Greetings, everyone. We hope you will enjoy this issue of Dawnland Voices 2.0 and spread the word. There were several challenges we faced in the course of getting this issue put together, not the least of which was the COVID pandemic. We want to thank each of you who submitted and encourage all of you to connect with other Indigenous writers you know to submit for our next issue.
Issue 10 is special as it marks the very first writing contest for Dawnland Voices 2.0. Entries from our contest winners, Passamaquoddy writer Nolan Altvater (prose) and Mi’kmaq writer Mui’n Sewell Sattler (poetry), are excellent examples of the impressive work being produced by young Indigenous writers.
Nolan’s essay, focused on tools of diplomacy, offers a historical framing that functions as a brief and accessible tutorial on cultural world view and ways of being that translate to contemporary policy development and illuminate the need to be mindful of our past in order to strengthen cultural continuity in the present day. Nolan weaves background on Waponaki ways of being with commentary on present issues affecting us all today. What another writer described as “two-eyed seeing.” She notes, “With awesome literary clarity . . he merges the power, intellect, order and significance of wampum and birch bark carvings into wikhikon, today’s form of Waponaki writing. Most significantly, he sees the use of wikhikon as a framework for healing relationships between Maine’s educational and tribal stakeholders that can bring about a political will for positive change.”
Mui’n writes with a beautifully constrained language that is at times visceral and displays a quiet power. “Dew on our lips . . . and moss shrouding our skin” acknowledges our common origins as part of the whole of creation and the deep yearning and struggle for survival in the tempest of so-called American history. Mui’n looks squarely at the brutal truth of history, yet offers hope in her awareness of Indigenous experience in the here and now. She uses varied cadences and the deft, appropriate use of descriptive language to create poems that are lean and impactful, bringing it home to her embodied Indigenous identity.
Congratulations to both winners, and to all the writers who submitted for this issue! We are pleased to highlight some youth writers new to Dawnland Voices 2.0 as well: Cassidy Anderson (Coquille/Oneida), Madeline Hutchins (Mohegan), Gillian Joseph (Ihanktonwan/Mdewakantonwan Dakota), Katt LaSarte (Coeur d’Alene) and Sage Neptune ( Penobscot). Finally, we include here a couple of poems from two of us elder Indigenous writers who have been watching and nurturing young writers, and who supported this year's prize.
May you find hope, strength and awareness in this issue. It was a true pleasure putting it together.
Mihku Paul, Editor
A Snail Primer
by Mihku Paul
Carry your home on your back
Do not hurry.
Reach toward new sensory experiences.
Sacrifice moisture to move your body forward.
Leave a trace of your passing.
Explore new surroundings whenever possible.
Travel aligned in relevant time.
Seal yourself in when necessary.
Wait for more hospitable circumstances.
Ingest all nourishment slowly.
Live as you are meant to live.
Address to an Orb
By Alice Azure
I was not afraid of you, but something was not right. At first, I thought my eyes might be to blame. I asked my eye doctor if there was a scientific reason for me to see such a dense, black circle on my bedroom wall, like a large pancake. She had no answer. It took me awhile to realize that you might be an orb out of sorts.
Past orbs I have seen were of a wonderful translucence. One time, during the end of a ceremony when the sun was beginning to set over Legend Lake, there appeared scads of airy, shiny balls of different sizes resting on top of the evergreen trees that lined the lake. Like the delicate shimmering of soap bubbles, I thought.
Another time, friends showed me photographs of gauzy, milky spheres hovering around in the basement or floating in their living room—no larger than a child’s small ball. I just assumed my friends were especially gifted to host such spiritual beings.
I asked a friend about your heavy presence in my bedroom. She wondered if perhaps you were weighed down with too much grief from all the death and isolation going on in our current lives. Thinking about my own frame of mind, how negative I have become. I am old, my body bothered. Strength declines. Resources dwindle. Gone, gone, gone.
I do not know who you might have been in my life, whether you are one spirit or a collective. But yes, yes, yes. I should be more thankful for so much love in my life—recall good memories about funny jokes, happy times by the sea, children thriving, family get-togethers in the Maine woods, poems that stir my heart, all the rest. Perhaps if I smudged more with Sweet Grass, we both would lighten up. Your flatness might become more rounded, your essence might twinkle again, be able to float out of the bedroom window or come back to visit—might come back and delight me again with your radiant presence.
Mihku Paul is a Maliseet writer and visual artist who was born and raised in Maine. Her mother’s family is from Kingsclear First Nation, N.B. Canada. She studied Human Development and Communication as an undergraduate, earning her BA in 1993. She is a 2010 graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program. In 2009, Mihku was given a one-woman show at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine. Look Twice: The Waponaki in Image and Verse, contained her original art and panels of her poetry combined with archival images of Waponaki people. This exhibit was also shown at the Glickman Library (University of Southern Maine). Her work can be found in many anthologies such as Stolen Island Review, Dawnland Voices, Port City Poems, POEISIS (international), Enough! Poems of Protest and Resistance (Maine Literary Award-Best Anthology 2020), Wait - Poems from the Pandemic and others. Reversing Falls - Book 1, contains her first poem in translation (Amerindia). Her first book, 20th Century PowWow Playland, is available on Amazon. Mihku lives and works in Portland, Maine.