Not to Be Forgotten

In 2010 I wrote Dodom. It was two years after Steven Harper’s “apology” on behalf of the Canadian Government, regarding the human rights violations experienced by First Nations, Metis and Inuit Children from the late 1800’s to 1996, in the residential school system. I wrote it to share a hidden truth within my great-grandmother’s life. I performed it live for the first time during the semi’s @ the Toronto Poetry Slam. I knew the judges would probably score low…but I the message meant more to me looking out into the darken room filled with more than 100 non-native audience members. It was so quiet during the piece…and I was shaking when I finished. At intermish…strangers embraced me crying…”colonial guilt”…maybe, but it all seemed to be very genuine.

Two years later students attending the Academic Upgrading Program in the Downtown East; which I am the Manager for are reading Fatty Legs. After reading the teachers request I present a one hour talk about Residential Schools in Canada. I start the presentation with Dodom and end with the lasting affects of this deliberate attempt to “Kill the Indian Inside” by the Church and it’s Government. We have the missing children who never came home….mass graves are being uncovered in Mohawk , Anishnawbe and Mi’kmaq Territories as we speak. The 60’s Scoop. And the current state of Aboriginal Health and Education and the continual increase in incarceration and suicide rates in our communities.

As a people we do not want to dwell in the past but our teachings tell us once you know you never forget.

Here is a project helping native and non-native communities remember

Project Heart


My body is not a temple but a totem

Remember my Owena
when I say ur body is not a temple but a totem
ur Dodom each and everyday
Great gran lost her dodom;
so she lost her way
Was it the mush and maggots
that swelled her belly
or being forced
to watch her older cousin
have his head smashed against the front wooden pew
til it was nothing more than jelly?
Was it the nightly rape fest
while saying the rosary
while his cold pale holy flesh
b on top of she?
Was it his sour gin whispers in her ear
fornicating a demonic twisted lie
as his ungodly member violated her dodom insides?
Shhhh…Please don’t cry; please to the Sisters don’t tell.
Or u shall end up burning in the firey pits of hell.
She was already in hell and she was already burned;
the scalding showers that teased and taunted that a dirty indian can b cleansed
from red savage to snow white civility
She was already in hell and she was already burned; the siphilitus inferno from too many saints;
who were truly sinners
had begun to spread
She was already in hell and she was already burned;
like a brush fire too close
to a wooded glen
her language was ash;
her ties to her tradish cinder
Her memories of Haudenonsaunee
like her once thick braided hair becoming whispy…thinner.
When they chop down ur dodom
they cut u off at the knees
…it would be less tortorous if they
just left u to bleed…to death…
but what amusement would quick and easy hold
for those who seek perverse pleasures in others torment.
They would rather watch her slowly rot…whither, and die…
With all the strength/wisdom/and luv
of ur clan buried deep inside..
.suffocatig beneath the decay
…dodom dodom dodom fade away
Yes her body survived the residential school otrosities
and yes she passed before
the late apology
So young her dodom frayed and splintered
and so on each and every winter
the women tie a sweet grass braid on a single birch tree
so that her daughter’s daughter daughter
and me
Remember her Owena
when she did say
ur body is not a temple but a totem
ur Dodom each and everyday

Mahlikah 2010


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