Tag Archives: Land

Tobacco Pipe Dreams (day 2141)

I carried your tobacco pipe
Like a diamond on my mind,
Two puffs and a closed grip
Ricochet all security
Through the back door:
Creak creak.

And we pass it on
As night songs
From a holy tent with a view
That lisps night skies
Through dreams of a far off land
Whispering endlessly.

But hold me, hold on
Hold the flowers
Growing here so wild
In the palm of your hand
Until it stains your closed grip
The colour of my dream.

Tobacco Pipe Dreams by Ned Tobin

Roan Short Tail (day 2124)

In the great time of y’or
When my Grandfather Thick Neck
Roamed these wild lands
His deer were thousands strong
And each Autumn they’d collect
From all four corners of
His vast kingdom
He had roamed all Summer
And would gather near
The great Big River
To Winter in collective warmth
The power was in their numbers
It was impossible for predators
To attack such a strong group
And in the darkest days of Winter
They had fellow deer
To remind each other
Of the bountiful Summer days
Coming soon again.

Mule-Deer watercolour painting by Ned Tobin

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXXXIV (day 2038)

part XXXXXXIII

“When I was young
My father would take Moon Cow and I to Plains
Same place every year
And we would sit in same spot
Watching great Buffalo
Migrate through
Dad would tell stories
Of previous hunts
Or legends his father had told him
Explaining to us where Buffalo came from
And why it had been given to us
Now, we no longer have Buffalo
That my father spoke of
And it saddens me that Lily River
Cannot sit here
Listening to your stories
Of where Buffalo comes from
And why we respect Buffalo
I don’t hate White Man for this
Though it is their doing
How could I hate the natural way of world
Speaking to us so?
We have shared this land many generations
Hopefully many more
But our people have always listened
Listened to stars, moon
Trees, rivers, creeks,
Coyotes howling at night
Those are Gods we take
And those are Gods who speak to us
So, too, shall we let Gods lead us now
In this time of change
For change is what we always have
Season to season
Moon to moon
We listen
And change led us here
How can I worry about change
So strong I feel in us now
change like we have never experienced
Land is changed now
It is not our family at war with other families
It is all of our families coming together
To find a way to stop big change White Man brings
Do you think there will ever be a time
When land has changed so much
No more Buffalo
Whole valley of Elk we see here
So vast and so plentiful
So many there are less trees in the forest
Do you think land will have
Buffalo no more
And Gun grows as plentiful
As Elk here before us?”

part XXXXXXV

Moon at Midnight – Part XXXXV (day 2019)

(part XXXXIV)

The Winter season is a time of slowing down
Snow comes and one can no longer roam freely
Through the forests
Paths are easily identified,
Packed down by the feet that use them
If you venture off the path
One can expect a mukluk full of snow
However, in thick forest
The trees can stop a lot of snow from coming down
Even in the middle of Winter
One can find fairly shallow snow.

Upon the snowscapes
It just takes a few days of no snow
For tracks to criss-cross the land
It’s a trackers dream to see
Little paw prints going from here to there
Rabbits are usually the first to show up
And deer are always there too
It goes a long way to track in the Winter
Even if just for fun
To learn the patterns of the animal you’re tracking.

By mid Winter we had found our routines once again
In the village footpaths would go
From teepee to teepee
Making an elaborate maze of singletracks
My structured mind actually enjoyed
Seeing the perfectly followed and stamped down footpaths
Destroyed by some shenanigans
Most likely two kids playing rough
One getting thrown into the snow
Or sidestepping and falling as they let
An elder pass along the trail.

On the warmer days
Willow and I would sit outside our teepee
Drinking tea we had collected
From the root of the burdock plant
And the nettle that stings,
Both plants abundant in forests here
We shared a lot of information
About our past, about our knowledge of the land
She learned a lot of English in these days
And I learned Pikanii
We would point to things
And then try to remember before the other would,
Sometimes Lily would sit with us
She knew it was important for her to know English
The more white man like myself settled into the territory
There was no use trying to fight that
Even Mountain Chief knew this
Moon Cow, being fairly fluent in English
Had already been teaching Lily
Before I had arrived.

part XXXXVI

Moon at Midnight – Part XXIX (day 2003)

(part XXVIII)

Frank showed up on the first day
He came riding alone
And the scouts had recognized him
Knowing he was coming to us
They knew he was our friend
He spoke to Willow, Moon Cow and I
He said that he didn’t like
What news he had heard of the U.S. Army
Their movement was just too weird
And it seemed like they were gearing up
For a big militia action
He wanted me to know
That he, Amy and Lily
Would happily let us stay with them
Until everything blew over
I told him our plans
Of what Mountain Chief had told us
And that he would certainly see us in the coming months
He understood we couldn’t leave our family
At this time anyways
Without first supporting the migration effort
We had lots of organizing yet to do
So he gave us a token of his friendship
To help us on our way
A knife of fine Swiss steel
His father-in-law had recently given him.

The evening of the second day
We took our teepees down and began walking
Silently into the darkness
The horses carried a lot of the loads
With thongs strapping poles and
Leather skins across their backs
We moved quickly
As our family was very used to walking
Not like settlers
Walking in their fancy Victorian rags
And raggedy old wagons.

We walked for three days to the West
Into the heart of mountain country
It was colder in the foothills
Then out where we came from in the plains
But I loved the trees
Lots of jack pine
With big ol’ needles on them
Covering the ground that we walked on
Very nice and easy on the horse hooves.

