Deb Haaland, a member of New Mexico's Laguna Pueblo, has become the first Native American Cabinet Secretary of the Interior in U.S. history. NPR News 3.15.2021
When she testified in February at her confirmation hearing, Haaland began her opening remarks by introducing herself to senators in her tribal language of Keresan. CBS NEW 3.18.2021
At this very point in time
was the word.
And the word was,
that the language of my parents
remnants of wars and insurrections land acquisition
contestations of tribal assertion through statistical attempts to nationalize consolidation
evolution and adoption of one language over others
tightly gripped media
facebooking the primary mode of communication as if
a thousand cuts of the fake news breaking up
hand-held computer devices with slow and intermittent Wi-Fi
vinyl bright 60-foot political banners of the current valoric regime
versus flagging opposition
arriving by plane, SUV, bus, chrome plated jeepney,
tri-cycles, on foot slowing at each barangay through the provinces
a five hour trip becomes ten hours driving
a narrow path
between the sun dried
palay on concrete.
Here in this time and place
was the word.
And the word was with 9 million native speakers along the western coastal regions
of the island of Luzon…
…and the countries
to which they have migrated…
squatting Baroque church and its colonial motifs in brown adobe stone
exactly as my mother had described
school in her third tongue,
Anako, this is where we learned English.
And the word was with her.
And the word
presides over the rice fields grasshopper green
to earthen brown bulul spirits monolithic in myth
and the word gives atang to the
patience of our unrelenting ancestors
And the word was silent
and the word was word-of-mouth
and the word was hand-to-mouth
and the word was disseminated from village to barangay to town to city
and the word was blood
and the word was atrocity
and the word was genocide
and the word was rape
and the word was shame
and the word was sorrow
and the word was hunger
and the word was guilt
and the word was depression
and the word was survival
and the word is in my DNA
nocturnal YouTube tutorial insomniac
losing linguistic heritage at the rate of 26 languages each year—
one language lost every two weeks
ampay? / why?
bakit? / why?
as Haryette sleeps with the dictionary,
Myung Mi enunciates the sound of the phoneme ng
wen ngarud / yes, indeed
oo nga / yes, indeed
and the word is within us.
Copyright © 2021 by Catalina Cariaga. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.