Boarding School- by NahaanTweet
sun fell rarely on our cheeks
when we longed out the window towards our distant homes.
we wondered why our teachers wouldn’t let our parents in to visit us.
we wondered why we knew the taste of white bar soap as well as we once knew the taste of baked salmon.
we did our best to learn english
but we learned even quicker that it saved us from the private room of our principal and his impeccable bed.
we wondered if we’d ever get to hear the birds sing on our grandparents land again.
so we had to sing just in case,
we sang our great grandparents songs
we sang cry songs
we sang songs that got us beat so,
we sang songs that made us unbreakable.
we sang songs that broke rulers and fists when they came swinging toward our faces,
we sang songs that brought us peace during sunday school,
songs that reminded us where we came from
that reminded us not to waste anymore tears on pain,
only memories of mommas miracle soups and dads laughter, and anywhere
anywhere but here.
we prayed in their language on our knees but our prayers remained long unanswered
so we prayed in our own languages silently.
an eagle came shortly after
to listen and echo
our cries our songs
into the waiting sky,
thunder came then like a hole in the outside wall
big enough to squeeze through
lightning came then like feet fast enough to run back
to who we were reborn to be.
Nahaan is of Łingít, Iñupiaq, and Paiute ancestry. His work reflects his teachings and cultural background. He has been a natural artist all his life. As a tattoo artist of 5 years and running he focuses exclusively on working within the spirit of the traditional tattoos of his ancestors. As a carver, painter and designer he emulates the visual storytelling crafts so dear to his people of South East Alaska. He teaches the Tlingit language and song, and is the spokesperson for Náakw Dancers a group which he started in Seattle, Washington in order to perpetuate the rich expressions of the Pacific North West’s indigenous population. He focuses on aspects of community empowerment and self mastery through elements of decolonization and activism.