Northwest Indian Mask — Poem: The Haida

a pastel and poem by Ethel Mortenson Davis

The Haida

The Haida left
the Northwest to come
to the Chicago Field Museum
to bring home their ancestors;

They were gone
for over one-hundred years,
stolen from a village
and put into drawers.

The Haida made button blankets
and round-cornered cedar boxes
painted in their rich
black and red symbols
in which they would place
their family remains
and bring them peace.

The Haida asked
the Chicago Field Museum
if they would also return
their family totems
and masks and other artifacts.

The Museum said,
“We’ll think about it.”

The Haida copyright © I Sleep Between the Moons of New Mexico, 2010.


Filed under Art, Art by Ethel Mortenson Davis, Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

14 responses to “Northwest Indian Mask — Poem: The Haida

  1. There is a rage in this piece that I really like – all the more powerful for its quietness and control. Some poems are so evidently written from the heart, and this is one of them. Superbly done. N.

  2. A powerful poem, Ethel. The museum with its “We’ll think about it” is oh so arrogant and outrageous!!
    Your mask pastel is striking and beautiful with its vivid colors.

  3. Caddo Veil

    I am not surprised at the response (my mouth twists bitterly). If your ears were burning today, I was bragging about you and Thomas–the infinitely beautiful wealth of art and written art you share on your blog–how inspiring and generous you both are to our writing community….your shameless fan, Caddo

  4. Ina

    Hi T and E , I love the paintng and poem, and the message in it.
    That last line… such arrogance they have! Give it back!

  5. Indigenous Australians have also suffered the fate of having the remains of their ancestors and cultural artefacts shipped off to museums both in Australia and overseas. There have been some successes in obtaining the
    return of those remains.
    In the 1800s, the practice of sending bones to museums for scientific study
    was widespread. Requests by aboriginal people that their bodies be left undisturbed when they died were ignored.

  6. How COULD those totems not be returned to the rightful owners? Wonderful painting here! Thank you!

  7. Funny when you have something that doesn’t belong to you, you can never give a straight answer when asked about it. ‘~’

  8. Julie Catherine

    Beautiful artwork to complement this wonderful poem, Ethel. I can see and feel the sorrow and outrage in both. Really well done. ~ Julie

  9. Anna Mark

    I am struck simply by the fact that the Haida even had to ask, to ask for their own heritage to be given back…the arrogance here meeting their humility and helplessness. Yes, a powerful, thought provoking poem.

  10. Typical lack of respect; somewhere along the line must have been a bit of greed involved.

    Nice renderings by you, Ethel…

  11. What was stolen must be returned… Powerful pastel and poem, Ethel!

  12. And the walking dead? …

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