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Indios: A Poem . . . A Performance

Indios: A Poem . . . A Performance

by Linda K. Hogan, Lois Beardslee (Foreword by)

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Filled with powerful imagery, this poem relates the tragic story of Indios, a native woman falsely accused of the death of her children. As it echoes the plight of other women like Indios—including Malinche, Pocahontas, La Llorona, and Medea—this narrative conveys the truth of a history twisted to suit the needs of a conquering power. Weaving Native


Filled with powerful imagery, this poem relates the tragic story of Indios, a native woman falsely accused of the death of her children. As it echoes the plight of other women like Indios—including Malinche, Pocahontas, La Llorona, and Medea—this narrative conveys the truth of a history twisted to suit the needs of a conquering power. Weaving Native American history with contemporary situations, this evocative poem focuses on the concept and consequences of the oppression of women.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An obsidian blade carving a tragic story of the exploitation of indigenous women. . . . As heartbreaking in its intensity as it is honed by superior craft, Indios is bound to become a classic.”  —Pamela Uschuk, author, Crazy Love

“Sacks colonialism in the New World, giving it a black-eye and a bad headache. . . . Hogan changes history!”   —LeAnne Howe, author, Evidence of Red

“Indios is like the ocean, a part of the life-force of the planet. We must honor that when we come into the presence of such a work. We are blessed, humbled, and empowered by her words.”  —Simon J. Ortiz, author, From Sand Creek

Product Details

Wings Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


A Poem ... a Performance

By Linda Hogan

Wings Press

Copyright © 2012 Linda Hogan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-167-2



    What? Do I hear children? Playing a game?
    No, they are singing. They are dancing.
    They are saying magical words.
    Oh he yay yay,
    oh he yay
    Hey ai Lina,
    Hey ai Lina........

    * * *

    You're Miss Finley.
    Yes, I am the one they call Indios.
    You want me to call you Clare.
    I like that word, Clare,
    And what it means.
    No, it's fine. I knew you would be late.
    No one expects the guards
    To go through their perfumed bag
    Or examine their underwear
    So they won't smuggle something in to me.

    No, I don't look like you expected.
    Life hasn't hardened me here.
    Yes, thank you. I do like sweets.
    Yes, they take them away to examine as well.
    Everything goes through the hands of the guards.
    Even we go through their hands
    As if we are water.
    But then we have flowed through the hands
    Of others all our lives,
    Through the hands of husbands and fathers,
    Falling through the writing hands of judges.
    Some have fallen through the hands of their lawyers
    And even their friends.
    Some flow through the hands of one another.
    We are like the element water,
    Always flowing back
    To some ocean
    Of another humanity.

    I hope you are not one of the people
    Who have come to prove my innocence.
    No? You only want to talk about my story?
    The newspapers were full of this story.
    Surely you read them.
    But still you come to me,
    As if my words will change the clouds of history.

    And so much time has passed.
    Sometimes I forget Time.
    It was not our invention.
    But then, it has been so long
    And my story, like everything, even myself,
    Has fallen through that element,
    Time, as if it is water.

    What does it mean, my name, Indios?
    I am a Native woman.
    We were called that in the beginning
    Because, as Columbus wrote,
    We were beautiful, alive, and generous.
    When we were seen the first time,
    He said we were In Dios. Of God. Dios.
    I think of that. We were beautiful.

    I see you have written questions for me.
    You want to know how we met.
    It was so long ago.
    He came to our world.
    I was just a girl, still a girl.
    But when I saw him he was like a god to me
    And something inside me changed.
    He was shining.
    I thought my father must have conjured up
    This vision of my husband
    When I saw him the first time
    As he stood there in all his finery, shining.
    And the sun was behind him.

    I was bewitched,
    Although later they called me the witching one
    When I found water for them with a willow twig,
    Me, a young girl who diagnosed illness,
    Fixed a broken leg,
    Helped women's bellies grow with child
    And then helped them give birth, their way, not ours.
    Still, I was the one witched by love
    Or some feeling that overcame me
    So suddenly, so powerfully,
    And I was just a girl.

    I was always a happy girl
    Inside the walls of our little house
    Inside the walls of my skin.
    Even though I never had a mother,
    My father could do anything.
    He could build a shelter.
    Together we grew corn.
    He saw illness in a person.
    He was a beautiful man.
    We lived with our own people in our own world
    On the earth we came from.
    This earth.

    My father could sing,
    And when he did, his buffalo robe on his back,
    He sang a song that would bring the whole world to a stop.
    They say when he was young his songs could shake
    Mountains or bring water to the surface of earth.

    Still, when I saw the shining man
    My heart jumped.
    I was only twelve and knew no better.
    I was like one of the fish that jump from water
    Not aware the birds are waiting
    To swallow them.
    He landed his large boat near our home
    To talk with my father about trading away the trees.
    I didn't hear the conversation, just watched.
    My father said, No. We didn't need money.
    Selling the trees would have been the same
    As trading away our sisters.

