Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day

On February 12, 2013, I had the honor and privilege of reading this poem at the Ceremony to seat the Commissioners of the Maine-Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Today, Indigenous People’s Day (2015), I am attending Ally Training with Maine-Wabanaki REACH who are tasked with insuring the recommendations are considered and implemented.  On October 24th, Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta will host the same Ally Training. I encourage you to join in the work of REACH: Reconciliation, Engagement, Action, Change and Healing. 

“I am the Colonizer”
by Panthea Burns

I am the colonizer’s legacy
Ready now to be my human self
And ask for forgiveness –
Forgiveness that grows from
Shared understanding
Undressed rationale
Owned acts

I have lived for generations
Failing to recognize myself
Plodding on with this burden in my heart
Daring not to touch or feel its depths

My white skin bought me the
Safety and privilege denied to you
But at the end of time –
What would that be worth?

I stand here today in love and true faith
Naked and afraid and open to the truth
With knowing and understanding as my prayer
To heal the hearts that suffer
To create peace by changing

With eyes wide open
My reflection is clear
I can see who I am and
Remember my history of devastating glory
My days past of simple joys

The colonizer’s legacy is
Taking, denying, consuming
Loss, knowing, disconnection
Inherited by Wabanaki children and families
Their eyes look upon me still
Their voices wait to speak
And their children long to understand

There are stories to be told and heard
Of the victims and the victors
Of quiet acts of courage
To be held in the daylight of our loving hearts
To raise up truth and justice
Healing and forgiveness

Here is a second poem from Panthea offered “on the occasion of the closing ceremony for the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Please read this as an anthem of gratitude and love for the Commission and of honor and love for those who gave statements and supported this work. May it be a call to action and a call to love for us all.” ~ Penthea Burns, June 14, 2015

I rose before the dawn
This morning
I sat alone
And turned on no lamp
Comforted by the dark
I sought to understand

And all of history

I know what we’ve done

I acknowledge
The taking
Your land
Your ancestors’ lives
Your children
Your language and prayers
We took the untakeable
To feed a hunger
That was only in our minds

I acknowledge
The lies
Doctrines and destinies
Spencer Phipps
And old westerns
My history books
Executive decrees
Unsigned court orders
I don’t even know
How many treaties we broke

I acknowledge
The terror…
The overwhelming use of force
Mass numbers
Burning churches
Trails and trails of tears
In a darkened cellar
One small child stands alone
Perfect and beautiful
Exposed and vulnerable
Taken and severed
From what she needs to be whole
To belong
To be home
To know her people
So that she may know herself

I acknowledge
The silence…
Invisibility and denial
My privilege
Which allows me
To hide from harm
To protect my interests
While you are exposed
To risk
We have never recognized
Nor measured our debt
So we awaken now
To do that accounting

I acknowledge
That hope…
Depends on our people
Finding our shared humanity
Standing for what is good in our world
And in ourselves
Hope depends on our people…
Repairing the takings with generosity
And justice
Making amends for the lies
With a truthful look at history
At ourselves
Restoring those terrorized
With healing and compassion
Compensating for our silence
By listening and bearing witness
And speaking out
Silent no more
Hope depends on…
Knowing that we do not own
That we have no authority from God
Except a mandate to love one another
To love this land that we call home
To live in peace together

I know what we’ve done
I have heard your stories
Witnessed your tears
Been amazed by your resilience –
That you are still here

While our collective acts
Are written on my heart
Our crimes need not define us
For I know, too, what is possible
When we choose justice and compassion
When we choose to acknowledge
And repair
To stand in solidarity

This is the time
This is the hour
Shall we fulfill our mandate
And remember who we are?

 ** Posted with author’s permission.