, for me.

I was frozen
and with your bracing words
you shook the sorrow
from my limbs
so that I stood centered once again
with the boundaries of my life around
and new.

Copyright © Kimberly L. Becker. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kimberly L. Becker is a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Words Facing East (WordTech Editions, 2011) is her first book of poetry. Individual poems appear widely in journals and anthologies. The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (MD) funded her study of Cherokee language, history, and culture in Cherokee, NC. She was also awarded a residency at Hambidge Center in North Georgia. Current projects include adapting Cherokee myths into plays for the Cherokee Youth in Radio Project at the Cherokee Youth Center, also in Cherokee, NC.
Visit her on the web at

Doppelgängers: A Nativity Ode

By Carter Revard

(if only Columbus had…)

By way of introduction: It has lately been discovered that, just as the first stanza of this piece narrates, at a certain time of year hellacious gales of wind blow from east to west through certain parts of the Sahara (the “Bodélé Depression”), from which they scoop great quantities of very fine minerals, sweeping them up into dark roiling clouds that are then driven high across the Atlantic, over Brazil and up along the Amazon and its tributaries, where the fine dust eventually settles down into the lush rainforests. (For scientific accounts of this, see Deflation in the dustiest place on Earth: The Bodélé Depression, Chad, in Geomorphology, Volume 105, Issues 1-2, 1 April 2009, Pages 50-58; and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, December 8, 2009, vol. 106 no. 49, 20564-20571.) It is thought that this Sahara dust constitutes exactly the fertilizing soils and minerals required to renew those rain forests, which otherwise would deplete the soils so extensively that eventually the forests would die. In this way, desert and jungle are “Doppelgängers,” orchid (“air-plant,” epiphyte) an apotheosis of hurricane (Hart Crane’s wonderful poem “The Air Plant” reversed), nectar an avatar of dust. If we had the ability of angels to see past and present and future simultaneously, we might see jungles that used to cover what is now the Sahara, and perhaps a desert that will cover what are now the rain forests of Brazil; but for now, I have painted only two brothers, African desert and Brazilian rainforest, in present time. Not dust to dust, but dust into nectar, is the story of Terra Nuova.

For my poem, I have put that story together with another of an infant’s finding his voice, first in weeping and then in laughing, which are also Doppelgängers, and have narrated this in terms of the Osage Creation Story’s account of our people’s having come down into this world from the stars. So the Infanta Nuova, made of stardust (though not named Ziggy), asleep in a dark house, awakes in pre-dawn darkness and cries, is cleansed, sung to, sings along with the strong-heart song, and is fed, then sees through the window the Morning Star and the Dawn, and hears a bird sing, at which (s)he laughs, and sings along with it the new/old song of joy, one of our Osage songs.

In my first year on Earth, my twin sister and I were taken care of for some time
by our Ponca aunt Jewell MacDonald in the village at White Eagle, Oklahoma. A lullaby she used to sing us, made by her blind great aunt, is the Strong Heart Song she sings in the poem, made to hearten the warriors in despair, driven from their homelands in the Dakotas down to White Eagle in Oklahoma. The old voice is Aunt Jewell’s mother, who waked again at dawn by the child’s voice rises and (like a Ponca Firebird) fixes sun-golden pancakes with honey and fresh butter for breakfast—something gold that sticks to the ribs, a contrafactum to the Frost lyric “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” (Contrafacta are lyrics sung to the same tune—in medieval times, maybe a pastourelle about a young girl’s wooing alongside a lament spoken by Mary at the Cross; or, in the case of the “Cuckoo Song”—“Sumer is icumen in”—an Easter hymn. In my poem, I have reversed Frost’s exquisite brief lyric, in which his line “So dawn goes down to day” implies a falling-off in beauty; my contrafactual version is that the ongoing life in the house, now filled with daylight, is a feasting and not a falling off.) And I have stuffed into the final line both Lycidas (in italics) and the Lord’s Prayer.