    At first I wasn't part of any plan.
    All the while they discussed these things,
    I was young and my heart already taken by this man.
    It was only later I realized
    How much my father disliked him.
    My father said No
    To everything he wanted.
    But I looked at him
    With different eyes from afar.
    Too far.

    I wanted to touch his hair,
    Then his face.
    When the golden man touched my hand to say Good-bye
    Even my body deceived me with its feelings.

    I was like one of the falcons on his arm,
    My eyes covered over,
    Me the child of a man
    Who could see the future,
    Could read a human and know what they are.
    But the heart has a mind of its own.
    It will do what logic will not.

    He returned. Much time passed and the time finally came
    When they talked about what was to come.
    My father knew. He could see
    The future was bleak for us,
    That it was going to be a breaking time
    And they would do as they wanted
    With our world, more of them every moment arriving
    To take what they wished.

    Then one day when the shining man saw me,
    He, the man, sat thinking
    Either that I was beautiful
    Or he devised another plan
    To marry me for what he wanted.
    I will never know the reasons
    For his ways, or if I was ever loved,
    But devising is what the devious do —
    And he was one of those.

    He kept coming back to see us,
    To talk with my father
    And then to walk or sit with me.

    Love is an old story,
    One of kings whose kingdoms fell
    Because of love,
    Or a beautiful woman,
    A mysterious note, a death,
    All for love.
    And nearly all the women in this prison
    Are here for love or its betrayal.
    Many worlds have fallen
    Just for love which changed to something else.

    When he told my father
    What was to come,
    Despite my father's resistance,
    He knew it would be best to bring our worlds together.
    It was inevitable, but that was the way
    Of the new world.
    And my poor father knew it.

    While he and that man
    who wrestled with spirits spoke,
    I must have had a change of soul.
    I went down to the water and I wept.
    I was on my knees and I was weeping
    Because some part of me felt the future.
    My body must have known it was a game
    I didn't want, not this way,
    But now I was part of it, without choice,
    And then there was my heart
    With its own wishes.

    I was too young to know.
    We were of such different worlds.
    My father could make a circle on the earth
    And stand inside it and sing
    The clouds toward us.
    He was a sorcerer, they said of him in the other world,
    But powerless like all men against greater weapons.

    He foresaw what would happen.
    He called me to him and said,
    I dreamed there was no stopping
    The change of the world
    Without the whole of us being killed.
    It is inevitable.
    We will all soon be killed, moved, or contained
    For what they want.
    I didn't believe him at first.
    But he said for me there was a hope
    That in this position I could do something for my people
    And for a while I did.

    He said, You, my daughter, are strong.
    For a time you will help us all.
    Then you must return.
    You are a stolen one, too young to know,
    But remember, never forget, you are going to a place
    Where our people are already their slaves
    And still speak our language.
    They will need you to keep life right for them.
    And one day you may need them as well.
    We are helpless
    Against their laws
    That are not our laws, not natural laws,
    Not the laws from within our country
    Which is now no longer ours.

    So a time came that I went away.
    I want you to know this is not only my story.
    It is never the story of just one woman.
    It is the telling of many worlds, peoples, and lands.

    As for me, I was never a woman.
    I was a city. I was a country.
    This ordinary woman you see before you.
    I have more freedom in prison
    Than when I was a country and still just a girl.
    My hair. It's not well arranged.
    My clothing not fit for a queen.
    My hands are dry and not oiled with perfumes
    And I am worn down with labor
    But at least I am not a country.
    I am no longer trade goods.

    When he took me home
    Some said, How could you take such a wife?
    I was a beauty then, and his younger brothers
    Would pull the chairs for me to sit,
    And give me their arm to cross the land.

    When he took me there I walked slow
    As a wolf cautious in a house,
    From room to room, looking
    At the hair brush on the gilded table,
    At blue crystal bottles and curtains on windows,
    The clothing hanging.

    What different worlds.
    My father's cabin was chinked with mud
    And crushed shells from the sea
    While they had tall buildings with stones, with water
    Brought inside through golden faucets.
    And outside were fountains and roads of stones.

    Then I saw the bed where we,
    Husband and wife, would sleep,
    Surrounded by cloth.
    I had never touched anything like those velvets and silks.
    I touched one and I asked him,
    Where did these come from?
    He said men traveled the world in search of worms
    That live in small rooms and eat only mulberry leaves
    In order to create this silken splendor
    And that I should say, "From where do these come?"
    Never then did I think
    One day I would feel
    So much like one of those worms, like a spider
    Closed into a small room.

    All I knew about spiders and their strands of silk
    Was their shining threads
    And how they let themselves down through the world.
    All I knew was that we girls used the old cobwebs to rub
    against our thighs to make fishing line
    And catch a trout for dinner.
    I never knew anyone to weave a robe such as those my
    husband gave to me or how they make soft cloth
    To sleep on at night.

