Trail of Tears

Trail of Tears

By Elizabeth Harper

Visiting family.
My eight-year-old nephew
and I both studying
the Choctaw.

The gist–
U.S. government,
under presidentz
Andrew Jackson,
Indian Removal Act of 1830,
moved Choctaw,
Seminole, Creek,
Chickasaw, Cherokee
to Indian Territory,
now Oklahoma.
Eventually,
under Dawes Act,
land was divided
into allotments, allowing
non-Indians to buy in,
destroying Choctaw
way of life.

Oh, and a lot
of people died.
Racial and cultural
genocide.

When we play
he wants to include
everyone. Neighbor kids
passing by join in.

Looking out for
the little guys
as we play
croquet, baseball
in their backyard.

He's a dancer.
Doesn't want to
take classes.
He's got his own style.
Holds on to me.
Wins at Monopoly.

He'll read about
the Trail of Tears
'cause I brought the books.
Got stopped by security
at the airport.

He looks more Indian
as he grows older.
Something in the eyes.
I look more Indian
as I grow older.
Lines in my face.

His mother nurses
his baby sister just
three months on
St. Patrick's Day.
Niece's face reminds me of
my boyfriend who moved
to San Francisco.
Then of our dad,
after stroke, before he died.

Schizophrenic (maybe)
boyfriend able to talk
about Kant, Marx
off the top of his head.
Sometimes I do
internet searches
on "Native Americans
and schizophrenia and/or
sadomasochism."
Looking for traces
of a connection.

Native American
spirituality as a form
of schizophrenic process.
Spirituality
through sadomasochistic
endurance, endorphin
rush...
highly sensitive
sensation seekers.

Reading about
the "tainted gift,"
disease method
of Western Expansion.

Choctaw naked,
freezing, starving,
deliberately or negligently
infected with cholera
rampant on steamboats
used for removal.

White man makes Indian sick.

Suffer stoic.

Culture destroyed.

Work is pain.

At my job,
I'm dehydrated,
hungry,
hot or cold,
standing for hours.

Is there such a thing
as blood memory?
Some American Indians
I meet think so.
Hard for me to see how,
unless it's genetics,
evolution, memetics,
cultural learning,
handed down,
no matter how
imperfectly.
My grandparents
on my father's side
died before I was born.
The concept of
blood memory
is controversial.
Critics say racist
and essentialist,
which I would never
want to be...still,
there's something there.

My dad would
drink his martinis
in water glasses
so his boss wouldn't
know he was drinking.

Nothing like a white man
to drive you to drink.

To drive you from
your homeland.

Coerced choices.

Indian removal.

Move or be
persecuted,
harassed.

By missionary
fuckheads,
head-fucked.

Don't tell me
about good intentions
of Christians.
The intent was
always
"Western Expansion,"
seizing of land,
demoralization,
destruction of culture,
way of life,
political economy.

Cultural destruction.
Human waste.
Bad ideology.
Global warming.
Poverty rate.

Cancer.

Stroke.

Heart attack.

Diabetes.

High blood pressure.

Disease method
of Western Expansion.

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