Thursday, November 4, 2021
Thursday, October 15, 2020
is a little resurrection.
is a newborn phoenix.
We awaken in the ashes
of the previous day’s dream
or grief. A morning ritual –
face and hands washed
with prayer – clarifies boundaries.
Open your heart.
Release yesterday’s bones.
Offer each day
an armful of wild roses,
the prick of thorns.
All you need carry forward
is the memory of petals,
the feral tracks of wonder
on your skin.
- Deborah A. Miranda
Monday, October 12, 2020
Proclamation on Columbus Day, 2020
Issued on: October 9, 2020
More than 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus’s intrepid voyage to the New World ushered in a new era of exploration and discovery. His travels led to European contact with the Americas and, a century later, the first settlements on the shores of the modern day United States. Today, we celebrate Columbus Day to commemorate the great Italian who opened a new chapter in world history and to appreciate his enduring significance to the Western Hemisphere.
When Christopher Columbus and his crew sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María it marked the beginning of a new era in human history. For Italian Americans, Christopher Columbus represents one of the first of many immeasurable contributions of Italy to American history. As a native of Genoa, Columbus inspired early immigrants to carry forth their rich Italian heritage to the New World. Today, the United States benefits from the warmth and generosity of nearly 17 million Italian Americans, whose love of family and country strengthen the fabric of our Nation. For our beautiful Italian American communities — and Americans of every background –Columbus remains a legendary figure.
Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions. Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister. They seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy. We must not give in to these tactics or consent to such a bleak view of our history. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus. This June, I signed an Executive Order to ensure that any person or group destroying or vandalizing a Federal monument, memorial, or statue is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
I have also taken steps to ensure that we preserve our Nation’s history and promote patriotic education. In July, I signed another Executive Order to build and rebuild monuments to iconic American figures in a National Garden of American Heroes. In September, I announced the creation of the 1776 Commission, which will encourage our educators to teach our children about the miracle of American history and honor our founding. In addition, last month I signed an Executive Order to root out the teaching of racially divisive concepts from the Federal workplace, many of which are grounded in the same type of revisionist history that is trying to erase Christopher Columbus from our national heritage. Together, we must safeguard our history and stop this new wave of iconoclasm by standing against those who spread hate and division.
On this Columbus Day, we embrace the same optimism that led Christopher Columbus to discover the New World. We inherit that optimism, along with the legacy of American heroes who blazed the trails, settled a continent, tamed the wilderness, and built the single-greatest nation the world has ever seen.
In commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage, the Congress, by joint resolution of April 30, 1934, modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as “Columbus Day.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 12, 2020, as Columbus Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I also direct that the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and all who have contributed to shaping this Nation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.
the New World
on the shores
generosity, love of family
mark it as inherently
a Garden of
creation, teach our children
about the miracle of honor,
the World; we inherit the
blazed continent, the wilderness,
call upon the people
in honor of our diverse
IN WITNESS WHEREOF
erasure poem, poem, and artwork
by Deborah A. Miranda
October 12, 2020
Monday, October 5, 2020
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Serra’s Paternalism as a Form of Violence: Why the Statues Must Come Down
by Deborah A. Miranda
Delivered at the Toppling Mission Mythologies Conference, July 15 2020, sponsored by the Critical Mission Studies Project. The Conference Roundtable Response from Jalane Schmidt and Amy Lonetree is posted separately here.
Saleki Atsa, Haku. Thank you everyone, especially to our organizers and to the participants and our audience. This is a huge occasion and I’m really, really honored to be part of it. I come to you from a place currently called Lexington, Virginia. I also sometimes, in my more bitter moments, call it Confederatlandia, but we’re taking care of that. I want to give acknowledgement to the land I’m on right now, which is Monacan land here in Virginia.
This conference, in a lot of ways, is about voices that haven’t been heard – as the Assemblyman was just telling us. In Bad Indians, I tried to create a space for those voices, and pull those voices out of the archives. This is one voice, and I thought it was appropriate for today’s topic. It’s from a section called “My Very Late 4th Grade Mission Project: Glossary definition: Padre.”
