He could have taken you prisoner, of course
when our two tribes were at war
over whitefish and beaver territory
and the Anishinaabeg chased your Indian ancestors
from the woodlands he now brings you home to.
Or your Dakota relatives might have waged a war party
on their swift plains’ ponies to avenge your taking
and bring you back from those uncivilized
they named in disgust the rabbit-chokers.
But those histories of dog-eaters and Chippewa crows
are just a backdrop now for other stories
told together by descendants of smallpox survivors
and French fur traders,
clan members of Wolf and of Water Spirit.
And now you gather,
trackers and scouts in new bloodless legal battles,
still watch for mark and sign—
for the flight of waterbirds.
Old histories that name us enemies
don’t own us; nor do our politics
grown so pow-wow liberal you seldom
point out the follies of White Earth tribal leaders.
(Except of course for the time our elected chair
mistakenly and under the influence of civilization
drove his pickup down the railroad tracks
and made the tri-state ten o’clock news.)
And Sundays behind the Tribune
he seldom even mentions the rabid casino bucks
or gets out his calculator and with lodge-pole eyebrows
methodically measures beaded distances,
results of territorial lines drawn in your homeland.
And even though I have seen him sniff, glance over
he really almost never checks the meat in your pot,
nor reconnoiters the place of your rendezvous
just to be sure.