Teacher Poems by Richard_Cataman

VIEWS: 8,212 PAGES: 12

More Info

By Justice Greg Hobbs


But how am I to tell you
you who . . .
walk up my side
your lug sole boots sinking
into berry seeps
do you see how a heavier mark
you leave than she who walked
in deerskin not so long before you—
in your years 12,000 or so—
over the notch of my shoulder
into Middle Park to summer
with her people along Willow Creek
in beauty all around she walked
you follow the same path           i
in beauty you walk . . .
your voice of white fire
not yet lit.

(In celebration of the Navajo Teachers workshop
at Window Rock, Nov. 17, 2007)


Civil War is tearing ourselves apart
for belonging together

In the year of 1868 by the Treaty of Fort Sumner
by adopting the 14th Amendment

Peoples of the United States promise
to become two nations returned to their homeland

This week friends will journey back
to their place of exile

Founded as we were on a slave constitution only white
property-owning males may vote

Where Pecos snakes into the plains a cutworm place
of saline water

No Indian or Chinaman may bear witness against a white man
no woman may vote

Where earth told Navajo return to that sacred place
you come from

The many-way blessings of a great
and good land.

(for Katie Gilbert and her fellow Navajo teachers
on their journey to Hweeldi, July 2007)

Enduring Sense of American Selves

A window particular
carved of water and the wind
from an ocean of sandstone

People emerging from the earth
four levels into the Glittering World
four sacred mountains

Opening to the east homeland opening
women to the north men to the south
center-west ancestors

Changing Woman at the source
mother and child
corn-pollen blessings

Grandmothers Grandfathers saying
middle-mountain horse wagons
sheep bells clanging in the distance

Teachers testing Red Lake waters
journaling Little Colorado poems
walk the long walk back

Fifty arrowheads for the States
for the Navajo Nation
blue yellow red

Three bands of the rainbow
at the circle’s opening dwell the Diné
people of the sacred mountains

Hesperus and Blanca
San Francisco Peaks and Taylor
red rock heart of the Colorado Plateau

Conquered removed returned abiding
spiritual practical patriotic optimistic
creative citizens of clans chapters states

Nation within a nation celebrating
sovereignty in all its forms
enduring sense of American selves

Free and responsible communities
acknowledging and protecting
each other’s existence.

Before us the River is

When Hopi Boatman sets off to explore
where it is the water goes when his people need it
to grow families, flocks and fruit trees

When Navajo honor male San Juan
and female Colorado and their offspring Rainbow Children arc
deep within the sandstone slick rock

When Mountain Ute warn Mountain Men
of impassable passages between disparate worlds
and John Wesley Powell goes there

All return their stories full of how Storm Gods play upon
the rocks and fade away in soft and low murmurs
beneath heaven’s infinite blue

We find in joining them here
there is only one law of the River:
within the limits of living together

Is the common ground of all possibility.

Water Inter-Faces

Human to humans
human to the land and all other creatures
we call this community.

We are a federal community
Nation to Nation (those “dependent nations” the Tribes)
dependent nations within the territory of States

A constitutional people
supremacy clause property clause commerce clause
treaties among us

U.S. Tribal Treaties
Compacts between States
Women to men all other disciplines

Necessity of life
water the universal public resource
user to user

Clean Water Act
Endangered Species Act
Federal Land Policy and Management Act

Prior appropriation water use rights
Federal reserved water rights
Native American water rights

Function of federalism
people of peoples
this opportunity for community.

Missouri River Convocation

God gave us the earth, and the fullness thereof . . .
I do not believe in donating to these indolent savages
the best portion of my territory,
and I do not believe in placing Indians
on an equality between the white man as landholder.

      Edward Moody McCook, 1870,
      Fifth Territorial Governor of Colorado

Certain moments in history are like a man waking at night
and counting the strokes wrong when he hears a clock strike.

      Bernard DeVoto, Across the Wide Missouri

If scripture of the gift outright is written in stone
for all to see and honor in the law of nations
you may start with Lewis and Clark
at the mouth of the Missouri

Or at the source
with Arapaho Arikara Assiniboine Blackfoot
Cheyenne Crow Gros Ventre Iowa Mandan
Omaha Otoe Pawnee Sioux Shoshone

Up in Yellowstone country or the Medicine Bow
where snowmelt pools spill their jewels
into the heart of the continent
and every creature’s

Heartbeat depends upon the rise
and fall of the river and all its tributaries
plover tern and sturgeon
we among them

To whom a greater sovereignty
the art of healing
is given.