It’s not exactly a Pentecostal wind or
Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, it’s
more a haboob or maybe simoom, truly
a burning desert blast at this time of the year—
down on the southern Sahara swoops a hellish
roiling hurricane-force wind that scoops
a hundred-mile-long rift-full of dusty crystals up
and up and drives them in dark flashing clouds westward
high and higher and out over the coastline of Africa, the grey
haze now streaming across the Atlantic over Brazil
and on up over the Amazon,
high above lush rain-forests until the fine
dust comes delicately down into an orchid’s apotheosis
of hurricane where a hummingbird
glittering sends its long tongue into
deep nectar, avatar
of Sahara sand.

--In this dark house I hear the
shimmering of my Doppelgänger’s wings,
but I am crying, the voices say—
some time ago I came down like dust
from the stars into this house where the old voice says
he is crying, give him
some milk, it says,
and the young voice says
I have to change him first,
then hands come down and take me up,
remove the swaddling clothes and dip
me in chilly water, wash me clean,
and I am crying and the young voice sings,
I still myself and listen, I hear the words,
“What are you afraid of?” they say,
“No one can go around death.”
In this dark house there are no
stars but there is song, the hands
have warmed a bottle, there is milk,
but first I sing along, the young voice stops then
and I sing alone,
“What are we afraid of, no one
can go around death.”
My brother hears me and he turns
from the nectar and flies out
into the moonlight, and the stars
are over him. “This child
is singing,” the young voice says, and then
the old voice says,
“Give him the bottle, let him sleep.”
The milk is sweet and warm. Now
through silent window
the morning star comes nearer,
then fades away, the east turns russet and my brother
the orchard oriole, wearing the soft
colors of early dawn, begins to sing,
so I laugh and sing,
we sing together
without words his song of joy,
“The stars go home and now
the sun appears,”
then the old voice says,
“I guess I better get up
and fix some breakfast now”—
so dawn goes down to day,
its light-gold pancakes lifting off a tray
like little suns, butter and honey spreading,
black coffee’s bitter perfume rising while
Grandmother gives us (yet once more) our daily lives.

When I was a boy in the Buck Creek Valley on the Reservation, one spring and summer a pair of orchard orioles nested in the elms beside our home, and I learned to whistle their challenge-notes and the long cascading series of mellifluous notes of their song. Alexander F. Skutch (Orioles, Blackbirds, and their Kin, University of Arizona Press, 1996), studied them in their winter migration homes in Central America and says the orchard orioles were “most songful of all the birds I have heard….At dawn, young and old sang together in a many-voiced chorus of whistled notes delightful to hear” (p. 190).

As a final comment: I think it likely that creatures sang and danced before they spoke, and that communities were first made of song and dance: metronymic mouth, hands, feet, bodies. Birds do it, bees do it, octopodes and people do it. And I suspect singing began from weeping and from laughing, turned into choral tragedy and comedy, kept time with rhythms and rhymes of tropical sunlight and starlight, temperate blossom and snowfall. Without song, no nesting. Home, as the Frost poem says, is where, when you go there, they have to take you in, and it turns out our relatives are everywhere. So the tropical paradise in New Guinea with snow around it, in the crater of a long-extinct volcano called Mount Bosavi, a place where new forms of life have evolved in isolation (including a Bird of Paradise, arising from that extinct volcano like a Phoenix), rhymes well with the Osage Agency town where I was born, Pawhuska, which means “White Hair.” Now that song has put on feathers and become speech, we dance, sing, and speak with each other in Pawhuska, at the June solstice, to keep the Osage Nation alive. Our dances begin and end with spoken prayers. We hear Adam and Eve as Milton gives them to us, every dawn, if we are lucky enough to have birds as neighbors: for them at sunrise, I believe, the Paradise within is happier far.

