By Thomas Davis
He was a big man in Arizona
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.