The Cry: Censoring Native authors
By Brenda Norrell
Sometimes the magic arrives in the mail, as it did today.
Inside a small brown envelope is a piece of paper and a book. There is a note written on a copy of an article, "Simon Ortiz: Shocked at banning of Native books in Arizona," which I had written.
The note says, "This article was the initial impetus for publishing a new edition of Peter Blue Cloud's 'Back Then Tomorrow.' We originally published it in 1978. And here it is, speaking to us. We need to hear his voice, these voices."
The note is signed, "Gary Lawless, Blackberry Books."
In the little brown envelope from Maine, is a yellow book, with a drawing on the cover of Coyote Man with a walking stick. The book is Back Then Tomorrow by Peter Blue Cloud (Aroniawenrate) drawings by Bill Crosby.
On the copy of the article, highlighted in yellow marker is the name of Peter Blue Cloud. Blue Cloud's name is in a quote by Simon Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo poet, author and professor.
"I am very stunned and very shocked and very pissed off the Tucson Unified School District would ban Mexican American Studies and books like Rethinking Columbus," Ortiz said in the article. Ortiz named the names of Indigenous authors, including Peter Blue Cloud, in the book Rethinking Columbus, now banned by Tucson public schools, following Arizona's demand to forbid Mexican American Studies.
Opening the yellow book, I read the first poem of Peter Blue Cloud, "The Cry."
The poem ends with:
When I begin to create the universe,
I must remember to give the cry
a very special place.
I'll call the cry
Peter Blue Cloud, Aroniawenrate: I am Turtle, passed to the Spirit World on April 27, 2011.
"The Indian occupation of Alcatraz island was an attempt of Indian people to awaken the nation and show the world that the Indian spirit would live for ever." --Peter Blue Cloud
When's the Last Boat to Alcatraz?
Crazy Horse Monument
Sweet Corn Sand hills That None May Visit
Searching for Eagles
Biography on Wikipedia:
He was born on the Caughnawaga Reserve in Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada and died in Montreal on April 27, 2011. He was previously associated with journal Akwesasne Notes and the journal Indian Magazine.
Blue Cloud was born in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory (Quebec), where he attended school and was raised in the Mohawk language. The family moved to Buffalo, NY, for awhile before returning to Kahnawake. He was a lifelong avid reader and began writing poems as a teenager.
He became an ironworker in his teens, working in various cities in the East. In the late 1950's, he traveled to California, where he was employed as an ironworker in the Bay Area. After quitting the iron, he worked as a logger with the Haida people in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, as a ranch hand in the vicinity of Susanville, California, and doing archaeological field work with the Paiute people of Pyramid Lake, Nevada. He lived for some time at the Maidu Bear Dance grounds near Janesville, Ca, where he absorbed the stories and teachings of Maidu elders, and where some of his first creations as a carver and sculptor emerged.
Moving back to the Bay Area, he discovered the Beat poetry and folk music scenes, and the social and political upheaval of the 60's. There he continued to develop his talents as a poet, sculptor, carver and painter, collaborated with other Native artists and writers, and participated in art exhibitions.
While an artist in many genres, Blue Cloud is most known for his writing. He published several books of poetry and his poems appear in numerous anthologies and journals. He won the American Book Award for Back Then Tomorrow in 1981. He was noted for combining Native American mythology with contemporary issues, most especially the character of Coyote, the trickster who figured prominently in his stories and poems.
In the city or country, Blue Cloud loved to walk, was a keen observer of events both natural and political, and incorporated them into his writings. As it did for so many Native people, the occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 sparked his interest in the fight for the rights of Native Americans. He lived on the island for awhile, and supported the occupation and similar events in California and the Northwest by chronicling them in various publications.
Blue Cloud moved to the Sierra Nevada foothills near Nevada City for several years in the 1970's-'80's, where he continued to write, carve and paint, while also working as a carpenter. There he met guitarist Rex Richardson, and toured across the U.S. in 1979 with Richardson, who set his poems to music. Several recordings were released as a result of the collaboration.
Blue Cloud returned to the East Coast to work for the national Native journal Akwesasne Notes (Mohawk territory, Akwesasne/NewYork) as a writer/editor first in 1975-76, and again from 1983-1985. He returned to Kahnawake in 1986, where he briefly published his own newspaper, the Kariwakoroks, before writing a column for The Eastern Door Newspaper from 1992 to 2006.
Blue Cloud was cremated immediately after his death as per his wishes and his ashes will be spread in Modoc country in Northern California where the Modoc warriors fought and died.
Peter Blue Cloud / Aroniawenrate was born in 1935 to the Turtle Clan of the Mohawk on the Caughnawaga Reserve in Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada. He has worked as ironworker, logger, carpenter and woodcutter and was previously associated with journal Akwesasne Notes and the journal Indian Magazine.
In the late 1960s he began publishing his poems. With these he emphasized and introduced the traditional ways of thinking into contemporary American literature, describing man in nature and history, man and nature as one, as it was always perceived by the aboriginal people.
In 1981, he has received the American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation. His books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry include "Alcatraz is not an island", 1972; "Back then tomorrow", 1978; "White corn sister", 1979; "Sketches in winter, with crows", 1984; "Elderberry flute song : contemporary coyote tales", 1989; " The other side of nowhere : contemporary coyote tales", 1990; "Clans of many nations : selected poems, 1969-1994", 1995.
Blue Cloud is noted for combining Native American myths with contemporary issues. He is especially noted for his use of the Coyote figure in his stories and poems.
'Back Then Tomorrow' can be ordered ($10 plus $2 mail) from Blackberry Books, 617 East Neck Road, Nobleboro, Maine 04555
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