aneghneghqelleq | inspire

by Blossom Teal Olsen (Iñupiaq)

We Are Still Here

I am no longer my Ancestors

The voices of this world tell us that our world has past

The people who live on the land that we have taken care of for millennia say that we need to move on

These same voices want to put us in museums

They want to capitalize on the art that still lives within those who have listened and who have watched our Elders

We have been told to whisper our language

Our stories that were once told to us by roaring fires live within coloring books and gift shops

I am no longer my Ancestors, that is what people say

How could we be our grandfathers and grandmothers if we drive trucks with four-wheel drive?

How are we hunters if we use high powered rifles?

Yet men who want to catch the big catch and shoot the big buck roam the mountains that have witnessed our beginning

They drive within our waters and carry the fish that have returned home since Raven stole the box of Light

They have reduced our story to paragraphs written within their history books

The truth is, I am no longer myself

I am my Ancestors, they have never died

I am no longer the person you tell me I am

While laws cover our land and our actions, myself and my brothers and sisters are still here

The government may tell us where to fish and how to hunt but they have yet to take our story

Our language grows with our children, the words that were taken from us are returning

They are finding their way home, fighting the current of Western Civilization

The next generation will continue to speak, even after you tell us that our words are not easy to say

We have been told our way of life is important every voting season

You have given us governments and paid us with money, hoping that will buy our memory

The truth is our blood will never rest easy for our Ancestors are still fighting

I know this because we are still here

by Blossom Teal Olsen (Iñupiaq)

There is No Such Thing as Time

Robert’s Rules has become our most listened to Elder

Before the government told us that we were a government

Our Elders listened to one another, as their Elders listened to one another

There are times at conventions, or at a gathering when that old spirit arises and calls everyone around again but as time takes us into our new identity as Indigenous living in the twenty-first century, Roberts Rules has stolen our ears

He has taught our body that there is such a thing called, “Time.”

The rules of Elders and leaders have merged into a grey mud

While we are sovereign, payroll has formed what we call leaders

Our ways have become a 9 to 5 job

We have fallen completely into the Western world

But we are like the geese, we still form and fly as the Earth calls us

Our hearts lead by an ancient path not known by Robert or his Rules

While I cannot be mad at the order he has created, he is much like Crane’s eyes

We see the world differently and so; can we make him a man again?

We remember the Elders that fought for our freedoms, we teach our children our traditions but at the end of the day, we still listen to Robert’s Rules

How do we kill this god?

Where is he taking us, why must we listen to him?

by Blossom Teal Olsen (Iñupiaq)

Laws Affect Us

The United States Government tells me that one plus one equals one whole Native

The rest of Americans live in their houses and drive their cars and fly in planes

Meanwhile, the Indigenous are fractions of people who belong to nations older than the government we call America

The treaties that make us wards of this government ensure that in return of our land, our people and our descendants will belong to sovereign nations

That our Tribes will be Federally Recognized

The everyday Americans tell us that we live off the government, ignoring the generations of profits taken from stolen land

Each Indigenous child born is given a card announcing its blood quantum

It is only a matter of time until the Indigenous no longer exist on paper

We need to look into a mirror and see that our younger generations born with blue eyes are equal

The blood that is in them, is the same blood that navigated our ancestral lands pre-contact

Blood Quantum is the U.S. Government’s “River Card.”

As a people, we need to come together and ask ourselves what are we going to do when our grandchildren’s blood can no longer be called Indigenous?

If we do not talk now, we will force a great-great grandmother to look at her children’s children and tell them that they are no longer her blood

We must remember that a river runs into the ocean, yet remains a river

It’s time to call the blood quantum bluff

Paniiraq lives and writes in Sitka with her husband and three children.