Tribal History

When I think of my mother’s hands,
brown and square, fingers slightly bent
from years of work, I consider
all the other hands of Concow Maidu folk,
bound, prepared
for the lynching at the crooked oak
along the mountain road near
the town of Cherokee.
It stood not far from the meadows
where our ancestral people made their home.

This was in the time when white men
scoured those hills, breaking them
down into rubble in a crazy
search for gold.  The treaty with the Concow
would not be ratified by Congress,
for Indians were in the way of Progress,
and though a promise had been made
to provide corn starch and other commodities
to every man who made his X
on that scrap of parchment,
the only X the white men made
was to cross the hands of Indians
behind their backs before swinging them
out over the lava walls of the canyon.


Originally titled “Bound Poem #2,” this poem was written as a “found” poem under timed conditions for the Housewarming Celebration at the newly opened Poetry Center at the University of Arizona in October, 2007.