How to Be a Real Indian

The first time someone asks you how Indian you are, lie.
On the blacktop, the soccer field, tell them
100 percent, your grandmother lived on the rez,
or you were born there, hooked up to machines running on bad
generators, in a bad hospital in a bad part of town. Say you dream
in Oneida at night, show-and-tell them rose rock
and kachina, give them exactly what they ask for,
the first time. Learn to read from that book
of the boy who falls in love with Minnehaha, invents
written language, discovers corn, and departs
in a canoe.


In third grade, when your class suggests “Ten Little Indians”
for the Thanksgiving theme, offer to teach them
the dances you don’t know, but should. Swallow hard.
Imagine your ancestors, the ones you see each day
when you get home from school, staring down at you from the walls
of your grandmother’s house, draped in their turbans and regalia,
Tecumseh, Red Cloud, and imagine their eyes—not sad, but fascinated
by the evenness of your buckskin fringe, the wild neon
of your store-bought feathers. Sing “Ten Little Indians.” Fan your hand
across your mouth. Say, “How.”
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