By Guest Contributor Megan Red-Shirt Shaw
Only four United States presidents have ever visited an Indian reservation during their terms: Calvin Coolidge in 1927, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, Bill Clinton in 1999 and now, Barack Obama, here in the year 2014. Last week ended a 15-year-long gap between visits by our country’s leader to Indian Country. As I watched footage of President Obama and First Lady Michelle sitting at a powwow hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, the thought shocked me: over the past 80 years, the president of our country has only come knocking on our doors four times.
Clinton’s visit ended a 63-year gap between presidential Rez visits. During that time, the Indian Reorganization Act was created; roughly 25,000 American Indians served in World War II; the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Youth Council came into existence; the American Indian Movement seized Alcatraz Island; Wounded Knee was reoccupied; the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs was reestablished; and the United States v. Sioux Indian case was decided by the Supreme Court. Yet, in sixty-three years, within Indian Country – none of these happenings warranted a visit from the President of the United States.
By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet
Janet Marie Rogers is a spoken-word poet from Six Nations Territory in Ontario, Canada who started writing in 1996.
Her literary passions are Native heritage, feminism, historical territories, human love, sexuality and spirit.
Rogers hosts Victoria, BC’s only Native radio program, called Native Waves every Tuesday at 2:30 pm on CFUV 101.9 FM.
BCP: Why spoken-word poetry?
JMR: This is easy to answer. I was first exposed to poetry readings at a local pub. And there was plenty of “bad” poetry being shared. People droning on and reading a type of therapeutic poetry which is like masturbating in words. So I vowed then and there that I would NEVER bore my audience. Plus I believe in my words and wanted people to pay attention to my messages, so I began “teaching myself” the spoken word genre and its been growing from there ever since.
BCP: What is your process?
JMR: I wait for the good stuff. Some writers are disciplined and are able to write everyday. Myself, I know when a poem wants to be born. It is a strong energy in my stomach, then the words begin to sound in my head and I’m off to the races as they say. And during the execution of the poem, I keep telling myself to stay true, be honest, go deep, make it interesting and creative. I tell other writers and artists, there is no great crime than to be boring and unoriginal … I live by that code.