We stopped in a valley
North of where Mountain Chief said
The U.S. Army would patrol
He knew the valley as a good hunting ground
That his fathers’ fathers hunted it
And it was far enough off of any regular trail
That it would be very hard for anybody
To find us
And over the next few weeks we
Began making ourselves acquainted with the land.

part XXX

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Moon at Midnight – Part XXVIII (day 2002)

(part XXVII)

The next day riders from other Blackfoot tribes came
And Mountain Chief, Moon Cow, and three other men
Rode off to a great meeting of Chiefs
I knew, and could tell,
That nobody was pleased with what the U.S. Army was doing
And tension was clearly in the air
Nobody felt comfortable
And people were becoming worried
Suspicious
These proud people were feeling scared
In the very land they had always lived free.

I spent the next few days with Willow and Lily
Walking through the grassland and forests
Looking for fuel and food
Waiting, I guess,
Our presence comforted each other
Reassured each other
All three of us had become very close
With all the time we had shared over the winter
It was exciting for me to recognize
How much Lily had already learned from her mother
She was very good at finding the herbs
That her mother would ask her to find for her
She would come back with a handful of them
And an even bigger smile on her face.

Willow told me that she had heard of other tribes
Being forced into slavery
To being held captive on certain land
The Government had given them
If they signed a Peace Treaty
I listened quietly,
For I had also heard such things
Further in the South and East
And was saddened from what I did hear
I asked Willow if she would want to live like that
And she said that she would not
She was born free and would obey nobody but the earth
I asked her if she would rather
Live off the land like a nomad
Always wandering more and more
Or if she would like to live more like Amy & Frank
She said she did not know
But that she did see the benefit of having land
To return to every year
Like Amy & Frank had
She asked me if I could build a house
Like Frank had built.

After four days and four nights
Mountain Chief returned with Moon Cow
And directly summoned me
And the other elders of the tribe
Into a gathering
He told us everything that had been talked about
How the other Chiefs didn’t trust
The U.S. Army men
That they threatened our whole way of life
And that if they got their way
It would be the end of us
He told us of visions he had listened to
And told us of his own vision
He himself had had one night
While camped along the river
He told us he had seen an owl
And had walked closer to ask him
What he was going to do
And the owl had told him
That when he sees the mouse
He then plans his action
In the middle of the night.

Mountain Chief told us that we would stay for two more days
On their traditional winter grounds
And that we would be moving
In the middle of the second night
So we all returned to our teepees
To begin preparation.

part XXIX

Moon at Midnight – Part III (day 1977)

(part II)

When I saw it, I slowly pulled my arrow from its quiver
A practice as natural to me as walking
Without hesitation I had one full meal,
A warm meal that hadn’t been had in two days
My diet primarily consisted of berries and roots
So plentiful on this wild land
But frequently supplemented with unsuspecting small game.

Before my knife entered the belly of my meal
I thanked its Gods for their offering
For helping to sustain me on my journey
For helping to return the vigor into my body
So necessary for survival
And with every bite my heart and soul filled
With a return to this earth
And I was reborn again, new.

It is eerie the silence after a feast
Such powerful voices circling around
Escaping, collecting, gathering, burning
It’s like a dizzying kaleidoscope
Caught up in a whirlwind
Mixing with my own heart screaming so loud
I walked along in silence for quite some time
Thinking about the changing seasons
And the cold that wasn’t far behind.

It comes naturally for me as a human
To push on, push forth
Push to get to a destination known
But when I see my next camp for the night
I know it without hesitation
And sometimes it comes before
Warmth of midday sun has a chance
To burn its brightest spark
And I take off my pack, sit down crosslegged
And observe the land all around.

I learned long ago that land speaks to me,
It tells me what is behind that tree
And what is under that bush,
It shows me where to look
Before what I’m looking at is there
The land shows me how wind swirls
And leaves bend off of branches
It shows me the light tapping
Of two giants married by force
And light nutshells crackling as they fall
From heights stored in safety.

There is nothing else that is as perfect
As these moments of pure clarity
Yet behind every breath
Reins the loneliness such a journey entails
Which the heart never expects
But always knows is there
And I pulled in this deep sadness
With my breath as it flowed
Memories that showed me how to move
Like a teacher that had kind patience
As I sat as a pupil learning.

part IV

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Climb that Mountain (day 1944)

Ahoy, good friends! Tis’ I come home
From a land I loved, I must say
Far off, quite far, several days
Generous fellows called it Rome
With marvelous peaks and glorious domes!
But with every step, the whole way
So many places I just could not stay
Something missing I was never shown.

Then one day who did I see?!
A friend I’d lost, nearly forgot
Lost in thought in a bubbling fountain
For me was worth bounds of glee
For all at once came a quite clear thought
Go home, remember, and climb that mountain.

The Last Frontier (day 1925)

The last frontier
A land without reassurances
Insurances
Propagation and planning
Responsibility
Idealistic values of bequeathing
Handing down
Lost
Forgotten while paying bills
Forgotten while building lists
Forgotten in the lineup
For groceries we could grow
And plastics we don’t need
And products we discard
And inconvenient conveniences.
The last frontier
Pulls back allowances,
Disregards misused rules,
Plays fearless.
The last frontier
Rides the whole wave in
Over what’s screaming and yelling
What’s poking and scraping
What’s pulling at the conscience
To be prepared and out of the moment.
The last frontier
Is the silence at the end
And the symphony in climax,
Gathering speed
And surviving with breath
After all has come, gone,
Realizing everything is as it should,
The heart beats on,
The challenges still arise,
And the feet sink just a little further
Into the soft sand
Beneath toes
That fight for what they believe in.

Running (day 1903)

Dear Lord I’m running
I’m in stardust, singing,
Lord, I’m running.
With a sweet land for a mind
And two cards in my hand
Lord, can you see me?
Here I am, I’m running
To the end of the line
To this day’s final sign
To the stardust on my mind
And looking for a clear sign
To lay my final jest
Lord, I’ve been coming
And here I am, running.

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