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Tribal Ceremony

Janet Campbell Hale

I lay my hand
Upon
The coldness of the smooth
White stone,
My fingers touch the words,
I read again:
My father's name,
Date of birth,
Date of death,
Veteran of
World War I.

"This is your
Grandfather's grave,"
I tell my children.
Wishing I could tell them,
That they would understand,
That the man
Who was my father
Was of that first generation,
Born on old land
Newly made reservation,
That at twelve,
He went to Mission School,
To learn to wear shoes,
To eat with knife and fork,
To pray to the Catholic God
To painfully
Learn English words
English meanings,
While ways of thinking,
English words,
To speak,
To think,
To write,
English words,
When we,
My children
And I
Know no others.