Letter From the Editor Issue #7

Hello and thank you for reading our seventh issue, which focuses on indigenous peoples of the Americas. We have the honor of presenting to you many poems and pieces of art about Native Americans. This issue begins with Ana Castillo, a famous and astounding poet who delivers powerful imagery in compact form. Castillo is of Mestizo descent, and the themes of her poetry, of the attempted erasure of indigenous cultures, are the epitome of what it means to bear witness.

Some Americans can claim Native ancestry and be culturally influenced from it growing up. However, there is also a real problem with people (of either European or African descent) claiming Native American Heritage without sufficient proof or even fraudulently. This is why the sovereignty of Native American tribes are so important. And too often legitimate groups of Native Americans do not have the recognition from the Federal government that is necessary for securing their rights. And yet there has also been scrutiny of tribes, most recently Cherokee Nation, for allegedly expelling black members.

Identity Politics has become the status quo in contemporary American literature, which has done good as a movement to get minorities and the oppressed published and paid in ways that were closed off to them in the past. But progressive infighting can result in a fraught and repressive atmosphere where the result is self-segregation that stymies justice and equality. At Whirlwind we aim to be inclusive.

We’re not in this business to make money, nor are we here to exploit any group for political gain. We believe in justice and equality for everyone, and that’s that. This is why we decided to do an issue on indigenous peoples, focusing specifically on Native Americans and First Nations peoples. It’s important to uplift these voices in particular because doing so will allow any human being to search inward for ancestral wisdom to learn how to coexist with both the earth and one another.

It is truly an honor to share this special issue with you. Most of the contributors here are of Native American descent in some form, whether it’s from a U.S. federally recognized tribe (although they may not be tribe members themselves), First Nation peoples north of the border, or of Mestizo lineage. We also have an essay by Pegi Eyers about what it means to be indigenous and what we can learn from it. Thanks to all who have worked with us in solidarity to help make this world a better place.

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Issue 7 Cover by Navajo artist G Scott

Baltimore Been Cold

Baltimore been a cold city

for a long time

 

You can tell by the color

of everything

 

How the purple shade

of Poe lurks in alleys

 

How the harbor wind

stings your eyeballs

 

How the blue buildings

bear witness to violence

 

In the streets

there’s black angels

 

Yeah, Baltimore been cold

for a long time

Stained with Blood

we were driven from our stone-walled and thatched-roof hovels

by the redcoats, not only by bayonet, but mostly hunger

we were driven halfway across the world

by way of decaying wooden vessels

we were killed, half of us, before we arrived

by disease and even more hunger

we became settlers, cruelly mimicking tactics conceived

by our oppressors in the homeland, the punctured emerald isle

we pushed farther west in this new red land, to escape prejudice

by earlier conquerors in the cramped east coast cities

we encountered vast prairies stained with blood

by the sweat of our fathers and tears of our mothers

we nurtured the hard ashened earth