Literature Poetry Tawahum Bige

Bones Gather

Tawahum Bige

after Eve Joseph

nipawatan wecîpweyânâhk

ewîkiyân tahtwayak
    ekwa âyiman

I’m used to battlefield
the way cannons fire
and ancestors’ bones gather,
just to shatter

Dene rising are more story
than poem—
our throats carry cargo,
long thought sunken
to the bottom
of great slave lakes.

I see Dene men my age
and rush to carve into them
comrade before lateral violence
etches enemy into their bedrock.
Our voices carry nasal tones,

birchbark canoes and parkas,
muskrat fur hats and ports
of pure habit. We are pirates,
fighting back and fighting each other
using medicine powers to

reach Hudson Bay trading posts.
Can I get an elder on the air?
Radio North telling us stories:
victory in Dene metallurgy
or obsidian & bone knives, scrapers
worn from cutting flesh
prepping hide, preparing to hide—

churches as places of peace? More watchtower
steeple seeing over the sea and lake.
I remember when we filed in for funeral,
sang Chipewyan catholic hymns,
place of worship morphs
to flooding warzone.

I wait until my boat has landed
to do breathwork like my therapist suggests.
Feet planted on ground, flat:
re-sociate, associate;
rehumanize, humanize.

I learned from Sun Tzu,
though declaring war is to be avoided

it does not preclude a war.

Dene continue returning
to unmoor their boats, sail
on lake water fresh enough
to dip canteen into and drink.

Cargo resurges from our stories
and strings untangle
from stones on bedrock basin.

I check the fishing nets—
we know how to fish.


Łutselk’e Dene/Plains Cree/Two-Spirit/Nonbinary poet, Tawahum Bige resides on unceded Musqueam/Tsleil-Waututh/Squamish territory. Featured in over ten lit journals including Grain and EVENT, their Scorpio-moon-ass poems expose growing, resisting and persisting as a hopeless sadboy on occupied Turtle Island. Tawahum completed KPU’s Creative Writing BA program and Banff Centre’s first-ever Indigenous Spoken Word Residency.