Behind the Masks: A Community Feature with Yellow Medicine Review

Yellow Medicine Review showcases the works of Indigenous writers and artists, both emerging and renowned. The journal takes its name from the Yellow Medicine River running through southwest Minnesota, a place where all peoples—Indigenous and settler alike—came together to dig for the root of a medicinal plant that grew along the riverbank. It brought healing. Such is the spirit of Yellow Medicine Review. Each issue is guest edited by a different Indigenous writer, and submissions come strictly from an Indigenous perspective. It is a journal created by Indigenous peoples and not a journal about Indigenous peoples, so that authentic and contemporary voices replace harmful stereotypes and misconceptions.

by Travis Hedge Coke

Admonish and relish little cobbled quayside
The home pleasant locus of Iroquoian costume

The warrior of social disintegration
still standing as her old people walk abroad, 
may be used to a relaxing politics gist

Inexorably annexed from Zapotecan culture
we see “Spanish-style” grow in-line and have
complicated feelings about what that means,
standing still as the old people walk abroad,
maybe used to a black sapote, red sapote, marmalade sapote

Mami Americana, Mammy in Cuba, Mama from Buenos Aires to Santa Fe 
to Santa Fe to Santa Fe

There are at least three Santa Fe in Colombia
Holy faith wherever you look, in a conquered land 
Where clothes become costumes
Where we are consumed
A reduction

Half the world in five stanzas and marmalade trees.

John the Revelator in a Gas Mask
by Diane Glancy

        from Beaded Mask
        seed beads, deer hide, ermine, and ribbons on Iraqi gas mask 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.
        lent by the Tweed Museum
        Naomi Bebo, Ho-Chunk and Menominee
        one of 15 featured works in a 2022 exhibit, “Air,” to protest pollution 
        Utah Museum of Fine Arts
        Salt Lake City, Utah

The gas mask was for the smoke from burning oil fields. He tells her. 
They set their own fields on fire in defiance.
And the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke— 
when day was night, and night was without moon and stars.

She travels through pokeweed for the relic of an old war. 
Her headlight steady.
She drives her needle through small holes in the beads. 
She finds the tunnels she ties with thread.
She remembers the beaver. The badger. The wolf.
The thick lakes and forest of the north woods.
She knows distant fires spread remnants of ash on the road.
She beads the gas mask white as frost on sycamores with sparse floral pattern— 
a vine and leaves.

The State of Indigeneity 2022
by January Rogers

Men don’t like to get forgotten 
Women, expect it
the illusion of noise
is created, it’s easy
to fake it
what makes
a generation
devoid of apathy/compassion 
Children left unchallenged 
unable to focus
without ambition

Big Auntie Energy 
is where I live
this love
is why I write
look at me
in protected stance
arms spread apart like wings
for you, you don’t even know... 
layers of boundaries built
to move in freedom
within them
the lack of distraction
becomes your legacy
not forced responses
to questions so stupid
so putrid
yes stupid

Journey as achievement
blind to the binaries of Sexes 
characteristics still exist, but different 
show me an Uncle
who didn’t evolve
from Knowledge
and Instincts to support
good Women around him
and the Children

bring me into circles
of creative beings
who listen
committed to connections 
at all costs
no sacrififice, no such thing 
but constant Investment

who cares
who, really cares
find us in the middle 
of roads hoisting signs 
high above us 
Give it ALL back

Damn that thing
that makes activism
and those who practice it,
perhaps we need to wait
just a while more
for politics to truly
intersect with influence, and influence 
becomes a
of change

Big Cosmic Energies
on the move 
simultaneous urgings 
of keep up, and wait
and if we get forgotten 
in the end, we’ll dust off
our stories
because our voices 
didn’t get the attention 
our egos won’t feel
the sting of insult 
because of it

it means
we’ve moved on
the kids
will be
what they be the state of Indigeneity 
will be, we
are here briefly
as men and women and all others 
are healing
from life to goddamn life
we are here witnessing, participating 
in the fluidity
of our times.
Diane Glancy, Travis Hedge Coke, January Rogers

Diane Glancy’s 2022 book is Home Is the Road: Wandering the Land, Shaping the Spirit. In 2021, she published A Line of Driftwood: the Ada Blackjack Story. In 2023, she published Psalm to Whom(e). Among her awards are two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, an American Book Award, a Minnesota Book Award, a Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Glancy lives in north central Texas where many tribes camped— Apache, Comanche, Wichita, Waco, Kiowa. Her other books and awards are on her website,

Travis Hedge Coke is the author of Us Living in Fictional Cosmogonies, Examining New X-Men, and the forthcoming, There Is Nothing Left to Say (On The Invisibles). They are a queer, mixed Native enby, from North Carolina. Former editor of Along the Chaparral, an anthology series, the magazines, Future Earth Magazine and Platte Valley Review, and associate editor of Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas, they currently write the Patricia Highsmash column for Comic Watch. Hedge Coke has been a guest presenter at Naropa University, University of California Riverside, and Harbin Institute, and former faculty at Shandong University.

January Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscarora writer and media producer. She lives on her home territory, Six Nations of the Grand River, where she operates the small publishing press, Ojistoh Publishing. January combines her literary talents with her passion for media making to produce audio and video poetry. Her video poem “Ego of a Nation” won Best Music Video at the American Indian International Film Festival 2020 and her audio work “The Battle Within“ won Best Experimental Audio with imagineNATIVE Film & Media Festival 2021. She is the current Western University’s Writer in Residence 2022/23.

Koby Griggs

Koby Griggs is a freelance illustrator and background artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and has worked in the animation industry as a Senior Background Artist for FX’s television series Archer. Whether it’s illustration or background art, Koby strives to create designs that not only aesthetically succeed, but also intrinsically serve a narrative with creativity, efficiency, and elegance.

First Featured In: No. 21, spring 2024

The Unseen Issue

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