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Cries the River

An Irish American Mississippi Choctaw climbs the stairs

Of a battered river tugboat mounted

Atop a Saint Paul, Minnesota museum

High on a bluff above the Mississippi

He stands to honor

He stands to mourn

He stands alone among the visitors

Wonders if any are native to the river-land

Below, the Minnesota has calmly

Joined the Mississippi

After traveling through Mankato

Past the land where settlers hanged Dakota

Together the rivers bow their heads in shame

Slink by the Fort Snelling concentration camp

Where white soldiers

Imprisoned the people of the land

The river is long and sometimes deep

It carries storms of wind and rain

Follows ancient fissures

Of violent quakes that will come again

This river person wildly loves

The ancient Mississippi waterway

Loves his people’s lost babies and women

Loves the bloodied land

He looks further down the river

To the state of Mississippi

Where his people welcomed the white strangers

Until they took Choctaw land

The mother river is dying

The swill of European conquerors

Fills the river

Kills the fish and land

He wonders why those who live by the river

Do not clean up the messes they make

What evil spirit has descended to their hearts

How can they not listen to the river

How can they not hear the warnings of the

Crow and of the Eagle

Poem: LYN CRAMER watches and listens to the mighty Mississippi River from its banks near her Saint Paul home. Her stories and poetry appear in four anthologies.

Art: WENDY RED STAR, Hoop in the Cloud, Archival Pigment Print, 2011. Courtesy of Minnesota Museum of American Art. Red Star works across artistic disciplines to explore the intersections of Native American ideologies and colonialist structures, both historically and in contemporary society. Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Red Star creates art that is informed both by her cultural heritage and her engagement with photography, sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

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