by Paloma Rae

My name is Paloma Rae. I am an artist, possible futures fantasizer, and honored member of the Slow Factory team.

I was born in the Territory of the Three Fires Peoples, the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi and extend a special thanks to the legacy of those peoples, their livelihoods, and all that has been taken in the name of “westernization” and “manifest destiny”.

I come from the Amerindians of the Land of the Hummingbird, known in colonial terms as Trinidad and Tobago– a paradise until the settlers arrived. I am also a proud Lenape woman.

My kikayuëmënaninkahke, my ancestors, once called this little, hilly island, Manhatta, their home. Spanning from the Lands of so-called New Jersey, through the green valleys of Pennsylvania, into the shores of Delaware and along the bountiful banks of the Hudson, or Muhheakunnuk (“Great waters constantly in motion”) my people did more than steward Lenapehoking, the Land was a living part of them, and they, a living part of the Land– A divine dance,an inseparable cosmic connection.

And today, this Mimënsa, this child, returns home.

May this moment serve as a pointed reminder that ntàpinèn – WE ARE HERE.

We are water. We are air. We are dirt, and leaves, and silt.

We are not relics. We are the fire. We are the storm, the sand, the snow, the ice. Not some figments of the past–far off stories of mythical places and mythical creatures– Illusions cast with smoke and ash. We are not Myths, we exist on this Land, in this universe, in this dimension. Our legacy, distorted, dusted in gunpowder & greed. Our nightmare is as constant as it is real.

I can feel the wailing in my bones, Like a 400 year funeral dredge.

There’s a word we have – *èhènta wehikiyànkw * Which translates to “at our old homeland”.

The elders are the keepers of our stories, some of joy, but most are told as a warning & as a reminder…

There’s a story called “Give Us a Little Piece of Your Land.”

The excerpt I’m going to share was told by Bessie Snake and recorded in 1978.

“The Europeans wanted to fool us when they were new here. They said, “We will really treat you good for as long as the river flows and the sun always moves, and as long as the grass always comes up in the Spring then I will take care of you. That will be for how long I will be a friend to you all,” he said. He wanted to fool us and it seems he is still fooling us.”

Violated. Stripped. Dehumanized. Forced out. Forced far, And further still– to an unfamiliar, unforgiving Land.

The elders remind us that we already know what it’s like to face the end of our world.

And for what?

For a muted vibration through the concrete? Like a distant heart song, a familiar melody but the notes, should they ever come, arrive disjointed and out of tune. A warped and poisonous symphony.

In Lenape we say Ntàpinèn, in Arabic it’s Nahn Huna, we are here, and we always will be. Did it escape you, dear colonizer, that we are Earth– even when our blood is spilled in vain, callously in your name, our Spirit remains whole, back to nature from which we came. We are the Land- complete in our entirety. Sacred.

So I ask–

Kèkuhàch kuwatu? What do you know?

Have you been told the story of the fox and the rabbit?

Kèkuhàch kuwatu? What do you know of the medicine of the black walnut?

Kèkuhàch kuwatu? What do you know? How often do you speak to Corn Mother? And when she replies, what does she say?

Kèkuhàch kuwatu? What do you know about sacred fire? About rebirth of Earth? The charred bark of the mighty chestnut becomes nutrients for the soil and the soil houses the worms, and the bugs, and the animals, and root systems that connect us all from the inside out. And protect us from the outside in.

Kèkuhàch kuwatu? What do you know about this Land you claim?

More importantly, what does this Land know about you?

Wanishí. Thank you.