With our national holiday of praise and thanksgiving for the Native Americans, who welcomed us to this new world, nearly upon us, I choose this poem by Mary Oliver, one of us, who wrote in honest tribute to one of them.
I went down not long ago
to the Mad River, under the willows
I knelt and drank from that crumpled flow, call it
what madness you will, there's a sickness
worse than the risk of death and that's
forgetting what we should never forget.
Tecumseh lived here.
The wounds of the past
are ignored, but hang on
like the litter that snags among the yellow branches,
newspapers and plastic bags, after the rains.
Where are the Shawnee now?
Do you know? Or would you have to
write to Washington, and even then,
whatever they said,
would you believe it? Sometimes
I would like to paint my body red and go into
the glittering snow
His name meant Shooting Star.
From Mad River country north to the border
he gathered the tribes
and armed them one more time. He vowed
to keep Ohio and it took him
over twenty years to fail.
After the bloody and final fighting, at Thames,
it was over, except
his body could not be found,
and you can do whatever you want with that, say
his people came in the black leaves of the night
and hauled him to a secret grave, or that
he turned into a little boy again, and leaped
into a birch canoe and went
rowing home down the rivers. Anyway
this much I'm sure of: if we meet him, we'll know it,
he will still be