They must be danced

Brown trees in forest

Upon Smithsonian Museum’s repatriation of Yurok regalia, August 13, 2010

For a hundred years
they did not hear
the chants of the old men
as the moon rose,
the forest darkened.

They could not see
the shrouded redwoods,
how rivers meet and part,
birds dart branch to branch.

For a hundred years
they lay in dark places
wrapped tight, sheathed
and labeled:
condor feather,
obsidian blade,
scarlet bird scalp,
widows cap,
rare white deerskin.

They had almost forgotten
the language of hands,
rattle of dentalia, of abalone,
the stomp and jump
of the dance.

They were hardly breathing
when the elders came,
when drawers slid open,
when tears fell.

They were hardly breathing
when at last their stories
were told in the deep voices
of their people.

And now they will be danced.
Now mouse and frog will laugh
because they are going to
see the dance.

Now they will sing songs,
dance shoulder to shoulder
to bird bone whistle and
dust will rise, baskets swing,
and the voices will drone
for ten days and forever.


Poem by Suzanne Giroux Frank

Suzanne Giroux Frank. I am a poet and nonfiction writer living in Chicago. I have studied Indigenous creation stories and am aware of the violence and attempts to eradicate and dishonor native culture that go on today through failing to recognize where whites have stolen land and trivializing tribal names and important historical figures. I would be honored to be included in this publication.