Copyright © Carter Revard. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carter Revard, Osage on his father's side, was born in the Osage Agency town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma and grew up on the Osage Reservation there. He attended a one-room school in the Buck Creek rural community, won a radio quiz scholarship to the University of Tulsa, and was given his Osage name in 1952, the year he went to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. After taking his B.A. there, he earned a Ph.D. at Yale and taught medieval literature, linguistics, and American Indian literature at Amherst College, Washington University St. Louis, and elsewhere. He retired in 1997 but continues to write and publish poems and scholarly essays. His books of poetry include Ponca War Dancers (1980), Cowboys and Indians, Christmas Shopping (1992), An Eagle Nation (1993), and How The Songs Come Down (2005). A collection of essays published in 1998, Family Matters, Tribal Affairs, was followed by Winning The Dust Bowl (memoirs and poems) in 2001. Some recent poems, including "Deer Mice Singing Up Parnassus," will appear in AHANI: Poems of the Indigenous Americas, edited by Allison Hedge Coke, forthcoming from The University of Arizona Press.

Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices On Child Custody and Education - The Book as Village

By Robert Bensen

The anthology of Native American writing that I edited, Children of the Dragonfly, was begun not long after my wife and I learned that our adoptive infant daughter was of Native as well as European ancestry. We had many questions about what to do. We wondered what that might mean for her and for us as parents.

Fast-forward ten years, and Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices On Child Custody and Education, appeared from the University of Arizona Press in 2001. The book collects writing by Native American people raised in adoptive and foster-care and other non-Indian settings such as boarding schools, as well as related fiction and poetry—the first such collection. Many people responded to calls I sent out to various Native e-groups, including WordCraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers for original contributions. It would establish a new area of concern in American Indian literature devoted to childhood and family. I thought it could embrace traditional upbringing (as figured in instructive, older stories), as well as boarding schools and adoptive and foster-care homes, and a broad range of issues in trans-cultural adoption and child-rearing.

I wanted the book to help support, however modestly, organizations devoted to the well-being of Indian children and families. Royalties continue to aid the American Indian Community House (NYC), Native American Rights Fund, American Indian College Fund, AAIA, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, NICWA, and others. In the first years, royalties were sufficient to share among the authors as well.

I found the book could do all that and more: I found in it the proverbial village it takes to raise a child. This village is full of people who, at least most of them, have never met except between the covers of the book. Until they saw my call for people raised in adoptive or foster care settings to contribute their story, many of the writers told me they thought they were the only one. They thought they were alone.

And it took a child to bring this village together. The book has given back to the authors who wrote for it, who are also Dragonfly’s children. Some were published there for the first time. Writing for the book advanced everyone’s journey toward understanding who they are and where they came from. Among them are artists who have pursued their life-issues in new ways in Native galleries and museums. Others work in adoption and social services, or in community organizations related to child welfare and education. Some found a new direction and energy for learning the cultural ways that had been denied them. Some are writers for whom Dragonfly has opened new areas for their work, and who are leaders in Native writing circles, publishing, and mentoring.

In an old Zuni story, Dragonfly is the form an ancient spirit takes to provide for two abandoned children. As Carter Revard writes in the “Foreword,” Dragonfly lately made his body of the book, and within it and from it and surrounding it are a host of people who have, loosely speaking, adopted our daughter back in loving ways—so she has aunts and uncles and cousins from many nations, including Cherokee, Seneca, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, Tuscarora, Shinnecock, Innu, Navajo, Osage, and Lakota and others. Those in the book sometimes led us to others as well. Some have passed into the spirit-world but return for her in ceremony and dream. Everyone has taught her something of her Native heritage.

Our daughter was at an Aboriginal dance workshop in Toronto last summer. Certainly she was the fairest of them all, though her hair has turned from blonde to brown as she’s grown up. A woman came to teach some social dances to the group, and had gathered the dancers in a circle to talk to them. She said that these dances were not sacred, so they could be shared, but that they were seldom, if ever, taught to non-Natives. She was looking at our daughter when she said this, and that she had asked the elders for permission, since there were non-Natives involved.

When she finished, my daughter replied that, while she may look non-Native to some on the outside, inside her heart was red. Though she was adopted, she had always learned all she could about her ancestry. She had been given a clan and a name. “And besides,” she said, “do you know the story of Goldilocks?”
“The old one?” the woman replied.
“No, the old Cherokee one,” she said, and told how, in Mary Ulmer Chiltoskey’s retelling, Goldilocks flees the house of the three bears and is soon tired and hungry. As she wanders lost in the woods, she smells some good cooking. She follows her nose to a clearing with some dark-skinned children and adults, and some log cabins and fires with pots cooking on them. Goldilocks doesn’t understand their language, but they understand her hunger, and so feed and shelter her.