Before they leave ancestral Puebloans
two baskets neatly stack beneath a large
inverted bowl shaped like a helmet. In
the bottom basket a cache of coarse ground
corn, in the upper a smaller pile of
finely ground corn as fine as pastry flour,
surrounded by ceramic ladles, nest
within each other. Then torch the kiva.
Each of many groups spread across the arc
from Chimney Rock to Sleeping Ute Mountain
do this and move on, many offerings
time this Colorado ground we walk on.

(inspired by Craig Childs’ House of Rain)


A distant rumble of thunder,
we look to our water jars,
we are ready

For the rain to jet from the pour-off
through the notch at the top of the rimrock
south of our dwelling alcove

Into the cistern our men have built
at the base of the cliff,
now dry and waiting

Twenty families
to drink from mugs we have fashioned
out of the earth

To cook what we have grown
on the mesa above and terraces below
the corn, beans and squash

Water the turkeys we keep
for meat and feather blankets,
adobe water for building our

Sacred kivas, storage and living places.
Springs and seeps to our north and south
such a long hard walk with the heavy water jars

We would gladly make,
but no trickle issues from the lake
at the center of the earth

We hear only the rumble of thunder.


From Tahoe to Pyramid Lake
the Truckee River wants to run
its full course

Blessing all the creatures water touches
mighty small Cui-ui
rising from the brilliant blue

Pyramid blue lake
mighty swimming Lahontan
cutthroat trout

Rising from the brilliant blue
Pyramid blue lake
Native American Paiutes

Settling around depending upon
the land and the waters
all other immigrants

Settling along depending upon
the land and the running waters
of the falling blue Truckee

Who can read better through the trees?
so no one loses forever
their right to participate in community

Look to the rivers
look to the lakes
look seven generations ahead

Make the best decisions you can
for all the great and small fish
who depend on the mighty blue waters.


The land the air the waters
All the people all the creatures
All the dwelling places

Energy sweet music
Power of community
Witness the river

Exotic tongues
Attentive listeners
Honest translations

Men and women interplay
From smaller streams
Those who listen well

Call to others
Nature lays the course

Celebrate the callers

All creative spaces
Each and every breath
May inspire.


Politicians dither while people wither,
where are the men and women humble
enough to lead with the will to follow,
where is community?

The state of being free
is founded on the land itself,
air to breathe,
water conserved conscientiously,
a place for all citizens and fellow denizens.

If an ancient tree cannot be,
Nor salmon in the falls,
Nor tortoise to the desert,
Nor sage upon the open range,
Nor can we.

These rights we hold to be alienable
if not exercised frequently and expressly:
       To refrain from the pursuit of power,
             building others up instead of tearing down;
       To enjoy the blessings of the earth,
             without waste or desecration;
       To have sufficient space
             for cultivating plants, animals, healthy families;
       To dispense munificence,
             as a matter of the spirit not as an article of commerce;
       To generate energy, art, intellect,
             working and playing with and for each;
       To love and be loved,
             without abuse, joyously, unconditionally;
       To do our best

            to share with feeling our magnificent constitutionality;

We demand nothing,
we command less,
praying for guidance
we contribute and receive.


Upstream from Lee Ferry,
Lake Powell,

the Grand Canyon,

Each and both,
chambers of the heart

Of the great Southwest.

Save the Grand Canyon,
save Lake Powell,

Tree rings teach
flood and drought endure,

Frequent the experience
of every western community

In all the western Americas.

Ancient Andeans, Mayans,
Hohokam, Puebloans, Hispanos,

Praise, store, and carry
the treasured life-giving waters

In their time and place of need
to live, harsh and beautiful,

This opportunity for community.

So the waters of the great Lake Powell
with flood and drought fluctuate,

As weather and the mountains will,
warning and nurturing
We the peoples, all the creatures,
in common compact with the Grand:

Preserve, conserve, sustain, and inspire.


Wetter wets, drier dries, more variability,
the spinal cord carries the brain's message
to the body. Hello?!

The primary message, provide blood to the heart,
water, nutrients, and oxygen. Always the question
of civilization remains the same

Survive, grow, adapt, make the best decisions
you can based on the best available information,
study nature's inter-working.

How all is individual, how all is interconnected,
as water moves through the earth, the air,
in a continuous cycle of renewal

Going home, going forth, to and from
the center of an ever-creating


May you have the joy of rising waters
May the awe of ages surround you

May your feet sound soft upon the land

May the sweep of Nankoweep embrace you

May the Great Blue Heron stand upon her bar for you
And the Father of all mountain sheep stand vigilant on his loft

May you run the River true and hoot upon the waves
May you, your family, your friends pass through

And always return home, home, and home again.


To top