“The neophyte community was like one great family, at the head of which stood the padre . . . To him the Indians looked for everything concerning their bodies as well as their souls. He was their guide and their protector …” (Zephyrin Englehardt).
The Padre baptized us, gave us names and godparents; he taught us our catechism, officiated at our first communion, posted our marriage banns, he performed our weddings, baptized our babies, administered last rites, listened to our confessions; he punished us when we prayed to the wrong god or tired of our wives or husbands. He taught us to sing (our own songs were ugly), he taught us to speak (our own languages were nonsensical), he made us wear clothes (our bodies were shameful), he gave us wheat and the plow (our seeds and acorns fit only for animals).
Yes, that Padre, he was everything to us Indians. At the giving end of a whip, he taught us to care for and kill the cattle whose hides were called “mission dollars,” worked us in the fields of wheat and corn and barley, instructed us in the building of adobe to make the Church, the monjerio, storerooms – promised it all to us if we would just grow up, pray hard enough, forget enough.
But it all went to Spain, to Rome, to Mexico, into the pockets of merchants, smugglers, priests, dishonest administrators and finally the cruel Americans. Nothing left for the children the Padre had worked so hard to civilize, poor savages pulled from the fires of certain Hell. He was our shepherd, we were his beloved and abused flock; now the fields are eaten down to the earth, we claw the earth yet even the roots are withered, and the shepherd has gone away.
But we are pagans no more! Now we are Christian vaqueros, Christian housekeepers, Christian blacksmiths and shoemakers and laundry women and wet nurses and handymen – none of us paid with more than a meal or a shirt or a pair of discarded boots – but Christians, poor Christians, drunken Christians, meek targets for 49’ers crazed by goldlust or ranchers hungry for land. We are homeless Christians, starving Christians, diseased and landless Christians; we are Christian slaves bought and sold in newspapers, on the auction blocks, San Francisco, Los Angeles, one hundred dollars for a likely young girl, fifty dollars for an able-bodied young boy, free to whoever bails the old men out of jail: every one of us baptized by the Padre, our primitive souls snatched from this Hell our bodies cannot escape, we are Christian, we are Catholic, we are saved by the Padres and for that, Jesus Christ, we must be grateful.
I chose that piece to read because we are told that Junipero Serra brought Christianity to California Indigenous peoples – with the implication being, we Indians lived in a deficit of spirituality, of self-governance, and of an understanding of relationship with higher powers. If Serra had brought us the choice of Christianity – with no punishment for choosing to remain faithful to our own religions and ways of knowing the world – perhaps that would have been different. But Serra did not just “bring” us Christianity; he imposed it, he forced it, he violated us with it, giving us no choice in the matter. About this, Serra famously wrote that he was doing no more than a father would do with his children. Paternalism, as he used it, is a term that comes with overtones of wise fatherly responsibility and guidance. But the paternalism that Serra claimed as his right to impose was much more sinister; under any label, the paternalism practiced during the missionization of California was a form of violence – particularly when those being subsumed already live in cultures rich with religion, languages, literatures, governance, family structures, and social traditions that have served them well for thousands of years. We were living in a wealth of spirituality – not a deficit.
Missionization, for California Indians, was more like indoctrination in an abusive cult than spiritual grace. Natives who resisted or refused conversion were beaten, imprisoned, starved, exiled from their homelands – usually by soldiers, at the behest of priests. Religion was the stealth weapon of Spanish colonization; a “moral” reason for conquest, to protect lands Spain wanted for itself. In addition to Catholicism, the Spaniards brought disease, including their own special brand of syphilis that not only sterilized Native women but caused birth defects, blindness and death. We lost 90% of our population in missionized territories, in 70 years. In other historical contexts, this is called genocide, a crime against humanity. Violently enforced religion is not missionization, it is terrorism.
The missionaries’ efforts directly caused generations of trauma to California Indians from which we are still recovering. But we are recovering. As Athabascan scholar Dian Million writes, “We are not our trauma. We can work at healing without being victims. We can be damaged and still be sovereign.”
