pê-kîwêhtahik – Bring Them Home: Naomi McIlwraith

Memorial: Steps of Muscowequan Indian Residential School, closed: 1997. Photo: Naomi McIlwraith.

pê-kîwêhtahik ‒ Bring Them Home
Naomi McIlwraith

What can a poem do, but to speak
the truth ‒ kâ-tâpwêt, to shout
the truth ‒ kâ-têpwêt, step one
of Indigenous grief my friend Shannon tells me.

What can a poem do, but whisper ‒ ê-kitimâkihtawakik
our deep unwhisperable sorrow for 215 children.
Spell it out: two hundred and fifteen small bodies.
Count it out: forty-four thousand two hundred and ninety small bones.

What can a poem do, but utter a prayer ‒ ê-ayamihêstamawakik
for two hundred and fifteen children
for thousands of other children
who never saw their families again – ever.

What can a poem do when it can’t reach
stage four of grief – laughter – not
yet, perhaps not ever. Not until
the children come home, not until the Pope

says sorry for the crimes of the Church,
not until governments stop apologizing while doing so little,
not until we all walk with our Indigenous
sisters and brothers on the mean streets of Canada.

Not until the children come in from the dark.
namôya pâtimâ  pê-pîhtikwêtwâwi awâsisak itê ohci kâ-wanitipiskâyik.


With thanks to Naomi for sharing her powerful words, and her prayers on this day when we learn of another 751 graves at Cowessess.

About Arden Ogg

Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, launched in 2010 with the goal of creating Cree language literacy materials suitable for use by learners of all ages.
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