Grandmother Corntassel, Indian woman who wears beads formed from glass, delicate drops of colour dripping from the lobes of her ears, who speaks in a dialect long since deadened to tongues who forget to whisper elohi and know it means earth is a mother too, to whisper waya and know it means the manner in which the wolf grows its fur.
She walks in dreams as the wolf stalks the deer, woman through the straw mane of the wheat fields, hair woven in a black plait like a basket, corn tucked within, namesake.
Outside the dream, Grandmother Corntassel wore a dress made of tears, bloodied tears creating a trail that her brothers, sisters, mothers, aunts, fathers trod, roses growing from tears like those quiet fits of weeping in the unsettled darkness. White smoke rising from a distant fire, ghosts that called out to her to dance, called out to her to wear a garment made of torn fabrics, which were a white man’s replacement for soft buckskin. Indian women, brown-skinned, red-blooded, daughters to the Corn Mother Selu, who smells like frybreads, corn flour in popping oil; like yellow roses at a funeral, like linen and cotton are affordable when you’re poor in pocket.
Have you ever danced at the pow-wow? I did once. Proud, strong nose, column of her neck thus adorned in layered glass beads, woven together with white thread, turquoise crowned, agate mantlepiece. Quills in her ears within this forest-dream where she sits on the log, flattened with the blunt-edge of a tomahawk. Quills bone-solid, bone-hollow, shed from the back of the porcupine. Give thanks to the animal who adorn you. We all walk in skins, we all wear skins.
So she asked Dreamer, have you ever danced at a pow-wow? as she wore quills, dangling beneath ocean-blue, fire-yellow, blood-red beads.
Lean elbows against the flat log. Dreamer answers: No, I’ve never danced at the pow-wow. I’ve torn apart afghans looking for your face in the ripple of the stitch, shredded up patchwork quilts in the desperate, endless search of your name to be written in the colours, touched a thousand carvings of wooden animal totems made by men who are not Indians to seek out your guidance. Fire crackling; Dreamer’s garments mixed together from the smoke; otherwise, dressed in their skin. Great, tolling deep of the drums; great cries of the warrior men, eagle feathers draping through their still-long hair, hair not sheared like sheep’s wool, bodies that have not been desecrated; into animals, when animals should be sacred.
Dreamer asks: How can I dance at the powwow?
Grandmother Corntassel answers: By remembering.
Dreamer sits beside the fire even though it’s the hottest place, the place that fogs up your vision, when the heat of the flames makes a little halo against your cheekbones and bakes them brown. Corn fields waver behind the dance, the dream. Inside the dream, there are no garments made of tears, but soft buckskin, deer-gift. In the dream, Indian women are not crushed like glass, but wear glass and do not weep. Dream: to be baked brown and wear a skin that arouses no questions, wear buckskin that rouses animals to bring guidance, wear beaded earrings that rouses the beating heart within.
Dreamer, wear glass beads, a buckskin dress. Tear a patchwork quilt back into squares, make that sobbing blouse. Wear it to be wed to the ghost, the dance, the dream. Knead the corn flour, let the grit bite beneath your fingernails like porcupine quills. Poor in pocket, but not poor in spirit. Rise up from your endless search, rise up, Indian woman. Remember the womb, folded around you, green leaves around yellow corn. Like your name is Selu. Woman. Corntassel, halo in the heat.