A voice of thunder, fire in his veins
I saw where they buried him.
Red and black wood framing his stone
An unadorned burial by your standards.
No shrine to saint him
But honoring of his life, work, words.
I stood adjacent to him in quicksand
Measuring the greatness before me
Feeling a foreigner, desecrating a land
Yet knowing his heart in my pulse.
He is not lying there, earth-covered past
He will not stay in my history
As long as his voice echoes in my ears.
No longer do my people stand in blame.
We are past that
What we want, what we need to thrive
Is not your mind's recognition
Is not your affirmation
Is not your romanticization.
My grandmother lifted sacks of clams onto her beautiful shoulders
Trudged through sand, mud and water at 5 AM
Returned again at sunset with a lighted helmet
To provide for herself and her family.
My cousins danced across the stage at graduation
Twenty six Natives with degrees
Dancing over those who said to them
You ask me how I know
"How much Native" I am
You are asking about a blood quantum,
You do not ask about me.
If you want to know about true Natives
Study the grave of Chief Sealth
Let the beauty of his life be testimony
Look at my grandmother
Look at my father
I dare say look at me
But do not turn to a one-dimensional cartoon insult
And feel you are honoring our nations.
Those flat lies are nothing like the depth
Of our people.
Adrienne Trevathan is a descendant of the Port Gamble S'Klallam tribe. She graduated with an M. Div. in May 2009 and is working on a Master of Arts in Christian Education at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She is a certified deacon candidate.
Copyright 2009 © Adrienne Trevathan. Used by Permission. Reproduction granted for use in church worship services. Any further use beyond worship services must be with permission from the author.