Nov 10, 2017 - Instructions by Mark Tilsen

Put on your orange coat
Use the ear plugs when offered
let the medics take care of you
if you forget to take care of yourself have someone remind you
Put the Tanka Bars in your pockets for later
Drink as much coffee as you need to
Be calm
stay calm
Try to be rational in this calm, spread it like coals hoping it will catch fire, it won’t
Smear on your war paint if you remember
Stand with your friends
Lead by example
Never ask anyone to do something you are unwilling to do
Write two letters;
One to your mother that’s filled with pages and pages of stories and grief telling her you forgive her and in your heart you know she always loved you even when she couldn’t be there
To your father you must write
I love you, I tried my best, thank you
Leave them in your tent in case you won’t be coming back
Smell the sage burning
Walk to the frontlines
Hold the line
Hold the line
Hold the line until you can’t
The cops tell you to go back to Camp
Don’t listen to them
check in with your friends, try to plan something
see the canupa being loaded, spare an indulgent moment in reverie for that life you once had and the warm circle of prayer that once wrapped your days
Snap out of it
notice the growing chaos like madness
When you can look down the scope of the snipers rifle it means he is pointing it at you
Don’t flinch
Decide what you are going to do
let go of it all
let the world shrink into a handful of moments falling one into another
Try to rally your people
fail at it
If they won’t follow, leave your friends behind
It is not your job to protect them
You can’t keep them safe
It is the only thing you want to do, but you can’t
Smoke the cigar you saved for just this moment, blow the smoke heavily from your nose like an angry bull
Walk, don’t run
Don’t look back
when they send the swarming line of cops at you they will scream STOP MOVING
Don’t listen to them
Laugh at the mercenaries shifting on their heels as you get closer and closer
Notice they’re afraid of you
Don’t look back
Get tackled by police
Sit down
Hear the strange pop in your shoulder as you are lifted off the ground by your cuffs
Go to jail

Mark Tilsen is an Oglala Lakota poet and educator

Last Real Indians