Why, then, should Indigenous peoples – and anyone aware of or interested in actual history – welcome the monuments to Serra that are everywhere in California?
Serra, many argue, was simply "a man of his times." In other words, colonization happens, and we should not blame those caught up in it. But that has a flip side to it: if Serra was, in fact, “a man of his times” in 1769 when he founded the first California mission in San Diego, he should have known better: Bartolome de las Casas knew better in 1552 when he published "A Brief History of the Destruction of the Indies," and spent his entire life working for the freedom of Indians and return of their lands (a wealthy man, a priest, and former Indian slave-holder); a document Serra and all priests in training would have read and debated. Padre Antonio Horra knew better in 1799 when he protested soldiers' rapes and beatings of Indian converts at his California mission. The Church officials in California and Mexico sent poor Padre Horra home saying he had gone insane from the stress of missionization and his inability to deal with the hardships of The New World. Horra, however, told a different story: “The treatment shown to the Indians is the most cruel … For the slightest things they receive heavy floggings, are shackled, and put in the stocks, and treated with so much cruelty that they are kept whole days without a drink of water.” Horra added that charges of insanity were false and brought against him because of his serious charges of cruelty by priests and soldiers, and mismanagement of Church resources (Bancroft 587). In closing, Horra asked to be sent back to Spain because he feared for his life – not because of savage Indians, but due to his own Franciscan brethren.
Many many other letters, diaries and records of others traveling in California during Serra’s tenure and afterwards left behind testimonies of the brutality brought on by the missions. In 1786, French explorer Jean-François de la Pérouse observed that during his visit to Mission Carmel a mere three years after Serra’s death, “Everything reminded us of a habitation in Saint Domingo, or any other West Indian slave colony. The men and women are assembled by the sound of the bell, one of the religious conducts them to their work, to church, and to all other exercises. We mention it with pain, the resemblance to a slave colony is so perfect, that we saw men and women loaded with irons, others in the stocks; and at length the noise of the strokes of a whip struck our ears.” Other visitors in the same era noted that Indians were even beaten with a whip or cane when they did not “attend [to] a worship ceremony.”
These people saw through “the eyes of their time” and what they saw disturbed them deeply.
I feel strongly that as one of the few descendants of the Indians who survived the missions, I have a responsibility to my Ancestors and to my own descendants to speak up and try to create a clearer understand about why Junipero Serra’s statues and monuments are another historical flogging of California Indians; these honorings of Serra work to erase, silence, and discredit California Indian lives and histories just as much as the original missions. No, Serra was not the only one involved. Yes, he was part of an intricate machine run by the Spanish Crown’s political desires, the Spanish military’s might, and the Vatican’s multiple ambitions to convert and acquire both souls and wealth. But Serra was also a man who, like many before him, was faced with a choice: go along with the program, achieve his own personal goals, and ignore the larger crimes – or take a stand against inherently inhumane and unChristian acts against a people who were obviously vulnerable to diseases and technologies far different from his own.
Serra made his choice. It was a choice that we California Indian peoples have suffered for. Economic, psychological and intergenerational trauma continue. But that choice does not make him a saint, or worthy of a statue valorizing him as a leader of any kind. Those of us alive now have a choice, as well; in fact, we have the same choice: do we remain silent, frozen with old fears and mythologies, or speak out, take action, finally assert that other, more complete histories that we know, histories that reveals the Indigenous figure is not kneeling, and the missionary has no halo?
I’d like to finish up with a very short poem.
for my sister Louise, and The Breath of Life Language Conference
Eni micha elpa mishmaxanano
I feel you in my blood,
nishiyano nishiti’anaxno, nishahurno.
in my bones, my gut, my teeth.
Name sikosura niche a’kxi,
You rise all around,
kolopisik xulin opa.
return like a lover.
Nishkuuh, niche lahake.
my basket, carry me.
nishimila, niche lasapke.
my ocean, bathe me.
I am your hummingbird
name hi’iyatan neku masianehk.
you are a flower of the heart.
Name cha’a nishkxatasaxno,
I feel you in my head,
my hands, my feet.
