Published on Academy of American Poets (

Carrying Our Words

We travel carrying our words.
We arrive at the ocean.
With our words we are able to speak
of the sounds of thunderous waves.
We speak of how majestic it is,
of the ocean power that gifts us songs.
We sing of our respect
and call it our relative.


Translated into English from O’odham by the poet.


’U’a g T-ñi’okı˘

T-ñi’okı˘ ’att ’an o ’u’akc o hihi
Am ka:ck wui dada.
S-ap ‘am o ’a: mo has ma:s g kiod.
mat ’am ’ed.a betank ’i-gei.
’Am o ’a: mo he’es ’i-ge’ej,
mo hascu wud.  i:da gewkdagaj
mac ’ab amjed.  behě g ñe’i.
Hemhoa s-ap ‘am o ’a: mac si has elid, mo d.  ’i:mig.


Used with the permission of the author.


Ofelia Zepeda

Ofelia Zepeda, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation of southwestern Arizona, was born in Arizona in 1952. She received a BA, an MA, and a PhD from the University of Arizona.

She is the author of three poetry collections: Where Clouds Are Formed (University of Arizona Press, 2008), Jewed ‘I-Hoi/Earth Movements (Kore Press, 1997), and Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (University of Arizona Press, 1995).

About Zepeda's poetry, World Literature Today noted that her "imagery captures the most subtle perceptions of the natural world—the smell of coming rain, the taste of dust-and her poems, deriving from tribal, family, and personal memories, reveal an intense and characteristically Tohono consciousness of weather, sky, earth, and water, of the landmarks which measure the passage of the seasons, and of nature in both its positive and negative manifestations." 

The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship for her work preserving and advocating for indigenous languages, Zepeda is currently the Regents’ Professor of Linguistics and Director of the American Indian Language Development Institute at the University of Arizona. 

Date Published: 2015-11-09

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