Many days later a U.S. Indian agent comes around to enroll families. He sees a blonde girl playing with the dark-skinned children and asks the woman watching them if all those children are hers. “Yes,” she says, because she cared for the girl. The man marks them all down as “F,” full-blood Cherokees. As the story goes, the girl grew and married a Cherokee man. Among their children was one little blonde girl. And so it came to be that there is a Goldilocks in every Cherokee family.

That’s the story our daughter remembered from Children of the Dragonfly to tell at that moment, when her identity and rightful place were being challenged. That was one more gift of the village of the book. It has given her ground to stand on, among those who care for her. And who knows, maybe that’s why the worlds she makes hoop dancing never fall apart.

Copyright © Robert Bensen 2010. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Bensen is an invited member of WordCraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, whose poems and essays appear widely in U.S., U.K., West Indian and Native American journals such as Akwe:kon and Native Realities. His poems have been collected in five chapbooks (Orenoque, Scriptures of Venus, and others), and he has been awarded an NEA poetry fellowship and the 1996 Robert Penn Warren Award. Since 1978 he has been Director of Writing at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. He teaches writing as well as courses in American Indian law and literature, and is the editor of
Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education, The University of Arizona Press.

Robert Bensen has released a new collection of poems titled Orenoque, Wetumka, and Other Poemsin collaboration with Professor of Art Phil Young, whose artwork is featured on the cover. A reading to launch the book will be held at the publisher on Thursday, November 1, at 7 p.m., Bright Hill Literary Center, Treadwell, New York.

Tomol Trek: California Indians Regathering a Tradition

Our classes are held outdoors under a bead-blue California sky. We work on a patch of green grass, an occasional hawk sweeping over with light shining through her rust red tail. Back in 1997, when there was money available to be used for education, the Santa Barbara County American Indian Education Project began the series “Tomol Trek.”

After much hard work, the project put together an academy with federal (Title V) funding. Each year the academy had a different focus. In 1997 the year’s final outcome was aimed at producing a modern-day recreation of a traditional Chumash tomol. The children and teenagers attending ranged from elementary through high school. Many are Chumash, but the kids represented a variety of tribes, all with a common bond: every one of these kid’s lives in an area that made up the traditional Chumash homeland. We all hold the culture, traditions, and history of the Chumash people in our hands and in our hearts.

The tomol, a type of plank canoe, is unique to the Chumash. Tomols were used for trips between the islands and Chumash settlements. Originally they were about thirty feet long, and could hold four thousand pounds. Usually they carried six people but could hold up to twelve.

Our modern-day tomol was built by the children under the guidance of Peter Howorth, in his backyard tomol building workshop. There is a perfect balance between master and apprentice as the children sand pieces of the vessel throughout construction. A dozen hands move slowly across the handle, moving towards the paddle end of an oar. Small hands, young hands, skin so smooth and maroon, peach-colored hands, muted brown, every child with a tribal memory circling her or his heart.

A kind of palpable energy surrounds the tomol project. People seem to want to be a part of what’s going on. American Indian students from Cal Poly and UCLA arrive to volunteer support. Before I know it, I’m one of those helping out. The more I sand, the closer I am to the tomol. Sometimes I stop in the middle of the day and am silent in respect to the ancient peoples who left the witness of their lives, their visions, the strength of their faith for us to ponder.

My son is one of those kids helping out. He knows about the pleasure found in working hard, and seeing the good results of that work. As he sands the pieces of wood I watch him find his relationship with the plank canoe he is helping to create.

Our real goal is not only the finished tomol; it is also the season long process of working together. Still, everyone eagerly waits the day the vessel will be launched. When the maiden voyage takes place, within the harbor, there is only a small gathering of people. Before the “official” crewmembers begin their training we get to know the tomol. Her name is Alolkoy—dolphin in Chumash. She is twenty-five feet long, and made of redwood. Conditions in the harbor are ideal. The sun is warm; a soft, steady sea breeze blows at our backs. We fill sandbags for ballast, and then one at a time, we each have a turn sitting inside the tomol.