Uxarat kai pire.
We dance on the cliff of the world.
Name cha’a nishchawisaxno,
I feel you in my spine,
my throat, my womb.
Namesanaxkak opa, eni inamkak opa.
You are a river, I am the rain.
It is true, it is true,
it is true, it is true.
My language, our language:
breath of life.
Nimasianexelpasaleki. Thank you.
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Thursday, February 6, 2020
|Liliana Ancalao, Mapuche poet & activist|
|Liliana Ancalao, Mapuche poet & activist|
Thursday, October 31, 2019
The Creative Writing Minor at Washington and Lee University was pleased to host Lauren K. Alleyne yesterday! Pleased? We were lucky, blessed, gifted with her presence...all of the above. It was a moment of sheer joy for all of us, faculty and students alike. Lesley Wheeler's beginning poetry class joined my advanced poetry workshop for Lauren, tea and cookies, and later for an outstanding reading. Books were signed, questions asked, and words of wisdom bestowed. I've sprinkled some of those gems below, in between my somewhat fuzzy photographs (sometimes the phone camera loves me, sometimes it acts like we never met).
Lauren K. Alleyne hails from the twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Her fiction, poetry and non-fiction have been widely published in journals and anthologies, including The Atlantic, Ms. Muse, Women's Studies Quarterly, Interviewing the Caribbean, Crab Orchard Review, among many others. She is author of Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press, 2014) and Honeyfish (New Issues (US) & Peepal Tree (UK), 2019).
|With Professor and Poet Lesley Wheeler|
Alleyne currently resides in Virginia, USA, where she is an Associate Professor of English at James Madison University, Assistant Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and Editor-in-Chief of The Fight & The Fiddle.
One of my favorite poems from Lauren's reading last night was "Variations in Blue," - a poem about a kind of freedom or privilege we don't think about very often.
1. think of a place.
2. Think of a story that happened there.
3. Now think of a memory or story of yours that is unrelated to that place.
4. Ask a question to the you (or subject or object) from the 1st place you thought of.
5. Answer the question.
Where the prompt led me:
Up in the Tehachapi Mountains
the dry earth is home
to ants, gophers,
gila monsters. Once,
at my Aunt Sally's
house, I sat down
beside a black widow,
her geometric warning
bright as a glass bead.
What is it about the color red
that looks so pretty
to a four-year-old-child
who hasn't seen her parents
in a year? Perhaps the memory
of her mother's favorite
lipstick, skillfully applied -
a ruby promise left behind
on her cheek.
Deborah A. Miranda
THANK YOU, LAUREN!
Saturday, October 12, 2019
“Professor Miranda!” Joëlle and makayla called me over to their table, faces illuminated with joy. No, it wasn’t because they saw me – it was what they were working on. “We’re editing our first podcast!! It’s called Living Poets Society and we’re having too much fun.”
I didn’t know it was possible, but these two just went up several more notches on my respect meter. A podcast?! When did they have time? One woman is a single mom of a 2-year-old (at a university where that’s rarer than hen’s teeth), and both are seriously engaged in senior projects and full-time classes and trying to get by. Both have taken several classes with me, and are in my current advanced poetry workshop.
We talked a little, and I asked for the link when the podcast dropped. I’d just mentioned to someone else about how the time for listening to podcasts has faded now that I live so close to work that my commute is a 10-minute walk or a 5-minute drive. But this podcast? This one, I’d make time for.
I was not disappointed. The link appeared in my inbox yesterday. I waited until this morning to listen. What. A. Treat. to eavesdrop on the thoughts and talents of Joëlle and makayla! This conversation is everything: manifesto, vulnerability, motherhood, sexual joy, ars poetica, black hair, eyebrows, softboys, and love. I mean, who talks about love anymore and means companionship, tenderness, sexual compatibility? These two women do.
Ya’ll should take a listen to Living Poets Society. You might learn something you didn't know. You will definitely learn something about being alive, 20-something, black, woman, poet, in a small private PWI in the un-fucking-believable year that is 2019. [p.s. the "Why I Write" piece that makayla refers to hearing in class is from Stephen Graham Jones. Sadly, a video of Jones reading this manifesto with a delightfully manic, feral, delicious gleam in his eye has since been removed from the internet. We can only hope it returns one day.]
