1/20/09

Obama's Inauguration from Vermillion, South Dakota

Left Honolulu last night on a flight jammed with tourists, students heading back to school, and a few business people and local families. Flew all night through the dark skies to Chicago. Then, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where I was picked up by Erin Thin Elk, interim director for diversity at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. She's nimble on ice in her heels! Now that's a skill! We drove over the plains, catching up on families, as if we had known each other for years. I'm impressed by her bright spirit.

Then, as she drove us over the flat plains of her ancestral lands to Vermillion, we listened to Obama's speech. Perfect. To ride the opening wave of change with an old-young friend in the middle of the country. And to perch our ears together to hear the eloquent new leader of this young nation who has vision, who can speak. Obama's mind is clear, without knots and connects directly to his heart and the heart of the people. He listens to his ancestors.

Later, over lunch with students and faculty of the university, we all noted that there was no reference to the original inhabitants of this country in his speech. Yes, there is still much work to be done.

Now I am back in the hotel room, about to crash after being up all night. I am watching Obama and Michelle walk the street the last blocks at the end of the parade. I can see their bullet proof vests bulging in their clothes. I can hear Michelle thinking. She's exhausted, yet high. The responsibility is all hitting her, like the feeling after just giving birth. What have I gotten myself into? Yet, she will walk directly forward and will do her best.

What a day. (Or is it two days?)

P.S. Congrats Elizabeth on your poem!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog entry and everything you do. No slight meant to Elizabeth Alexander and her poem but I couldn't help but think how wonderful it would have been for you to write the inaugural poem.

river said...

Joy this is something i heard from a friend who had just attended a Crow Sweat Lodge
ceremony in Montana the day before the inauguration. . . This is the
correspondence from her. . .

. . . "Here's something I learned in the sweat. The Montana Crow
Agency adopted Obama into their family when Obama was in Montana this past summer by Hartford and Mary Black Eagle, His native name, Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish, translates into " One Who Helps People Throughout
The Land."

That's why it was great to see the Crow Agency folks at the very
beginning of the Inauguration Parade, right behind Barack Obama's high school
bands from Hawaii and Chicago.. . "

butch said...

Joy: I work for the Feds, working with legally blind veterans in Tacoma, WA. We were allowed to bring our dozen resident students into the day room and watch about an hour of the inauguration. For over a year when watching and listening to Barrack Obama, I cannot do so without weeping, with joy, with pride, with relief. I loved the piece you posted about seeing him in person. How grand that some of us older farts have managed to live long enough to see a man of this caliber, and ethnic background, become elected to the highest office in the land. I was very touched by the Copeland piece performed by Yo Yo Ma and Iziak Perlman, and was a little disappointed to read later that they had to lip synch and pretend to play it secondary to the terrible cold playing outdoors. I agree with the commenter that would have been more pleased if the poem had been written by you. That would have made those dumkopfs at UNM stand up and do penance. In the last month I have had a love affair with your poetry and your spirit. I have read all your archival materials, and absurdly get the feeling that I kind of "know" you now. I am proud to be a Follower of this blog, listed as Butch. I have been very attracted to Native American poetry for some time now, and feel privileged to live near Sherman Alexie here in the Pacific Northwest.

Warmly: Glenn

dakota said...

why can't I...?

Dakota said...

Hi again! I'm not too good at posting on blogs, it seems... Sorry for hassle. I think I sent out a post just before this one... (Plus I lost the long text I had written which is kinda frustrating, right?) :)
Anyways... Here I go again! Let's see if I make it across the ocean!

I agree with the idea that Obama's Inauguration with a poem by you, Joy Harjo, would've been an awesome event. However, I think that the fact that Obama did not mention Indians, in a speech where previous struggle of all kinds was acknowledged, is painful and disturbing in some ways... I really hope that's been just a major mistake. I really hope there's something in Obama's policy for improving the lives of Indians, especially those still on reservations, who, to my knowledge, live like in ghettoes, right? I've heard in Australia the government or something apologized to Aborigines. I don't know more about this, but that sounded like a symbolic thing which is necessary. And I wonder if Obama's Administration would have the courage to do that in the USA. Because it seems that in the USA it's dangerous to say some things. (?)

In any case, I'm totally, absolutely relieved that Obama won. I was expecting Bush'd be rejected in the previous election, and 4 more years was a very disheartening nightmare. Although Obama is no left-winger (in case you don't know, in Western Europe we have Parliaments, with a variety of political groups, from the right-wing to all kinds of left-wings), he does sound like an intelligent man, who cares about society, about people, and I have high hopes (some days, still, little hope), this change will be felt by millions all over the world. I hope it will be millions. I cannot believe we're still up to so much violence as there is in this world.

Greetings and thanks for your amazing work.

(Ohmy! Third attempt. Let's try something else...)