For Thanksgiving, KBOO’s Poetry and Everything Honors Native American Poets



Poetry and Everything: The Thanksgiving Show

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Nez Perce artist Kevin Peters 


Thanksgiving is a day of reflection, a day to consider our nation’s history, our lives, the meaning of home.

In honor of these traditions, Judith Arcana, host of KBOO’s Poetry and Everything, invites listeners to a special kind of holiday commemoration.  She brings us The Thanksgiving Show, an hour of Native American Poetry.

The program begins with a prose piece by Elizabeth Woody, enrolled member of the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs and Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita.  Woody tells the story of twentieth-century Oregonian history, a story of shared resources and subsequent devastation, a story that re-enacts on a local scale the early history of this nation’s colonization. This pattern of hope and betrayal, this strain of loss, then weaves through the poems that follow. 

Here are, of course, universal themes and common experience—a child’s day at school, an economically struggling house cleaner employed by a wealthy family, an adult looking closely at her aging dad; but, in each of these pieces, we hear more:  We hear the tension that simmers between present place and historical, ongoing displacement.  What does it mean for a Native American to pledge allegiance to the American flag?  to observe in enforced silence waste and indifference to nature’s bounty, unconscious practice of a ruling class?  to see the small, frayed reminders of tradition scattered throughout the strange décor of a strange living room?

Here are some excerpts from works by poets featured in the program

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body./ Sometimes the way in is a song “The Way In” by Linda Hogan Chickasaw Nation

Lakota artist Black Hawk, Drawing of Lakota Ceremony

…to every man who made his X
on that scrap of parchment,
the only X the white men made
was to cross the hands of Indians
behind their backs before swinging them
out over the lava walls of the canyon.

“Tribal History” by Janice Gould (Concow)

You see, I am alive, I am alive/ I stand in good relation to the earth “The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee” by N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa)

…time in my veins melted and heart, Which had ticked off bud and blossom, told Me take and in the harvest air hold Love’s perfect fruit, and I did…

“After Shakespeare” by Ralph Salisbury (Cherokee/Irish American)


There is a private Thanksgiving we each know.  But Thanksgiving was never meant to be a private affair.  These Native American voices remind us of that, and tell us the stories of our national legacy. 

Selections are drawn from poets of the Pacific Northwest, from women writers of the 1960’s and 70’s, from local artists, friends and acquaintances, including, in addition to Elizabeth Woody, pieces by Ed Edmo, Paula Gunn Allen, Sherman Alexie, Chrystos, Ralph Salisbury, Linda Hogan, Diane Glancy, N. Scott Momaday, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Janice Gould, Joy Harjo (current US Poet Laureate), and an unknown Arctic poet.

Featured Poets

Poetry and Everything Hosted by: Judith Arcana From: KBOO (90.7FM Portland, Oregon) Aired:  November 25 10PM – 11 PM Airs:  Every fourth Monday