Introducing Myself in Stolen Language — India Moffett

Nii ta nik ko maistowa

They tell me I should introduce myself:
pansexual queer anarcho-feminist unregistered bi-racial Native female presenting


all white-men-made words for
white-men-made concepts
I must define myself as
not white man

Born 300 miles from the reservation
my grandmother’s stories tell me
my blood, bone, and raven-feather hair
              belongs to
but my paperwork says I can never

My mother will never know her own skin
My grandmother will never know her own skin
I can only dream sage-burn feathers
              can only grasp at colored beads
running through my fingers

Taciturn my father says is the
red-man’s charming way
well caucasian-passing red-stained female
tongues are also tied by him
              my loving white man father

I had to piece together a history
              society makes me doubt
from the fragments of my grandmother’s
“what’s the weather” phone calls and
the cookie recipes she gave to my mother
              (who does not bake)

I hear the news tell me that the prime minister of Canada
                                                         (northern neighbors across nation lines in grass,
                                                         where my ancestors once followed the buffalo/ iinii)
has recognized a new gender:
and I will never know this
but goddamn do I know the feeling of being
split in half and not knowing on which side
              I belong
O White Buffalo Woman, do I know the numbness
              between my legs
O Great Spirit, I am a shell
              Abalone that feels Turquoise
                                                     feels coral
                                                     feels dirt and buffalo patty
              depending on the wind

and although I have known
the sacred peaks and valleys of many
              baptized myself in their white rapid rivers
I do not know how to tell my
              Grandmother/ Aahsaa
who may never know me
              and my mother/ Niksista
who may never see me cry
              is left to reassemble pieces of stone
                                                                                            scattered by the wind

the peaks and valleys will never be mine
                                       should never be mine
they were all stolen anyway
and I may never know me
              without white-man-words
I cannot speak (and be heard)
              without white-man-concepts
I cannot think (and be acknowledged)
              without white-man (savoir)
I do not exist