Treasure Island

Tony Jolley

(17th June 1958 / England)

(Red) Indian Summer


Today you’d have been a happy-go-lucky girl:
A teenager up to your eyes in make-up and Maths,
Chatting on MSN and mobile,
Reading chick-lit
And surfing certain bits of the Web
You’d probably prefer
Your parents didn’t know about.

But you were born into a nation and tradition
‘On the cusp’:
One Custer your clans could have coped with
(And did, rather comprehensively, I recall) ,
But countless, crashing waves of White Custers flooding relentlessly West
From Prairie to Pacific,
Set upon pushing you ‘into the sea’ both literally and historically….
That would be another, all-too-short a short story:
The peoples of Manitou, the Mystery,
Driven out by bigotry, technology, opportunity and inevitability.

One man saw the extinction in action: the dimming and dying of your light, realised that the last echoes of the oral tradition torch that had sustained your culture for thousands of years was all-but snuffed out forever:

One Edward Curtis.

There was just enough of the fading light left to leave an impression on photographic plate; so while that first and last, sad Red ‘Indian Summer’ lasted, while you were being shouldered aside and swamped by civilisation’s wake as its ship of state drove thoughtlessly through your still waters, he toiled this thirty-year twilight with a more benign white technology to act as witness to the last will and testament of your way of life.

Somewhere in this Herculean task of 20 volumes and 40,000 plates, his lens happened upon you, captured your carefree essence peeking playfully from under Buffalo hide….

And there it was
There it was in you – for it was you:

The heritage of generations,
The hopes of your nation.

You’re long gone now, Clayoquot Girl, I guess,
So I lift you and your peoples’ mystery
To the mercy of The Great Mystery
That you might not be forgotten,
That we might be forgiven.

Submitted: Monday, March 17, 2008
Edited: Tuesday, March 18, 2008

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  • Patricia Joan Jones (1/6/2012 12:55:00 AM)

    A wondrous work that strikes at the heart of all who dare to forget the inhuman acts of our forefathers. A blazing, soul-stirring read. (Report) Reply

  • Fay Slimm (10/9/2008 9:29:00 AM)

    Another tragedy to bring humanity to shame - will we be ever forgiven as a caretaker race who abused all and sundry standing in the way of so-called progress? I doubt it. You put the case so vividly before us we who care can only weep with shame. (Report) Reply

  • Not a member No 4 (3/20/2008 3:15:00 PM)

    A very moving depiction of one act in the tragedy of what we too often are.. You build its power gradually and ruthlessly and surely all who read it are struggling to hold it in by the end... A very fine piece of writing Tony. jim

    PS on this theme, Thea Gilmore's song Land of the Free (written as a teenager I think) is worth a listen. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Wells (3/18/2008 2:29:00 PM)

    A subject close to my heart as you know...
    If you can, see if you can get hold of a book about Broken Lance, a Blackfoot Indian who joined up and fought for the Americans in the first world war. It is a story of true heroism.. He stormed the German lines like the warrior he was, got shot, kept going.. Of course, the irony being that he was fighting on the side of the people who had destroyed his way of life. Truly humbling. By the way.... I know Ellen Devilliers and she is a really nice lady. (Report) Reply

  • Ellen Chew-Jolley (3/18/2008 9:56:00 AM)

    Sad and inevitable. She looks as if it could never happen. An antithesis to the grief and slaughter of the ensuing massacres. Thanks for your lovely poem. ECJ (Report) Reply

  • Emancipation Planz (3/17/2008 3:35:00 AM)

    I have just looked up Curtis' Clayoquot Girl.... thanks for the excellent narrative, a history lesson I was not familar with and your totally opposing opening stanza was a delight.... yes I am glad to have seen her picture... and all because of your poem... thank you (Report) Reply

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