Dave Holt, born in Toronto of Irish/English and Ojibwe Indian ancestry, moved to California as an aspiring songwriter, then graduated from SF State University’s Creative Writing program (B.A. ‘93, M.A. ‘95). He’s won several poetry prizes, including a Literary/Cultural Arts award for his book Voyages to Ancestral Islands, and is included in several anthologies, most notably, Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California; Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California; The Wild, Marin Poetry Center Anthology 2019, and Descansos: Words from the Wayside, where his poem received a Pushcart Prize nomination. Also a musician & composer, he sometimes performs his poetry with Ojibwe drum or keyboard.
Bering Strait, Dakota Pipeline Straitjacket
I come from ice and snow, winter memories
carry me, crossing tundra to a new land.
Fleets of dugout canoes floated us through kelp forest.
Bass, crabs, otters fed us,
this history etched in our hearts like petroglyphs
pecked in stone by our native artists.
This new Turtle Island formed by Skywoman
and before then, he who descended to Earth
as if by a rope dropped through Bugonagiizhig,
“Hole in the Sky,” the seven sisters, the Pleiades.
A different people followed Giiwedin’anung,
North Pole star, brought trade goods from the south,
taught us their friendship songs,
gave us the three sisters: corn, beans, squash,
traded for gifts of the north, obsidian, copper, beaver furs.
They shared their strange stories of origin and creation,
here on this land, where they emerged like ants
from an anthill, from an underground world
into the fourth world of pueblos and mesas,
and Spanish soldiers offering Bibles.
We nodded, knowing that what we were hearing was sacred.
Like us, they came from the Star People
who gave us seven sacred laws, affirmed our place
in the sacred hoop, and another non-heavenly origin
in the land across the water, beyond snows and ice flows,
back in time where we were given stewardship of the earth.
Of the four races, the white race became guardians
of the fire, the spark at the center of things.
Carried here across the Bering Strait, to where our fight
for protection of the water has earned us pepper spray,
guard dog attacks, jail cells, federal prison sentences.
Of what crime, against who, have we been accused?