Konch Magazine - "Keep Our Women Safe" by Ishmael Hope

KEEP OUR WOMEN SAFE
 
 
I'm looking for the Elders.
I'm looking for the Clan Leaders.
I'm looking for the young leaders.
My good friend Johnny Marks
told me of the times
our women were taken
by the Navy.
They went missing for days,
only to wash up on the shore.
“You don’t just forget those things,”
Johnny said.
 
We think it’s long gone.
We think it’s all in the past,
until another woman goes missing,
until another woman gets brutalized,
and sometimes
our own people are so confused,
so filled with anger,
that they take it out on their families
and themselves.
 
No more!
Stop!
Stop hurting us!
Stop breaking us apart!
Stop!
Whoever or whatever it is—
the government
that chases our people down
and throws them in jail,
but protects their own
with every resource
at their command,
or the ignorance and fear
that displaces all pathologies
on to the other,
or the pit of our hearts,
carrying the inarticulate wound
of war and relentless shame--
stop!
 
Come out and be Tlingit again,
and bring the ancestors with you,
and have a feast and make peace,
and honor the opposites,
and forgive,
and forgive,
and forgive.
 
Our clans and our spirit world
were the most deeply attacked,
and now they are the most needed,
though it is a great victory
that we’re still here,
and memories don’t die easy.
 
I had a dream
where my grandfather
was a Peacemaker in the afterlife.
For those who attacked us
to move on,
they had to repay our people.
My grandfather negotiated
what would be given.
Sometimes it was
a pouch of tobacco
for everything that was taken from us,
but it was more than that, too.
It was their renewed hearts in heaven,
and in this world,
maybe even
a little more strength
and courage
than we had before.