Tsalagi Poems

In Indian Country

The old woman, Rebecca and her husband Asa
moved to California at the beginning of the war.
Grandma soon followed, and my mother and her sisters,
sick of Depression, seeking work in the war factories,
seeking white warriors for husbands.

Elisi, the old Grandmother Rebecca, remembered the stories
from her own elisi, whose white name, too, was Rebecca.
Rebecca the younger had become the last in a long line
of Cherokee women to recall Lagsi and Uk’tena
and Thunder’s Boys, who rolled around in the Sky Vault
on warm summer afternoons.

Her children did not know Tsalagi,
they would not listen to her talk the old ways,
or perhaps she had forgotten how to tell the stories.
So she left the farm, her Cherokee allotment,
in Craig County, Oklahoma, to go to the Darkening Land,
Wudeliguhi, where Grandmother Sun goes to die.

the older Rebecca, Wakee, who raised her orphaned
and fed them on selu and dogwood blossoms,
had ridden in a buckboard full of children and the old anigeya,
from the hills of Georgia, down the trail where they cried.
Four years old, she remembered her brother Richard,
while driving the oxen, had a vision.
“they will push us to the sea,” he said “this trail will not end
    in Indian country.”

One comment

  1. Gilles Carter

    Hi Patricia and Duane,

    I am in the process of finishing a short (20 minute) non-profit educational film for high-school students on Indian (Cherokee) removal (funded by Oklahoma and Arkansas Humanities Councils and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation).

    I saw your family relationship to Rebecca Neugin…

    We use Rebecca Neugin in voiceover- & I am trying to fact-check the family pronunciation of the last name. Could you tell me whether it’s a soft “G” or a hard G & whether there’s any emphasis as in “NEW- gin” ? or New-G-in? At the moment we’ve got the “gin” part as in “to begin.”

    Much appreciated,


    Gilles Carter (917) 612-4334
    New Haven, CT

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