Ojibwe Autumn

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is not the Song of Hiawatha, Bro! It takes hard work to secure the future of a traditional tribal community.

Submitted: January 17, 2008

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Submitted: January 17, 2008

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Ojibwe Autumn

Leaves turn amber –
chill of night
warmth by day,
autumn unsurpassed
requiring constant effort
– this no idealised Native Eden –
to prove bountiful for all.

Wild rice time –
girls and young women,
work with sun on water reflecting,
bend bundled stalks across the gunnels,
paddles for flails,
knocking myriad heads of grain
into woven baskets.
Wild geese glide in the wake of their canoes,
gleaning the water,
seeking for spillage –
gift the women
do not give willingly;
for geese in turn
will be prey themselves
by end of harvest.

Men tracking stag through the muskeg,
down wind,
following muddy spoor among the tussocks.
Arrows fly,
sapling cut, hooves are tied,
four men carry Wapiti
back to the village by the lake.

Ducks in flyway heading south,
raft on raft carpeting the water
as they feed.
Drifting clumps of reeds
move purposefully among them,
hands reach slowly,
grab feet and pull them under,
each youth takes home a brace or two.

Nets of woven reeds,
boys comb the shallows
for bluegill, and bass –
smoked fish
for the months of hunger.
Knee-deep,
all is serious play for them –
collecting freshwater clams
and any turtles they can catch,
earning praise from elders,
contributing.

Wizened men sit by the lakeside,
gnarled hands making tools
of stone and bone,
fletching arrows or cording rope,
Women carrying many winters
watch infants,
prepare hides
and cook.

Time of snow approaches
in this place of many waters,
and survival of The People
requires constant effort
– this no idealised Native Eden –
to prove its bounty
and give them hope
for the time of hungering.


James Gagiikwe © 2008

· Wild Rice = an aquatic North American plant yielding an edible grain.
· Muskeg = swampy ground with tussocks of sphagnum grass, small birch and willow trees and bushes.
· Wapiti/Waabitii = White-tailed deer.


© Copyright 2017 James Gagiikwe. All rights reserved.

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