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In Lakota, Cante t’insya Manipelo Means 'They Walk Courageously'

From the prairie, Lois Red Elk (Hunkpapa/Isante/Yankton) shares a poem—and opens her heart—to the people of Ukraine

A mural in Gallup, New Mexico titled "Long Walk Home" by Richard K. Yazzir. The work commemorates the return of 7,000 Navajo to their homeland after they were imprisoned for four years (1864-1868).  Image courtesy Creative Commons CC-2.0
A mural in Gallup, New Mexico titled "Long Walk Home" by Richard K. Yazzir. The work commemorates the return of 7,000 Navajo to their homeland after they were imprisoned for four years (1864-1868). Image courtesy Creative Commons CC-2.0

EDITOR'S NOTE: To have one's homeland violently invaded and destroyed, to become a refugee, and to die if you resist; the treatment of Ukrainians during the Russian invasion has brought condemnation shared the world over. Mountain Journal's poet in residence Lois Red Elk is thinking about it with heartfelt reflection, compassion—and irony.

Hello My MoJo Friends,

The terror of the past several weeks has been hard to think about. I am speaking of the word "war." But I also know from my own personal history that there are warriors and there are cowards.

I have been praying for the people of Ukraine daily, sometimes several times a day. Their courage is amazing and heroic. I wrote a poem for my father several years ago and I would like to dedicate it now to the people of Ukraine. 

I have so many warriors in my family, from the history of Sitting Bull, to my grandmothers who were prisoners of war, to uncles who were code talkers in the US Army, and others. They all have the same things in common with the people of Ukraine. They love their land, their way of life, they love their people and they are courageous.

Holding love, and possessing the courage to do the right thing when we know a wrong is being committed. How many of us are able to do this?

My admiration to all who can.


By Lois Red Elk

Cante t’insya Manipelo

Man being walking the earth in red paint
spirit armed with belonging and recount.
Your shield, a male elk, with the endorsement
of the spirit that causes everything to move.
Talk to us in behalf of the heavens from where
you came. This land is torn and weeping, you
have come to a fork in the blood, where 
choice is a new beginning.  Every dawn this 
century the people have looked for that peace
that is yours.  You have walked like a daring
warrior across our site, a vision we want to
follow as our own.  We hear the wind from
the third direction, help us explain it to the
children, that place where clouds carry the
seeds of their name. You have lain asleep, 
unafraid where ever you walk.  So you lived.  
Now you tell us to live that way and take 
courage. Challenge us about our relationship 
to all that is. We were led away from a truth,
believing we were born of earth and spirit,
yet we have been cast to attend to all of earth’s
beings, to sing prayers of  adoration for all the
people, land, life.  You teach us that only then 
can we attach to our hair the feather of the hawk.
You tell us we must dream ourselves to whole 
humans and walk this place, not in this world
of another’s making, but side by side with a God
that gives breath and allows all things movement.

    ©Lois Red Elk (Hunkpapa/Isante/Yankton)

Cante t’insya Manipelo means, “They walk courageously.”

: We are pleased that Lois is working away on a new collection of poems and will let you know when it is published. In the meantime, ask for her other volumes at your favorite local bookseller: Our Blood Remembers, winner of the best non-fiction award from Woodcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers; Dragonfly Weather; and Why I Return to Makoce with a foreword from Montana's recent state poet laureate Lowell Jaeger and nominated for a High Plains Book Award in poetry.  Given headlines that continue to appear about the discoveries of new atrocities committed at boarding schools for indigenous children, we encourage you to read Lois' contribution to MoJo that appeared in June, The Unspeakable Past Of Indian Boarding Schools 

Make sure you never miss a Lois Red Elk poem by signing up for Mountain Journal's free weekly newsletter. Click here: 

Lois Red Elk-Reed
About Lois Red Elk-Reed

Lois Red Elk-Reed is a poet who calls the high plains home. She is Mountain Journal's poet in residence.
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