I can't wait for the next episode.
Excerpt from Living Poets Society:
“…What is your favorite hair style? Black. Black hairstyle.”
“Black. Cuz we’re black, black, blackity black black black unashamedly black unapologetically black, we don’t care, k?”
“Black and multi-faceted.”
“Yes...We contain multitudes.” [whispered]
“WE CONTAIN MULTITUDES.” [chanted]
“And probably way more than Walt Whitman.”
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Dr. Karenne Wood, Monacan poet and scholar, walked on not long ago, taking with her a large piece of my heart.
When I arrived in Virginia 16 years ago, Karenne welcomed me to her homeland, offering her hospitality with open hands. Over the years we knew one another, Karenne Wood became a necessary and cherished part of my life. She visited my Native American Literature classes at Washington and Lee University (and gave readings) multiple times, was always available to confer with about Indigenous poetry and politics, invited me to read with her (and accepted invitations to read with me at conferences or community gatherings), celebrated our writing accomplishments, and commiserated over our frustrations with academia. We exchanged poem drafts and teaching strategies, dog stories, kid stories, and encouragment for the long haul. Karenne befriended my wife, Margo Solod, and always asked after her when we checked in over email or messaging. Karenne's own health - a 20 year battle against various kinds of cancer - was something she was more reluctant to discuss, but which she took very seriously. She knew how quickly everything could change; how luscious each and every day was, and therefore, how to celebrate life.
When renowned poet (and now Poet Laureate of the United States) Joy Harjo came to read at my university in February of 2019, of course I asked Karenne to come welcome Joy to Monacan land. Karenne replied that she had been working on a land acknowledgment protocol with U of Virginia, and that "I am happy that people want to hear our language and acknowledge our presence. If you want me to do the prayer before Joy’s talk, I am willing. It’s brief. As for a gift, I thought of a honeysuckle basket with a lid, made by our tribal elder Bertie Branham." I didn't realize until the day of the event that Karenne would be coming from Charlottesville after another radiation treatment, or that speaking was difficult for her. That night, she shone. Her love for Joy Harjo, and a natural gracious, generous energy carried Karenne through the reading, and dinner afterwards. That was Karenne - always a giver.
In short, Karenne was a beautiful human being whose joyful presence in my life eased some of the loneliness I experience as the only Indigenous professor at my university, and taught me much about living in the moment. I will miss her deeply. At her Celebration of Life service, over 200 people came to hear stories about her life from her two daughters, tribal members, and friends. I guarantee you, Karenne was beloved by every single one of them, and many many more who could not attend.
I know I am not alone in my grief, or in feeling blessed by knowing Karenne Wood. In that spirit, I offer this poem, which came to me early this morning.
Deborah A. Miranda
Karenne's obituary from the Academy of America Poets, where some of her poetry is posted:
Some of my favorite pictures with Karenne, at readings or gatherings...Karenne Wood1960–2019Karenne Wood was born on May 31, 1960. She received an MFA from George Mason University and a PhD in linguistic anthropology from the University of Virginia.She was the author of the poetry collections Weaving the Boundary (University of Arizona Press, 2016) and Markings on Earth (University of Arizona Press, 2001), winner of the Diane Decorah Award for Poetry from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.Of her work, the poet Heid E. Erdrich writes, “These poems move us through indigenous history to reveal our presence today—in an act of resistance and revelation and faith.” An enrolled member of the Monacan Indian Nation, Wood directed the Virginia Indian Programs at the Virginia Center for the Humanities. She formerly served as a repatriation director for the Association on American Indian Affairs, the chair of the Virginia Council on Indians, and a member of the National Congress of American Indians’ Repatriation Commission.In 2002 Wood was named the Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year, and in 2015 she was named one of Virginia’s Women in History by the Library of Virginia. She also received the 2009 Schwartz Prize from the Federation of State Humanities Programs. Wood died on July 21, 2019.