My son, feeling his connection with the Tomol he helped build

Alolkoy is much lighter than I ever imagined. Slowly I become one with her. I only have to “think” of shifting my weight left, and she responds almost before I even move. By the end of the day I understand we should not take photographs while we are with her, not yet anyway. First I watch someone drop a camera into the ocean, and then the back of my camera opens, exposing my film.

Remembrance weighs heavy on my mind, as it does for most Native people seeking to affirm cultural identity in a high-tech world. There is a comfort in being with those who understand. Our kids do not have to trade in their Indian values for education; the project carried ancient memory and cultural knowledge into their lives today.

First Published in the winter 1997 issue of News from Native California. © Terra Trevor. 


A number of the children who participated in the Tomol backyard building workshop have grown up to become crewmembers making the crossings from the mainland to Limuw - Santa Cruz Island. 

You might also like to read the follow up story Tomol Evening by Terra Trevor reprinted from Volume 29, No. 2 (Winter 2015/16) of News from Native California.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in California, with roots in Colorado and Oklahoma, Terra Trevor is the author of a diverse body of work. She values the collective experience and in addition to her solo work has collaborated with other writers and is a contributing author of 10 books and a contributing editor at River, Blood, And Corn.


By Diane René Christian

Late last fall, early morning, I heard the phone ring. I picked it up and heard my brother’s voice. He said, "Diane- Dad collapsed on Gram’s floor. He wasn’t breathing. He’s in an ambulance now. I’m on my way to meet him at the hospital."

I have no sense of how many minutes passed before the phone rang again. Somewhere in between the calls from my brother I phoned my grandmother. She said, "Dear, he wasn’t breathing for a long time. He’s gone now."

When my brother phoned from the hospital he told me that he was going to put the ER doctor on the phone. I needed to give my permission for my father to die. I did. I don’t remember what I said or how I said it - but he is dead now.

I have two daughters. Both are adopted from China. My youngest was adopted first, at age 2½ and was 6 when my father died. My oldest lived in China for almost 8 years before joining our family. She was 10½ when my father died.

The night of my father’s death I remember saying out loud, but to no one in particular, "I don’t know how to live without a parent."

My oldest daughter heard my cry. She came to my side, placed her hand on my shoulder and said, "You just do."

My youngest daughter refused to leave my side. A well of fear emerged from within her and she raged and wailed in anger at the thought of being separated from me. The equation was simple— if I could lose my father then she could lose me.

Somewhere in the first days of death, I remember hearing my oldest daughter say,"We should burn money for Grandy so he can buy what he needs in Heaven."

In the fog of grief many voices floated by. The voices of strangers, people at banks, cremation services, social security. Voices emerged from piles of letters that my father saved when he was serving in the armed forces in Korea. There were the voices of friends and family that reminded me that I was not the one who left... I was still here.

Sometimes in my dreams there was the voice of my father. Once I dreamed that he was in bed and struggling to get up. He was trying to talk to me. I reminded him that he was dead and that it was OK to leave me.

When the shroud of grief began to unravel, I asked my oldest daughter to tell me about burning money for the dead. She said, every year her village community would gather and burn fake money as an offering to their ancestors. Sometimes they would burn images of clothing and cars and whatever they felt like their ancestors might need on the other side.

On my father’s birthday we wrote letters to him. After we read them aloud, we burned them. We fed our words to the fire with hope that the smoke would carry our voices beyond.

Copyright © 2010 Diane René Christian. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diane René Christian, author of An-Ya and Her Diary, is an award winning short story writer turned novelist. She was raised in Pennsylvania and spent her childhood years playing in the fields of Valley Forge Park.  She now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. Visit her on the web at

A Copper Miner’s Great Granddaughter Reflects

By Margie Perscheid

On the radio recently my morning commute offered up coverage of the horror of the Upper Big Branch mine tragedy and the woeful state of mine safety in the U.S. As I listened my thoughts quickly turned to something far more personal— my family which first came to America in 1898, were copper miners in Upper Michigan. My great-grandfather took a detour to Arizona to work in the copper mines there, and was killed in a mining accident.

