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.