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Honoring Ospaye: It's About Finding Our Family Of Understanding In Nature

In a brand new poem for 2023, Lois Red Elk reflects on MoJo's 'Night of the Wolves' and an ever-expanding circle of like-minded friends

"Buffalo Jump Into Eternity," a photograph by Jake Mosher. To see more of Mosher's amazing work go to
"Buffalo Jump Into Eternity," a photograph by Jake Mosher. To see more of Mosher's amazing work go to

Hello MoJo friends,

Loving the Montana winter so far, so much frost and surprising sky aura. Even some of the birds are staying this side of Mni S'os'e.

I was so impressed with Mountain Journal's program on wolves last week and glad to meet all those who support you. It is a family I Iike being a part of.

This January poem, "Understanding Sits Among Us," is dedicated to you, my MoJo friends and ospaye, and all who give so much to protecting the Earth.


Understanding Sits Among Us

by Lois Red Elk

It was like an invitation from a friend
I hadn’t talked to for awhile. A rap on
the porch so distinct I walked out the
door and caught a glimpse of nearby
movement, swaying of old branches,
an aged bending wanting to sit, relax,
fold arms and hands in a familiar lap.
I heard a distant but recognized dialect
conversing in wind and laughing snow
touching down on still ground, asking
for a minute or two. The reaching was
so compelling for this late hour. Moon
lighting up dried leaves I began a walk
forward, into the cold of winter, breath 
highlighting words exhaled for the
beginning transfer from now to a place 
billowing next to my extended spirit
the space where only spirit warms air, 
the breath energy of this other earth time.
I exhale old shadows, the tired energies 
that deny my blood, my thinking. I inhale 
sought after scents of the sacred protected 
always in deep weaving cottonwood, cedar,
willow roots and welcome the stories of 
wisdom earth is sending up. Again wind
flowing over my feet requests a walk in
chokecherry and wild rose patches for
healing medicines. Remembering plant
songs as they approach for now quieted
and clear moments I feel the warming,
fulfilling, assured visions for sharing.  
Ancient family names come forward to
this quivering tongue, feel a reaching of
loving warmth, I remember so well, rise
through feet, through star DNA, to arms
holding gifts of stories. A rippling flow
of wind sends Lakota songs from another 
level for this point in eternity. I receive
now it is time for waning of moon and
approaching fire. Visitors who assembled 
fade into a warming pulse of joy, of tracks
returning to earth’s parallel time where
understanding now sits among us, resting.

©Lois Red Elk

Ospaye— family
Mni S'os'e—the Missouri River
Pidamaya—thank you—you have made me grateful

: 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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