The Sunday Poem: Tanaya Winder... Ten Little Indians

Tanaya Winder continues to amaze with wonderful poems of courage, sensitivity, and brilliance.  This morning's poem speaks to all of us…including about whether our stories on TV, movies, and music are seen as entertainment or recognized as a way young people learn how to become men and women, treating each other "with respect like the old dances taught us."

I come from the Duckwater Shoshone and Southern Ute nations. I was raised on the Southern Ute Indian reservation in southern Colorado; I consider that place along with the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation in Nixon, NV my two homes, my origins. Because of the strong connection I feel towards place, I feel I am a child of both water and the desert. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I have chosen to make my home here in Albuquerque.

Ten Little Indians

          One in three Native American or Alaska Native women will be raped at some point in their lives

Sometimes the story is told differently

    One little, two little, three little Indians

or not told at all. Most know one story about
Indian boys torn between reservation and real
world, between tradition     bear        root        sage    
drumbeats     and cities, between     history and

the present – what’s left? bear turned to beer
dances to drunken     driving         the stereotypical

drunken     Indian and maybe     we’re all gambling     our lives     away

    Four little, five little, six little Indians

And it’s not just the boys, our Indian princesses too.
Per capita has made some greedy. For, blood
quantum has turned us needy, craving to make ourselves
whole. Babies born into broken wombs, in a community

where ten little Indian boys should learn how to be men.
Asking do they remember?     How     to touch a woman
with respect like the old dances taught us,     she     chooses     you.

    Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians, ten little Indian boys

Sit on the bus listening to their older cousins describe
‘See that girl getting on over there, she had a train pulled
on her this weekend’ and this is some little boys education,
their socialization into behavior where someday, not too long
from now men gather around a fire singing forty-nine songs,     about         love.

Maybe their father’s never taught them
how to touch her, that loving her didn’t mean taking her
blacked out where she wakes up not remembering,         not remembering

    Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians,
seven little, six little, five little Indians,
four little, three little, two little Indians
One little Indian boy.

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 445

Comment by JeSais on May 20, 2012 at 9:26am

I've heard Tanaya read this poem, and it haunts me... 

Comment by Susy Crandall on May 20, 2012 at 10:16am

The corruption of dehumanization, a virus of commodity, why not, everybody's gotta get theirs, the shame of becoming what you hate....against inborn but untaught nobility and historic knowledge.  We are coming to know ourselves.

Comment by Julie Brokken on May 20, 2012 at 1:41pm

Tanaya ~ poignant!  and it implies the solution... men teaching boys how to be good men... ceremonies, rites of passage... it takes a village.  And we women also get to teach men how to treat us.  Onward and upward!

Comment by Margaret Randall on May 20, 2012 at 4:29pm

What an amazing and powerful poem, Tanaya! I love it when poets use the pop culture language that has been used to dehumanize us and turns it around, making it real. Bravo!

Comment by Dee Cohen on May 22, 2012 at 5:14am

Strong statement beautifully worded. Thank you, D

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on May 27, 2012 at 9:34am

memorable, factual, effective way in to the horror of disrespect. lack of love. abandonment of value.

A well-wrought poem about a topic hard to touch in our patriarchal world where so many men deny this reality.  The overall statistics can be almost as high as for the Native women you referenced; one in four women suffer sexual assault at some point in their lives--the numbers are bad and we are chastised for dwelling on this type of war on women--we need this poem and many like it to nudge us into our power as women--to begin the change within our selves, our families, our sons and daughters--thank you for your poem


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