    I went to them.
    Not yet a human being in our world
    And helpless against their laws.
    I, who thought bringing home a trout
    The greatest joy and spiders most beautiful,
    Was soon caught in the web of what I did not know.
    Soon told to speak only their language,
    To dress in their clothing, to step into their church
    And try to believe.
    But on my wedding day
    I wore the white gown of those worms and leaves,
    A gown of closed rooms, on my wedding day.
    Some said, How beautiful she is in white silk.
    Others said, How could he take such a wife?
    Yet they were the ones
    Who later came to me in the early hours of morning
    To heal their wounds,
    Asking for secrecy,
    Or to give them the leaves to make them fertile
    Or, bleeding, to fix their doctor's shoddy work.
    At first they needed me,
    Woman of plants and knowledge they no longer had,
    And then as I said, I was the midwife for their women
    I was called upon to sign papers.
    In the beginning I was part of their society.
    I could speak with others and help them
    Make their way in our world, and I signed in favor
    Of my own people more often than not.
    I went between the worlds
    To settle things.
    I translated the words
    And I interpreted all the wild things.
    I was in between.

    I was, I am, the continental divide.
    I am the collision of continents
    Contained in the silence of a body.
    I had word from my father
    That they cut our trees in spite of the legal papers.
    Legally they now belonged to my husband.
    We hadn't thought that word in marriage, "legal,"
    Or what it meant, his ownership of all of mine.
    My father, how he looked I will never forget.

    It is so hard to say all this
    And all because of a twelve-year old heart.
    I would never have dreamed
    There would be no more room in our world
    For birds and owls, for wolves or the elk with antlers.

    They were game animals.
    They were like me, the wilderness
    That could be done away with.

    That's what they call the hunted animals.
    I used to think about that word
    And all it meant. Game.
    It's like the word,
    Which means to kill.
    And there was falconry,
    Where the bird, blind with covered eyes,
    Like me with no choice but to trust
    My husband's arm,
    The hungry bird would be unhooded
    To see the world, crying out
    To fly for its master.

    At the same time I was spokeperson
    For the slaves, my own people who labored for them.
    Some of their games I learned.
    Chess. With the king, queen, pawn.
    They are about the life of the rich and powerful.
    They are about the theft of the people
    As acts of civilization. Chess. The new one: Monopoly.
    All tiresome. All take.

    My stomach grew in all this time
    While he spent many hours pondering
    The possibilities of the Queen.
    I already had learned these possibilities in case
    One day I would have to make my own moves
    And take the king.

    But they would never need the likes of me
    to harm them.
    They cleared their own trees for cattle
    and now the land began to dry up and burn
    In the drought they created.
    They poisoned the grasses
    And now the water became full of poison
    Before it started to disappear.
    Even the heat increased.
    Then they cut the cedar trees nature sent
    To cool their land, to darken it for shade.
    They cursed themselves.
    They didn't need a woman like me to harm them.
    Later they feared some one of us, darker,
    Stronger, wiser,
    Would rule their ruined land where
    They mined the tops of mountains.
    They had no need to fear me
    With my small knowledge and songs.
    But oh my heart. I was killed by what they'd done
    To this world I love,
    The land, and all the small animals.
    Oh, You small people
    Of this large world.

    * * *

    I was only a part of their game, an animal, a pawn.
    When I learned what their game was,
    I was a young leader's wife, queen of dark hearts,
    The aftershock of their history.

    I had to remain silent
    Though I grieved they cut the trees on the mountains.
    I cried when the beautiful land became a world for cattle
    And floating dead trees. Cattle. Chattel.
    That's what they had become.
    And all the living animals became units or pounds.
    It was a world no longer alive.
    Now men pay money to kill the fenced buffalo
    as if there is pleasure in it.
    They call it hunting.
    History is a short thing.

    My grandmother was one of those who found the women
    With babies wrapped against them.
    They called those times The Indian Wars.
    We call them The American Wars.

    At the end I said, I know what your people have done.

    Now I sit imprisoned on the very land
    That once belonged to my grandfather,
    The world a bruise on my heart.

    Black Hawk once said,
    If a prophet had told us this was to happen,
    None of us would ever have believed it.
    Clare, I forgot the time.
    I hear the keys
    And you probably only want to know if I killed my own
    Children, then I tell you the long story of the games,
    Of how I moved from queen to pawn.
    Your ears become sensitive in here.

    You probably don't even hear the keys
    Walking toward us.
    Here, the sound of keys is everything.
    Keys have meaning.
    They open and close a day or night, a hope, a life.


Excerpted from Indios by Linda Hogan. Copyright © 2012 Linda Hogan. Excerpted by permission of Wings Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Linda Hogan is a writer-in-residence for the Chickasaw Nation, a poet, a former professor at the University of Colorado, and the author of numerous books, including Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World, People of the Whale, and Rounding the Human Corners. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She lives in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Lois Beardslee is an Ojibwe artist and the author of Lies to Live By and Rachel’s Children. She also teaches communications at Northwestern Michigan College. She lives in Maple City, Michigan.

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