My family never knew the whole story, but was only told he had been electrocuted by a piece of equipment and buried near Bisbee. His wife had stayed behind in Michigan, and all she could do was gather up the kids, my mother’s father and his brother, and go back to the old country. My grandfather, however, had been born in Michigan and therefore had U.S. citizenship. He came back to work the Michigan mines, and soon brought his wife and two children, my uncle and mother, to join him.

This story didn’t open up to me in bits and pieces, but rather as a whole, a kind of shared experience-recollection of and by the people who lived it, passed it on, and took it in. It seemed to spring up from some unconscious place where it had been resting, implanted by countless retellings stretching back to my childhood. I was a little surprised at how deeply connected I felt to this miner identity, since my life has been so different from those of my grandparents and great-grandparents. But there it was, just like the connection I felt to the thousands of others whose family stories look much like mine. Shared history makes us community. It meant nothing to me when I was a kid. My Balkan family and their stories embarrassed me; I yearned for lighter skin and hair and eyes, and a name like Miller or Moore. I wanted to be something other than I was, until I left and made my home in a place where the divisions of my childhood had no meaning.

As I grew up and moved away from home, I began to see the world through a different lens, and learned to appreciate the treasure of my family’s story. Years later, becoming a parent through adoption taught me the impact of its loss. The more I appreciate my family story, the sadder and angrier I become that my children have been denied theirs. With age I have also come to understand that family histories change with the passing of time. As memories dim and new experiences eclipse the old, future generations will learn a different story from the one I know. The important thing is that the history and the story are theirs to claim, just as the story I hold dear is mine. Whatever goes forward belongs to each of us in the same way our bodies do, and deserves the same respect.

Copyright © 2010 Margie Perscheid. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margie Perscheid has been active in the Korean adoption community in Washington, DC since 1989. She is the co-founder of Korean Focus, an organization for adoptive families with Korean children offering educational and cultural programs and services to families in the DC area. Margie has been a member of the Advisory Board of KAAN and was co-coordinator of the 2003 KAAN Conference in Arlington, Virginia. She was a member of the Board of the Korean Branch of the Washington Metro YMCA (now the Chung Choon Young Foundation); and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Washington DC Chapter of Korean American Coalition. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband, son, and daughter. Visit her on the web at

Birthed from Scorched Hearts: Women Respond to War

Award-winning author MariJo Moore asked women from around the world to consider the devastating nature of conflict—inner wars, outer wars, public battles, and personal losses. Their answers, in the form of poignant poetry and essays, examine war in all its permutations, beginning in 60 CE and continuing into the 21st century, from Ireland to Iraq and everywhere in between - a Blitz evacuee, an ex-slave, an incarcerated mother, former military personnel, survivors of domestic violence, those who have battled drugs and disease, and many other courageous women willing to share their unique and timeless insight on the realities of war.

With contributions from Linda Hogan, Paula Gunn Allen, Lee Maracle, Kim Shuck, Laura ToheTerra Trevor, Linda Boyden, and numerous others, this moving anthology encompasses a wide range of voices. 

Birthed from Scorched Hearts: Women Respond to War
Fulcrum Publishing

Old Pictures of Mom

By Jen Hilzinger

My mom died suddenly a month and a half before I turned 31. She was 58. Glen and I had been married for 8 years and both of our older kids were home with us. She lived in Florida during the winter, but we had just spent a couple of weeks together over the holidays. Of course we were busy with the dealings of the holiday, she was busy traveling to all the relatives homes, trying to see everyone and catch up on all that she had missed since the last time she was here, and I was blissfully in the throws of being a mom of two busy little ones.

My mom always stayed to help, and by helping it usually meant holding baby E and now big sister M, reading books, daydreaming with me over coffee about what kind of people they were going to be. She loved bathing them and getting jammies on. She loved babies, especially at bath time. Johnson's Baby Wash was her favorite. I made sure to use it too. She loved teaching me all of the tricks and skills of caring for a baby and toddler. I loved listening to her. Of course I did not know that was the last time I would see her alive. I would have asked her more about letting teens make their own mistakes and always loving them though it all. And living with depression. She was expert at each.

