First Nations Poetry Magazine –

"Do You See Me?" by Valerie Cook


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Published January 1, 2022

Do You See Me?

by Valerie Cook
(Kettle & Stony Point First Nation, Canada)

Do you see me standing there?
I am the one with the long dark hair.
I am the one you say doesn't look Native enough,
Is it because I don't look like a savage warrior and tough?
I am the one you say has skin too fair,
I stand before your judgement and I am completely aware.
I come from seven generations of people,
We continue to exist and face a steep hill.

Do you see me standing there?
Whose very existence you defy and dare.
I am part of long line of resistance,
We have been here forever despite the Government's persistence.
Our language, medicines, ceremonies, culture all banned,
Treaties are broken and yet here you live on our Mother's land.
Her heart beats like a drum for all her people to hear,
Yet you wish her protectors to slowly disappear,
Assimilation from schools, colonization of the land, sixties scoop you tried,
All the while you waited and disappointed in us that the Indian hasn't died.

Can you see me standing there?
The one who speaks our truth and is cautioned to beware.
I am the one who hears the quiet whispers,
The words that spill from you that leave me with pain and blisters.
When you think I am not listening,
Your forked tongue moves and your guilty eyes glisten.

Can't you see me standing there?
I wonder why my life is so unfair.
I want to exist, to be gentle and kind,
I want you to accept me, not to leave me behind.
I want to speak my language, practice ceremonies, and share my teachings,
I want to share my vision of harmony and show you how I see things.

I see you standing there,
I am not completely unaware.
I want us to be equal and coexist,
Yet you always seem so ready to resist!
Treaties, promises, compromise,
Can't we find a way to revolutionize?

We are both human, can't you see?
My Elders keep reminding me.
Seven generations back, seven generations ahead,
Please! Let's fix this together and stop leaving broken things unsaid.

Can't you see me standing there?
Or is it just that you really don't care?
Can't you see me standing here?
Or is it that you want me to live in fear?
Can't you see me standing beside you?
I exist right there next to you, too.

Can't you see me standing there?
Be quiet and listen. I have so much to share...

Valerie Cook: I am an Anishinaabe Kwe from Kettle & Stony Point First Nation.

This poem is included in Poetry World #2, published in the Wax Poetry and Art Library.

Previously published in First Nations Poetry Magazine:
Impossible Regeneration
by Miriama Gemmell

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