Thursday, April 9, 2015

Feather Dance

Eagle Dancer by Woodrow Crumbo

Any Indian who shall engage in the sun dance, scalp dance, or war dance, or any other similar feast, so called, shall be deemed guilty of an offense, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished for the first offense by the withholding of its rations for not exceeding ten days or for imprisonment not exceeding ten days . . .
--- 1882 Courts of Indian Offenses

I am a Hawk -
from my fingers.

An Eagle downed
in the Mysteries
of my Mother.

I am an owl -
swift and sharp.

I am a water bird -
the heaviest
of heartaches.

A Scissortail riding
the smoke
as it floats away.

A Flicker
in the dark.

Notes: A variety of feathers are held sacred by different Native American tribes ( I've used red-tailed hawk, American bald eagle, cormorant, scissortail, and flicker) and are used in rituals, dances, and ceremonies. It is believed that the wearer takes on attributes of the bird.  

If the law forbidding dance strikes you as archaic, consider that an Indian could be prosecuted for possessing eagle feathers as late as 1978 (the year the American Indian Religious Freedom Act became law).

For Ella's prompt at Real Toads


Hannah said...

LOVE this Mama Zen. The bird choices and imagery within - such excellent artwork and quote to inspire. I'm intrigued by the Native American totems and meanings.

Sylvia K said...

I have always been sickened by the way we have treated the Indians -- this was their home before it was ours and they have have/had the right to their beliefs every bit as much as we do. Beautiful as always, MZ!

Anonymous said...

I have to confess that I know far too little about American history to say anything insightful about the treatment of the native Americans (although from an emotional point of view based on what little I know it sounds like you're really not doing a great job at all with them), but I guess that made this poem even more intense for me. Why isn't more said about this? *sigh*

Sanaa Rizvi said...

An intriguing piece of art matched with beautifully written verses...!!
This is amazing work :D
Loved it!

Kerry O'Connor said...

What an amazingly powerful piece of art your poem is. I felt lifted up as I read it.

That quote is a testimony to the historical misunderstanding between people and nation, not to mention intolerance. I wish it were a thing of the past, but sadly continues to hitch itself to the present the world over.

Debi Swim said...

Had no idea... despicable

The poem is gorgeous.

Buddah Moskowitz said...

Loved this very much, such invention and identification. I am still trying to get my high school mascot changed from the Fullerton Indians to the Fullerton Native Americans. Good luck with that, Mosk

Claudia said...

i love how each of the feathers have their specific meaning and how they honor and carry the spirit

Jim said...

Thank you for writing this, Mom Zee. You did so good in portraying that beautifully dressed young man's dance.

Mrs. Jim and I attended a Pow-wow held by the Omaha Indians at Macy, Nebraska back in he early 70's. They were never stopped from their dancing. says: "Make plans now to attend the Omaha Tribe's 210th Harvest Celebration in Macy." That makes their 200th in 2006.

Gillena Cox said...

excellent poem!!!!!
luv the excerpt you shared with us

have a creative month

much love...

Ella said...

Bravo, Mama Zen. I read Animal Totems...I will come back and tell you what each animal cool~
I love it~

hedgewitch said...

Beautiful piece of art, and a very haunting and painful message it makes combined with your words, succinct and biting as always, with the taste of red dust and alkali. I was really jarred and disgusted by the use of the pronoun 'its' in that quote--as if the subject was an animal and not a human. God forbid you dance in front of the white man's little apple cart.

Fireblossom said...

This is cool on so many levels.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

For some reason the type in this message is invisible. I will try not to make typos. The beauty of this poem is glorious. But OH! MY! GOD! thelaw about the sundance, and the info about eagle feathers.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

The withdrawing of ITS rations! That says it all, doesn't it. Your poem, too, says it all — a very different 'all' — with beautiful economy and assurance.

Helen said...

Every poem you gift us is Incredibly unique ~~ this one especially so.

Susie Clevenger said...

Beautiful art and the voice you have given to it. This country is still bringing suffering to Native Americans. I pray protected land will not become the fodder of profit.

Ella said...

I typed everything out?! Where did it go...augh!
Mama Zen I will try again in the morning.

A quick run down:

Hawk has a message it can fly between Heaven and Earth.

Eagle is steadfast and proud, but can reveal a hidden truth.

Owl is intuitive and sees what others do not. Omen for change in terms of self discovery.

Water bird likely the Heron. A loner type who feels deeply. Consult head and heart when it comes to matters of importance.Be true to self. Balance patience with action.
I love how you did yours!

grapeling said...

feels like we;re going backwards, too, and not in a good way... ~

Anonymous said...

Great response here, the colors of the image morph into the wild voice of the poem. The original image must have once been seamless with the voice ... I wonder if those dances were thought incendiary to acts of outrage, even war ... exempla of a defiant spirit punishable by pocket genocide.

Outlawyer said...

Actually, I thought the most shocking part of the quote was the use of "its" to describe the Indian's rations. Well, rations too.

A very striking beautiful poem, MZ. k.

Magaly Guerrero said...

The quote made me angry.

The song, dance and spiritual beauty of the poem--its defiance--banished the anger.

Then I read the final note and was raging again. So I reread the poem... and breathed.

Susan said...

That last flicker seemed to be them leaving/disappearing. Without pictures and words we have little record and give too little back. Bravo.

Other Mary said...

Your poem is striking. And thanks for the reminder, once again, of how inhumane politically dominant humans can be.