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Native American Heritage Month: 'To Those Who Carry the Blood,' a Poem by Richard Walker

Richard Walker, Mexican/Yaqui, is a newspaper editor in Kitsap County, Washington, as well as a correspondent for Indian Country Today Media Network. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, ICTMN is reprinting selected poems from his chapbook, The Journey Home (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2012, 

To Those Who Carry the Blood

Let us lift our hands to all those who carry the blood ...

The fair-skinned woman with light-brown hair
who wears the paint
and dances the dances
her great-grandmother danced.

The woman of 1/16th blood who honors and
lives the teachings

of her great-great-grandmother.

The girl of 1/16th blood who says,

“I have the choice to decide
whether or not to be Native American,

and I know what choice I will make.”

The parent of one-fourth blood
whose children of one-eighth blood
won’t qualify for enrollment.

Yes, let us lift our hands to all those who carry the blood ...

The Mexicans who ask, “If Indigenous people in
Canada are called citizens of First Nations,
why are Indigenous people from Mexico just ‘Mexicans’?”

The Mexicans who know that “Mexican”
is the same as “Indigenous.”

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The Upper Skagit teacher who asked,
“Did our people come from India,
that we should be called Indian?”

The People who don’t necessarily care for the term “Indian"
but haven’t had time to engage in discussion about
political correctness and the terms “Indigenous,” “NDN,” “Native” and “Native American.”

The People who know “Indin’ ” is short for “Indigenous” and sounds like “Indian” but also means “a dark red crystalline substance obtained from isatide and dioxindol.” Damn.

The People who, like Sherman Alexie,
believe the word “Indian” belongs to Us,

we own it now, we’re not giving it back,

and who gives a damn what anybody else thinks.

Yes, let us lift our hands to all those who carry the blood ...

The grandmother whose father was Snohomish
and mother was Skagit
but was asked by the government
if she would move to the Quinault reservation.

Any Indian who has been told by the government
that he or she doesn’t exist, but knows better.

Yes, let us lift our hands to all those who carry the blood ...

The Urban Indians who live in our cities and are
trying to find their way home.

The Urban Indians who have successful urban careers
and are reinstating the Indigenous footprint in our cities.

The Urban Indians who feel at home in our cities
because they know these places were Indian Country
when their grandparents’ grandparents were children.