A Poem for the Onondagas
by Robin Kimmerer

Even after everything
You know, the history they won't tell you
The blankets
The scorched earth
The soldiers
The treaties
All broken.
Even after everything
Our neighbors are still here
Still here and speaking for peace


Even after everything
The missions
The agents
The preachers
The boarding schools
That reach for the soul.
Even after everything
Our neighbors are still here
Still here and overflowing with spirit


Even after everything
The many gifts of Mother Earth still bless us
The sun, the moon
The stars, the water
The trees, the birds
The fish, the deer
Even after everything
Our neighbors are still here
Still here and living in gratitude


Even after everything
The wastebeds
The mercury
The DDT and PCBs
The salmon, gone
The chestnut, gone
The passenger pigeon
The lake
The creek.
Witness to the wounds
Hands tied by law
Our neighbors are still here
Still here and healing the land


Let us not speak of all that was taken
But rather of all that is given
The many gifts from our neighbors
Who shared with us
The roots of democracy
The rights of women and men
The three sisters who feed us
Medicines that heal us
The culture of Thanksgiving
The four white roots of peace
Self determination
Seven generations
Tonight we honor our first neighbors
Who stand among us now as teachers
Even after everything.


Even after everything
Our neighbors are still here
Still here and reaching for justice
Not just for themselves
But in Audrey Shenandoah's words
Justice for the people
Justice for the land
Justice for all of creation.


As our neighbors stand for justice
Let it be known that they do not stand alone
But are joined by friends
Who share these good green hills
Who breathe this air
Who grieve for the Lake
Who share their hopes
Who honor justice
And who believe that promises should be kept
To the land
And to each other.
Even after everything.

Onondaga faithkeeper Wendy Gonyea (center) also read a poem at the October 10 candlelight vigil. Robin is on the right. Photo: Jared Levy


Editor's Note: Robin read this moving poem during a candlelight vigil held on October 10, a day before a court hearing determining the fate of the Onondaga Land Rights lawsuit.  She wrote this piece as a way of reminding the judge presiding of the immense grace and patience that the Onondaga have shown over these many years, and as a way to encourage Central New Yorkers to support their Onondaga neighbors.



Robin is a member of the Potawatomi tribe, and the Director for the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at SUNY ESF.