To The People United by Cankpi Opi

byDuane Niatum
The grandparents among young warriors
remember the story of Big Foot
and his people, how mothers kept children
alive like the grass today, hiding
them in the beetle's earthen bowl.
The legends of Paha Sapa grass are simple:
by noon, the wind digs into the plains
like coyote. Nothing leaves these black hills
but worms burrowing songs into tomorrow.
The keens of Minneconjou and Hunkpapa
return each day like the sun. Under twilight's
wing their offspring takes generations to find
the way down the long, steep path of ancestors.
The steps burn new colors into their
smallest vein; found ancestors call them
to dance until the dawn gives them breath.
First light peels away memory's curse,
the story of the Seventh Cavalry.
The women stop weeping for the trail of tears,
the long march, and bury their hearts
in the red earth. Elders take back their scars
and the young, running out despair
and the nightmare of the conquered,
kneel to offer sweet pollen at the graves
of eagle, hawks and warrior dreamers.

From Drawings of the Song Animals, Holy Cow! Press
Originally published in Ascending Red Cedar Moon in 1974.
Revised 2/98. © 1974, 1991, 1998 Duane Niatum

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