Yesterday we had a day off for Columbus Day, which commemorates the anniversary of an event that some consider the beginning and others the end of "civilization" as we know it. Columbus and his crew called the people they "discovered" Indians because of their mistaken belief that they had landed in India. In Berkeley California the holiday is known as Indigenous People's Day and is celebrated as such.
Joy Harjo is a descendent of these first inhabitants and an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is also a musician, a lesbian and a poet extraordinaire. This collection, How We Became Human, represents her best work from 1975-2001. Her words weave a picture of the amazing, magnificence of the natural world, reminiscent of Mary Oliver, interspersed with a lens on the edgy, urban struggle for survival a la June Jordan. These poems serve as mantras that help us to "become human" and appreciate our world in all its fierce and fickle beauty.