Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Blood Remembers by Lois Red Elk

If you Google Lois Red Elk you will be pleased to discover dozens and dozens of hits that feature her film roles. I’ve enjoyed many of Lois’ films over the years: Skins, Lakota Woman, Outside Ozona, just as much as I’ve enjoyed her published poetry over the years. This year Lois released her first collection of poetry Our Blood Remembers by Many Voices Press. Congratulations Lois!

The following is a review from The Herald News out of Roosevelt County, Montana.

By Lara Shefelbine

A Wolf Point woman who has written for more than 50 years has published a collection of poems in her first book, bringing alive numerous memories of her lifetime, childhood and family experiences on the Fort Peck Reservation.

In the book Our Blood Remembers, Lois Red Elk weaves together a series of anecdotes and thoughts from her lifetime using dazzling, imaginative poetry.

Red Elk, a member of the Sioux Nation and an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Tribes, tells of her childhood spent growing up between Poplar and Wolf Point and the lessons she learned being raised by her father, mother and influential grandmothers.

Not only does the author detail meaningful events of her lifetime, Red Elk also shares some of her favorite Dakota/Lakota words and phrases. Her perspective brings a new light to topics ranging from the importance and significance of family to the exploitation of Native American culture. The content of the poems contained in Our Blood Remembers ranges from the distant past and the old ways to the present and the changes that have occurred with the passage of time.

All in all, Red Elk offers an undisguised look at the Sioux culture that defines her life and encourages us to feel the emotions that run deep in the blood, which truly does remember.

Our Blood Remembers was published by Many Voices Press of Flathead Valley Community College. It is available at Fort Peck Community College, where Red Elk teaches Indian studies, and online at

Grandmother Praying

by Lois Red Elk


Every morning it was a ritual; I would hear her stirring,

knew she was putting on her moccasins, bed creaking

told me she was collecting her hair into one long braid,

nimble fingers flexing then pulling a robe around her

motherly frame. Her breathing was steady but hurried,

sometimes a cough or a hum, to let us know she was

beginning her time with the new day. The door would

open quietly, fresh air would flush through the rooms,

then out the back windows leaving sweet smells of

dew on morning grass. These moments that have been

imprinted in my mind, I bring back weekly, make

them my own present knowledge, my faith. I see

where she is standing along side our old log house,

watch the morning breeze lift loose hairs around her

temples into fine ripples. Her dark eyes receive spirits

who dwell in sun’s rays, just above earth and warmly

mingle with quivering poplar leaves and songs of

meadowlark and robin. To the east, where all life

begins, she raises a hand to touch the Great Spirit’s

space, the place where connection is made with the

sacred world. In her other hand she carries a small

braided circle of sweet grass, mother earths generously

imparted, fragrant hair as her communion offering from

the mortal, to ancestors and angels. Grandmothers

whisper softly unifies with the essence of increasing

light, her greeting, her acknowledgment of the sacredness

has begun. Two slight steps and her body faces south.

She bows in reverence, humbly lowering her face as a

common human being portraying the difficulty to stand

upright before the moving power of the creator. A tear

slides to the soil, another sacrifice from her frail stature

as she asks forgiveness for the failures of her people and

her offspring. She knows the difficulty of maintaining

custom and practice, how insistent dark energies pry away

loved ones from wisdom and grace to error and ignorance.

And, she knows this direction of growth will win the battle,

that all will be forgiven and restored. Her body

straightens and is strengthen as she meets the west,

meets that dark strength approaching and forming

into healing clouds. It is where the infinite voice of

Thunderbirds lightning oath will bring renewal.

Grandmothers knows that source of replenishing rain

brings needed purification. She thanks all the powers

who will quench the thirst of all life. And she knows

she too will have the comfort of thunders blessing. She

has come full circle. The peace of the north welcomes

her and her prayers – that tireless course she claims as

wont. She will witness and celebrate abundant rewards

for a people reclaiming birthright then receiving the fruit

of supplication. That sacred journey through the morning,

the universe has been with the Great Spirit as direction,

her devotion in life. She knows this has always been the

true spirit of her people. This day, that collective spirit,

that humble utterance from a woman dedicated to her

ancestry, is brought before eternity, before the witness

of the all knowing, loving entity, beholding for all time.

1 comment:

Jessica L. Celaya said...

Thanks for the review. The poem is beautiful. It's very cool to see a bit of another culture.