Oceti Sakowin Camp, Standing Rock1


Our flashlights weave a trembling

net across the prairie, sway for hours like river grass

underwater.  She’s four; rumor says, seen last

with two White men. We pass this panicked offering

to one another like sharp crusts of stale bread.

Sometimes, in the dark of a slope, our lights catch

the ghosts of other missing girls, from each nation

whose flags fly above our hand-built homes.

They’re lacing a child’s shoe, or a needle and thread,

finishing a poem, or a tattoo, or an argument, or a college class,

busy with everything uncompleted, these women who have not

been found. We yell her name again, again, again, each syllable

pleating in our mouths like a luminescent shell. The echo

catches in each tipi flap, clutches at each blade

of grass. We snake our small lights between the ribs

of horse trailers, through every ash and cottonwood

copse. Every bed is left empty and rumpled, every

sleeping bag, splayed. Some of us begin to unzip

each tent; and by the bank of the river, some kneel,

shining what beam they can toward the bottom.

1  Thankfully, the young girl in this poem was found safe and the incident was determined to be a misunderstanding of the type that happens at any large event. However, the problem of missing and murdered indigenous women is very real. According to the National Crime and Information Center, in 2016, 125 indigenous women were reported missing in North Dakota alone. The true number is likely much higher. On some reservations, women are ten times as likely to be murdered as the national average. You can learn more at http://www.strongheartshelpline.org and  http://www.niwrc.org.

Teresa Dzieglewicz