I've been back through the photos of that holiday; I didn't get ONE good picture of her with the kids together. I can't believe I missed that. It was our first Christmas with son E home from Korea, and his birthday is December 25th. He turned one that year. My mom would be gone on February 12th without so much as a goodbye.

I now make a point to aim the camera at the adults in the room too, every once in a while. It was a hard way to learn that lesson. I learned a few other brutal lessons through losing her the way I did.

I remember the first day I was alone in our house after she died. All of the commotion of planning the funeral and burial were done, all the thank you notes had been written, although initially I was not sure what to thank people for. My pen hesitated on the first few notes, even toying with the idea of skipping this part. Perhaps that is why food is a part of funerals, you can thank people and feel grateful for at least the time and effort it took to bring food. It felt strange thanking people for coming to the funeral...

A Note From the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation

From: [] On Behalf Of Chad Smith
Sent: Tuesday, April 06, 2010 11:13 AM
To: All Employees (mailing list)
Subject: Wilma Mankiller

Dear Friends,
Our personal and national hearts are heavy with sorrow and sadness with the passing this morning of Wilma Mankiller, our former Principal Chief. We feel overwhelmed and lost when we realize she has left us but we should reflect on what legacy she leaves us. We are better people and a stronger tribal nation because her example of Cherokee leadership, statesmanship, humility, grace, determination and decisiveness. When we become disheartened, we will be inspired by remembering how Wilma proceeded undaunted through so many trials and tribulations. Years ago, she and her husband Charlie Soap showed the world what Cherokee people can do when given the chance, when they organized the self-help water line in the Bell community She said Cherokees in that community learned that it was their choice, their lives, their community and their future. Her gift to us is the lesson that our lives and future are for us to decide. We can carry on that Cherokee legacy by teaching our children that lesson.

Wilma asked that any gifts in her honor be made as donations to One Fire Development Corporation, a non-profit dedicated to advancing Native American communities though economic development, and to valuing the wisdom that exists within each of the diverse tribal communities around the world. Tax deductible donations can be made as well as The mailing address for One Fire Development Corporation is 1220 Southmore Houston, TX 77004.

Wilma Mankiller: Speaking About Her Life In Her Own Words

Wilma Pearl Mankiller Remembrance:
Watch video by clicking on this link

Rejecting cancer cliches that deal in terms of winning, or losing

“Why do you suppose when a person dies from cancer they say he lost the battle?” My son asked. His face was pinched with confusion. I blinked in surprise.

“Don’t worry Mom, I know dying is not about losing.” And with the zeal of a kid determined to restore order to the universe he announced, “Heaven is filled with winners.”

In 1991 my seven-year-old son faced a cancer diagnosis and received medical treatment of outstanding quality. For eight years his scans were clear and he was healthy and strong again. Then in 1999, at age fifteen, the tumor recurred and he received more excellent medical treatment. Still the brain tumor gained ground rapidly.

Courage, like love, requires hope to flourish. My son found his way through the stages as they came up. He held life in his two hands and was squeezing out its sweetest juices. Having a positive attitude was important to him. As ill as he was, he gave the impression he’d outlive all of us. But suddenly his condition worsened.

Following my son's death I received stacks of cards I treasured from earnest friends. Their sweet messages almost restored my courage, yet nearly all contained the lines, "We're so sorry Jay lost the fight."

Every day since I have begun to witness numerous random acts, and lives lived for which I call winning. The child on chemo who reassures a new friend that "her hair will too grow back." The teenager who drags his IV pole from his bed to sit outside with friends. The young mother who allows a Hospice nurse to help her wash her hair and take a bath. The father, neighbor, teacher, your friends and mine—every day ordinary people are called upon to do extraordinary things, like finding pockets of happiness, reaching deep, loving wide and living a good life in the midst of a cancer diagnosis—even when sometimes it appears life is coming to a full circle closure.

