Métis

Original Text: 
Arché / Elegies. Edmonton: Longspoon Press, 1983: 20-21
2St Isidore de Bellevue, Grand Coteau,
3Batoche, Fort Walsh, Frog Lake and Cut Knife Hill,
5and say what lies there between: bones
6the wind gives back, bones of buffalo, bones
8the prairie piled white with hunts, all
9bone brothers under sun. Name
11of bones, riding and riding through white remains.
12Name me, Gabriel, hero of the Wild
13West of Buffalo Bill, hero of the great
16riding and riding through pictures of sage brush and sky,
17fighting with clocks beneath the electric sun,
18never as we used to fight, waiting,
19talking, never arriving though miles and miles
21Sitting Bull and I and faces in the dark
22square off, Chief of the great Hunkpapa Lakota,
23dazed in the painted flats, and I, calling,
24calling: God, will they find us, lost in faces,
25before we stop forever, smiling in a glass
26cage, where rivers stop, and birds hang
27on the sky never moving? My smile is glass.
28Everything lies inside me: buffalo run
29to ground, streets I never saw where the elms
30line faces singing white, singing
32and other shows at the town's end. They see
33me, Gabriel, and see a war that hardly
34was, a circus war so put off we almost
35missed the last call. Dummies I gave
36them to save my friends, men stuffed like the great
37chief and I who drift slowly through places
38and then through names where hundreds walk to gaze
39and conjure us. Speak the names -- me, Gabriel,
40a clock ticking to an abandoned house.

Notes

1] Métis: those of mixed Caucasian and native American heritage. Fort Qu'Appelle: Saskatchewan stronghold where Cree and Saulteaux agreed to a treaty in 1874 that surrendered their land rights in the south of the province, and to which Sitting Bull and the Sioux warriors fled in 1877 after their annihilation of Custer at Little Big Horn. Most of these settlements are associated with the Métis and their Northwest "Rebellion" of 1885. Batoche was the headquarters of Louis Riel, leader of the Métis, and executed by the British after its failure. Gabriel Dumont, a Metis military leader, came from Grand Coteau. Fort Walsh, a post of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, supervised the Lakota that escaped to Canada after Little Big Horn. At Frog Lake in March 1885 the RCMP defeated the Métis insurgents, and at Cut Knife the Cree defeated the British. At Seven Oaks in 1816 a group of Métis killed Robert Semple, governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and his men. Back to Line
4] Rupert's Land: the watershed of Hudson's Bay from Québec to southern Alberta, and much of the Northwest Territories south to the United States. Back to Line
7] Blood: native people belonging to the Blackfeet tribe, western branch of the Algonquin. Back to Line
10] Gabriel: Gabriel Dumont, Métis hunter and chief from the 1860s up the Northwest "Rebellion" in 1885, who was born in 1837 to a Métis hunter, Isidore Dumont, and Louise Laframboise. After the defeat of the Métis insurgents near Batoche on May 12, 1885, Dumont fled to the United States and performed as a trick-shot marksman in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show. After bringing out his memoirs, he died near Batoche in 1906. See George Woodcock's Gabriel Dumont: The Métis Chief and his Lost World (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1975). Back to Line
14] Staten Island: New York headquarters of the Wild West show. Back to Line
15] Le Petit: Gabriel's name for his rifle. Back to Line
20] coulee: deep gully, usually dry in summer. Back to Line
31] John Philip Sousa's patriotic march, composed Christmas Day 1896, and beginning "Let martial note in triumph float." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1983
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2006
Special Copyright: 

&copy; 1983 <i>Arch&eacute; / Elegies</i> Longspoon Press