Tradition Left These – The Feminist Wire

Tradition Left These

By Royce K. Freeman


Critique of tradition happens in the tongue and cheek.


It happens while the shadows tend to a bruised back,

while shivers sing melodies coaxing the sun into rising

and breaths count the moments until the traditionalist sleeps.


So simple it might seem when days drift in ease,

with the sway of fringe and feathers held high

and laughter quickens our hearts and smiles weren’t used to cover a lie.


Slowly it builds,

this voice rusted and tethered to heartstrings

weathered in salt and grit.


Tender now are the memories of quivering hands,

left alone to comfort the first born and colic.


Tradition left these,

where sleepless nights smelled of a sweet desert no longer dry.


Tradition left these,

even with eyes wide in sacrament and drumming lullaby.


Tradition left these,

with our addictions to blame it all on the remnants of conquest.


Tradition left these,

when silence condones the violent acts of traditionalists.

– © Royce K. Freeman 2012


Royce K. Freeman is an Eastern Shoshone and Mandan-Hidatsa writer, scholar, and mother of two beautiful boys. She was raised on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and attended the St. Labre Indian School in Montana. She most recently finished her Master of Arts degree in Native American Studies and is currently a doctoral student studying Sociolinguistics in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. She is a fierce believer in the power words have to honor, entertain, educate, heal, inspire, and unite. Her poetry and scholarly work flow from her experiences as a Native woman, the strength of her family and culture, and her life as a survivor and descendent of Indian boarding school intergenerational traumas. The feelings of risk and urgency feed and shape her writings. The risks of sharing hushed and hidden experiences are constant challenges, but there is an urgency to share words that say we are not alone in this, nor in our needs and hopes for betterment.