At A Kellogg Foundation Meeting in Mesa, Arizona

By Thomas Davis

He was a big man in Arizona
And sincere.
We were in Mesa, Arizona during the winter at a meeting
Sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation,
Tribal college Presidents and administrators, students, Board members, and faculty.
The white man in the tailored black suit
Had shown up and was invited up front to speak.
The Foundation wanted the mainstream universities and tribal colleges to work together with a common purpose.

The Chancellor of the University was careful and polite to begin with,
But then, as if he couldn’t quite help himself, he said:
“You know, I really don’t know what you people want.”
He gestured toward the crowd of Indian eyes and faces.
“I mean, the University of Arizona has developed programs
And reached out to the Reservations
Since signing of the treaties.”

The crowd of tribal college presidents and the others there
Didn’t say anything, didn’t move, didn’t clap, but looked interested and polite.
He clearly didn’t understand what Indian people needed.

Note: This is a poem from the tribal college movement. The incident happened a long time ago.


Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

9 responses to “At A Kellogg Foundation Meeting in Mesa, Arizona

  1. My comment in response insisted on forming itself into a poem (or at least what I call “prose with pretensions”, 🙂

    The phrase
    “Living on another planet”
    Sprang to mind

    And then hovered in the air
    Clearly inviting
    Further exploration
    Of its significance

    “The incident happened a long time ago.”
    So glad then to see how far we had come
    Until taking the time to look saw

    How far we still hadn’t
    With so many stuck fast
    Some walking hellbound
    In the other direction

    The word
    Sprang to mind

    ~~~~~ ~ ~~~~~

    Sent with sincere love and respect. ❤ I shan't be republishing this anywhere else as it does not – and cannot – stand alone; it is too enwoven with your own piece, Tom.

  2. I liked everything written here…the one from long ago and the comment from today!

  3. Whenever someone uses the term “you people” we know how far we still have to go. And though this happened awhile back, it seems to still be relevant today. A very powerful piece, Tom.

    (BTW, have you seen the new PBS series on Native Americans? There have been two episodes so far and it’s truly wonderful. Made me think of you.)
    Hope you’re both doing as well as possible.

    • Founding the tribal college movement was filled with challenges, Betty, not the least of them was the attitude by many of the mainstream colleges and universities who, even though the failure rates were astronomical for American Indians, believed that they were really trying hard to serve Indian communities.

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