A Poem of Zuni Cultural Identity

Tyla Kanteena

Tyla Kanteena

A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations’ Director of Programs for Native Agriculture and Food Systems, recently presented via the internet about agriculture in Indian Country as part of a distance learning session for Arizona State University graduate and undergraduate students. The class is about contemporary American Indian issues, and A-dae spoke about how food is closely and culturally tied to identity in many American Indian communities.

As an assignment, the students were asked to write their reflections. One of them, from ASU student Tyla Kanteena, was a poem.

“I feel that Tyla’s poem speaks to what we do at First Nations, because we are trying to ensure the perpetuation of tribal nationhood, and our most important partners are those folks in tribal communities all across the country who ensure their communities remain tied to their identities.” A-dae noted. “We are working on more than just getting additional money to Indian Country. We are trying to support people like Tyla who are tied to their people, but on the pathway of forging solutions for their own people – on their own terms. Tyla’s journey begins with her daily greeting to Ho’n A;wan Yadokkya Datchu.

Here’s is Tyla’s poem. Please enjoy it:

I am Zuni
By Tyla Kanteena

I am Zuni, I am Shiwi,
I come from the ones who searched for the Middle Place,
a sacred place, protected from disasters like tornados
to live by the guidance of our Koko,
to greet Ho’n A;wan Yadokkya Datchu.

My mother showed me, my father taught me,
as well as hotda, wowo, nana, kuku
to love and care for my family, my siblings,
to breathe in life and blessings,
to greet Ho’n A:wan Yadokkya Datchu.

They gave me strength, they gave me protection
using the words of our ancestors
they showed me the way and how to pray,
to be happy to live and see another day
to greet Ho’n A;wan Yadokkya Datchu.

Like my family before me, like our ancestors before them,
like the prayers passed down to keep our people living,
we will breathe in life and blessings for you to pass on
strength and protection while you sprinkle your offerings at dawn
to greet Ho’n A;wan Yadokkya Datchu.

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