My Once Life is a hybrid video poem about the continuing impact of colonization on tribal peoples. Native people resist their violent history and contemporary political struggles through engaging with deep historical knowledge and creating new oral histories. The poem is read by 12 Native women living in Los Angeles whose strong voices embody empowerment : Nanabah Hill, (Navajo-Oneida), Diana Terrazas, (Paiute), JaNae Collins, (Dakota-Crow), Xelt’tia Temryss Lane, (Lummi Nation), Viki Eagle, Sicanqu (Lakota-Sioux), Cheyenne Phoenix, (Northern Paiute-Navajo), Stephanie Mushrush, (Washoe Tribe), Hakekta Winyan Jealous Of Him (Lakota), Chrissie Castro, (Navajo), Neyom Friday, (Cheyenne-Arapaho and Mskoke Creek), Vivian Garcia, (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), and Deja Jones, (Eastern Shoshone).
Click here to watch the video poem: My Once Life
By Pamela J. Peters
I once lived freely in a time where no law and order was in command.
I once lived before trail of broken treaties was ever muttered a strand.
I once lived on land where the word partition was never understood.
I once lived when our language was beautiful, spoken every day and never misunderstood.
I once lived when our hair was considered sacred in our journal of life.
I once lived when eagle feathers were the compass of life.
I once lived when water was free, sacred and a gift of life.
I once lived with my people in a dwelling that was simple.
I once lived without judgment of my brown skin because it was my temple.
I once lived with family, cousins, and friends and understood unity.
I once lived when relocation was not meant to forget who we are as a community.
I once lived before boarding schools punished us for who we are with the philosophy of “Kill The Indian, Save the Man.”
I once lived when alcohol was not in our veins, a bottle and a beer can.
I once lived without the term “RedSkin” used as a delusional way of honoring.
I once lived before sterilization was an act of taking lives, leaving spirits wandering.
I once lived before U.S.D.A approved diabetes was feeding our bodies.
I once lived without I.H.S. replacing our ceremonial medicine with antibodies.
I once lived before white crosses plunged into our souls and our homelands like scorching knives.
I once lived before “Forts” and Fort Sumner corralled us like animal archives..
I once lived without Cowboys & Indians where the Cowboy played the superhero.
I once lived when Indian Warriors were known as our true brave heroes.
I once lived before Hollywood used our Native Homelands like concession stands.
I once lived when Blood Quantum was not known to drain our identity.
I once lived before white settlers believed in the myth of manifest destiny.
I once lived without reservation suicides taking young beautiful spirits believing it was their fault.
I once lived when our land was not tortured, raped, bleeding, and crying and then silenced with asphalt.
I once lived when our tradition was our religion.
Today, I live with pride of who I am as a Navajo Woman.
I live and exist today, because I remember how I once lived.