I brought my Red Cross blanket to Standing Rock. I
wanted to show some kind of solidarity with the
Lakota/Dakota. Like—I too have felt the pain of losing a
home. But I hadn't lived in Staten Island that long when
Sandy hit. She made me a refugee for two weeks and
ruined my bicycle. Does that compare? Please show us
how to act in the aftermath of murder.
I brought my fancy ways with a kitchen knife because I
don't know how to build Tipis. But I cut off the tip of my
index finger showing off with the potatoes. Quite simply,
the white girl wasn't used to julienne-ing with the
temperature hovering around 29 degrees. That's
Fahrenheit, you know, because I'm an Amurikan. And
don't you forget it. Forgive us for taking their land.
I brought the fact that I'd been shot once, in the upper
thigh. When the volunteer doctor cleaned the julienned
finger, I didn't wince. He asked me if that was because I
was a woman and therefore evaluated all pain by the
standards of childbirth. I told him no, it was because I'd
been shot. I thought this would impress him more than
childbirth. It used to impress. But now, bullets are
ubiquitous. You find them in your breakfast cereal, on
the beach, in the wall of the enormous VIP Cineplex in
the middle of the mall. They poke the back of your thigh
when you sit down in a church pew. Most, they say, are
from botched suicides. But also, you know, suicide by
mass killing. “In the U.S. you are 20 times more likely
to die by bullet than in any other country, except for
those in the middle of a Civil War.” May my death not be
I would love to say I feel like a stranger here. Then I
could marvel at strip malls and discount gun marts (free
ammo with every Glock purchase). But I don't. I'm not a
stranger. I'm an American. May my death not be violent.
I brought tobacco, which is sacred. I brought a five
pound can of it. It smelled good in the car, like dense
fruit. Smoke God into us.
The State Police followed me up the river. Hey, I am the
daughter of a redneck, I've known Staties my whole life.
I come from people who drink whiskey and shoot deer.
At the same time. (Hyeh, hyeh, that's a joke, son.
Sorta). May my white skin protect me from white men.
I brought a skirt, because Oceti Sakowin is sacred
ground and I'm a woman, they tell me. Or maybe not,
because I've never had a baby, and I've been shot. May
my womenhood not be bitter.
I brought the fact that I speak Spanish. Like it was proof
of my non-settler-ness. (Solidaridad! Estoy con ustedes.
Esta es una lucha pa' todos.) May all our problems be
First World ones.
I brought blankets that were not Red Cross issued, and
not infected with smallpox. May two degrees (F) of
warmth absolve me.
I brought my own history. We settlers don't like history.
It's why we're obese. The past stays inside, you never
shit it out, you never look at it. Man, that's heavy.
I didn't bring whiskey. May my ancestors dance. May the
deer go free. May the police drones go blind.
The Missouri River is the quietest body of water I've
ever crossed. If she were a person you'd say she was
silent, and watching all the time. She's also the river
most likely to swirl pink in the early winter mornings.
And the most likely to whisper, under her sleeping ice.
Mni Wiconi. Water is life. Mni Wiconi. Water is life. Mni
Wiconi. Water is life.
Glena Trachta (pen name) is a former dancer turned lawyer and
writer (not an easy transition). Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry
have been published in numerous venues, including Narrative
Magazine, Stance on Dance, Animal Literary Magazine, Foliate Oak,
and Pirene's Fountain. She's lived in Chicago, New York, and
Albuquerque, and has taken wrong turns in all of them. She just
finished a novel about early 20th Century Butte, Montana, and is at
work on a tragicomic verse play about ocean pollution.
|OFFERING PRAYER, OR
WHAT I BROUGHT TO
by Glena Trachta