Perhaps not cancer, yet each one of us will die one day. What I know for sure is my son and dozens of others I’ve loved who have lived long and short lives with cancer have proved it is time to challenge and reject cancer-cliches that speak in terms of winning, or losing. Because isn’t life about how we play the game?

First published at Candlelighters - American Childhood Cancer Foundation
Copyright © Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terra Trevor is an essayist, memoirist, nonfiction and short story writer. She values the collective experience and has collaborated with other writers and is a contributing author of 10 books including The People Who Stayed: Southeastern Indian Writing After Removal, The University of Oklahoma Press, Birthed from Scorched Hearts: Women Respond to War, Fulcrum Books. 

Her memoir Pushing up the Sky: A Mother's Story about transracial adoption and raising a child with cancer and a brain tumor, is widely anthologized with excerpts included in Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices On Child Custody and Education, The University of Arizona Press. Born in 1953 to a mixed blood family, and raised in southeast Los Angeles, with roots in Colorado and Oklahoma, her life was divided into two seasons; winter and camping. The home she carries within is mountains and pine trees.

Washing the Blankets

By Kimberly L. Becker

After your fever breaks

and you’re headed back to school,

I strip your bed

to wash the residue of flu.

Pillowcases, sheets, blankets

all heaped into the wash.

I think of other blankets,

other outcomes.

Add bleach to the load.

Aim to get the blankets white, white, white.

First published in Crab Creek Review, Summer 2009
© Kimberly L. Becker

Kimberly L. Becker is a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers & Storytellers. Her poetry appears in many journals and anthologies, such as Diverse Voices Quarterly, Future Earth Magazine, I Was Indian (FootHills), Pemmican, Platte Valley Review, and Poets and Artists. Finalist for the DeNovo Award (C&R Press), she received a FY10 grant from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (MD) to study Cherokee language, history, and culture in Cherokee, NC. Current projects include adapting Cherokee myths into plays for Cherokee Youth in Radio Project at the Cherokee Youth Center in Cherokee, NC.

Words Facing East (WordTech Editions, 2011) is her first book of poetry.
Visit her website at

The Spirits Need Us As Much As We Need Them

By MariJo Moore

And when the last secret of the world is known
life will begin again.

When time has crawled inside itself
and discovered it never existed,

when the river spirits blacken into
the bluing mouth of the sky
then we shall know there is,
there always has been

a sacred place where the spirits gather
to pray for us all.

© 2009 MariJo Moore

MariJo Moore (Cherokee/Irish/Dutch) is the author of a dozen books including Spirit Voices of Bones, Confessions of a Madwoman, Red Woman With Backward Eyes and Other Stories, The Diamond Doorknob, The Boy With A Tree Growing From His Ear and Other Stories, and the editor of four anthologies including Genocide of The Mind: New Native Writings and Eating Fire, Tasting Blood: Breaking the Great Silence of the American Indian Holocaust. The recipient of numerous literary and publishing awards, she resides in the mountains of western North Carolina where she presides over rENEGADE pLANETS pUBLISHING.

Dream Big

If there was ever a time to dare, to make a difference, 
to embark on something worth doing, it is now. 
Not for any grand cause necessarily, 
but for something that tugs at your heart, 
something that's your aspiration,
something that's your dream.

You owe it to yourself to make your days here count.
Have fun. Dig deep. Stretch. Dream big.

Know though, that things worth doing seldom come easy.
There will be good days and there will be days when you
will want to turn around, pack it up, call it quits. 

Those times will tell you that you are pushing yourself, that you
are not afraid to learn by trying. Persist.

Because with an idea, determination, and the right tools,
you can do great things. Let your instincts, your intellect,
and your heart guide you. Trust.

Believe in the incredible power of the human mind. Of doing
something that makes a difference. Of working hard.
Of laughing and hoping. Of lazy afternoons, of lasting friends.
Of all the things that will cross your path this year.

The start of something new brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible. There is only one of you. And you will
pass this way only once."

Author unknown

  • If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. —Barry Lopez, in Crow and Weasel