A Poem a day – ‘The past is more than a memory’ – John Trudell

In August and September of 1990 I took my first trip to the USA and visited the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in Montana, where Sitting Bull defeated General Custer. Walking around the site I can only can say that I felt a spiritual feeling and connection with the place. I  felt a sense of loss and injustice not for the US soldiers who had died but for the dispossessed Native American.I wrote a poem about the experience based on a photograph my sister took of a bird sheltering from the hot sun in the shadow of a 7th Cavalry Soldier’s white marker. Since that time I have read, researched Native American history and listened to their music both old and new; especially the writing of Sherman Alexie and John Trudell. I wrote this poem about my feelings on the day and later in 2003 I wrote Ceremony.

Bird at Bighorn Battlefield August 1990

Towards the Spirit

Standing shrouded by the seventh

The bird catches its breath as Montana’s

Big sky pours forth the August sun.

The grass waves as the spirits of the past

Acknowledge the visitor atop the hill.

This is no Somme or Dunkirk

But in its nature a fight for freedom was lost.

A noble people’s Pyrrhic victory,

Ironically hailing their ultimate demise.

Yellowhair’s bones no longer lie among these shadows

But rest in unquiet slumber amongst the West Point…. heroes.

As Tatanka Yotanka leads his fallen warriors

To the freedom that was always theirs.

As always I am happy for comments and discussion.


2 responses to “A Poem a day – ‘The past is more than a memory’ – John Trudell

    • Thank you professor for your kind words. I have actually done both, well in part. The Cry of the Loon has an important character whose life was influenced by the aboriginal struggle in Canada and by Jean Chrétien’s attempt to abolish the Indian Act in 1969. The play Ceremony is all about the struggle of native peoples in the whole of North America. Having read Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich etc I feel they do it a lot better than I can but I never rule anything out.

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