Archive for the ‘Native American’ Category


There’s a woods behind my house
With a trail’s faint remains
That has almost disappeared
From overgrowth and rains
It winds around the hillocks
From the valley to the lake
And twists all through the mountains
Like a long and writhing snake

‘Twas made by Indian ponies
And many moccasined feet
Long before the white man came
And spoiled this wild retreat
When I am walking that worn path
Sometimes there’s ghosts in view
Proud Chieftain and brave warriors
With wives and children, too

I often see a faint mirage
Beside a little brook
Of big teepees or wiki-ups
And women, as they cook
And children, laughing as they play
As little children do
Of hunters bringing in the meat
For the evening’s tasty stew

With maidens weaving baskets
Or perhaps making mats
I can hear their modest laughter
During their lively chats
I can almost smell the campfire
And hear proud voices, too
As braves tell of hunting trips
And how they counted coup

The trail’s steeped in history
From when it first appeared
But it, like the Indian culture
Has all but disappeared

6/25/89 Phyllis DeWitt-VanVleck

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This is information I have collected for a poem. I have put it here as a quick essay.


She shuffled along slowly, her leathered
feet kicking up dust with each step. Her back
bent under the weight of a load of sticks.
That was To-ka-map-map-e, woman of the Nez Perce
who attained a niche in the lore
of her people, when her brave deed
had counted coup. And so it was,
before the Nez Perce fled from the hated army
of U.S. soldiers. Chief Joseph and his tribe,
displaced from their beloved Wallow Valley
in Oregon, were fleeing to Canada.
Suffering from the cold and lack
of food, and ill equipped for fighting,
they were vulnerable to skirmish attacks.
In one such attack, To-ka-map-map-e
was captured and carried to the front
for interrogation. Hands tied,
she was placed on a horse, behind her captor,
and as they neared the front, she was able to free
her hands. She slid the soldier’s knife
from it’s sheath, and before he could react,
she plunged it into his back. Slumping sideways,
he slid from his saddle. To-ka-map-map-e
turned quickly and rode back
through the battle to Chief Joseph,
informing him of troop positions
and the size of each unit.
Although the information was helpful,
cold, hunger, and lack of weapons
led to final surrender of the Nez Perce tribe.
Chief Joseph acknowledged his defeat,
with his immortal words,
“Where the sun now stands,
I will fight no more forever.”
The brave attempt of To-ka-map-map-e to help
save her people, failed, but she refused
to live out her days on the reservation.
And in time, she escaped. A photograph
gave her more notoriety than her heroic act,
and gave her the name
by which she became well know, titled simply …
Stick Woman.

10/7/96 Phyllis DeWitt VanVleck

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In the Valley Of The Blue Mist,

Indian spirits can be seen . . .

And sounds from their ancient past

Haunt that world of in-between.


The white man needs to enter there

To see what he has wrought.

And feel the anguish of their souls

His selfish greed has brought.


But only Indians visit there,                                                             

The white man’s not allowed.                                  

It’s he who sent their spirits there,

Under such a heinous cloud,


It’s shameful, but it can’t be changed,

So spirits ever weep,    

For the loss of their Tribal Lands –                            

Whites promised they could keep.                          


1/10/03        Phyllis DeWitt-VanVleck

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This is a Spoon River, Dramatic Monologue.  I hope you will enjoy it.




What have they done!

Me, who loathed pretense,

lying here in pink lace.

A beaded-doeskin girl.

yet, here I lie

with satin ribbons

cascading across my breast.

I would rather be laid to rest

in my underwear.

Curls! Why did they

cut off my trademark

braids!  My long black hair

was my pride – – braided

and fastened at the ends

with beaded twine.

Foolish little pearls replace

the twisted-leather thong

earrings, made by my friend

of the Cherokee nation.

They have even removed

the braided-hair bracelet

that I had sworn to wear

to my grave


“Doesn’t she look pretty?”

That’s what they said,

as they gazed at the paradox

carefully laid out

in the satin lined box.

I wanted to shout,

“My adopted name may be

etched in stone, but I am still

Red Feather.”


I lie here, six feet of earth

separating me from reality.

Dressed as a debutante, and

my treasured tokens discarded

as if of no importance.

Stripped forever

of my tribal identity.

I am Red Feather


9/6/95     Phyllis DeWitt-VanVleck

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            TRAIL OF TEARS


Hear their mournful cries of anguish

Hear the children’s cries of hunger

See the rags of tattered clothing

See the struggles of the dying

Marching slowly from their homeland

Traveling in the worst of winters

Heavy snowfall, wet and blinding

Covering bodies of the fallen

Over hills and through the valleys

Prodded like a herd of cattle

Yielding to this tragic journey

Helpless in their indignation


Hear the prayers that they send soaring

Feel the pain when pride is wounded

See the change in eyes so saddened

Feel their courage slowly flagging

People of the Cherokee nation

Victims of the white man’s power

Forced again into submission

Forced from lands known as tribal

Sixteen thousand relocated

Thousands left in unmarked graves

On a path of degradation

History’s shameful Trail Of Tears


3/14/91                Phyllis DeWitt-VanVleck

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I wrote this about a river in Pascagula, Mississippi. My sister lived in Gautier. MS and lost her home in Katrina. Lung cancer took her life in 2007. This is for Patricia DeWitt-Dixon.



In the evening’s velvet darkness

Along a distant shore

You can hear mystical music

Steeped in Indian lore

Usually heard in the evening

When silence has stilled the night

It floats to the ear in cadence

Ethereal, whispering, light

         Indian voices whispering, sighing

         To the white man, mystifying

Its essence is almost dreamlike

As it swells, then fades away

But its source remains a secret

At least that’s what they say

But there’s an old Indian legend

That will touch the coldest heart

Explaining the soulful music

And how it got its start

         Indian voices whispering, sighing

         Victims of the white man’s lying

Back in time of Indian strife

When the white man stole their lands

Their beloved river was taken

So the tribe all joined hands

Then singing a song of sorrow

They walked into the stream

Until the water engulfed them

And the tribe could not be seen

         Indian voices whispering, sighing

         Frightened children softly crying

They cannot sleep in peace there

Their restless spirits roam

Their tears are felt within the mist

Where once they made their home

Their song of lament still lingers

It’s the music that one hears

On the banks of the Singing River

Still flowing with Indian tears.

         Indian voices whispering, sighing

         Singing of their tragic dying



7/13/91      Phyllis DeWitt VanVleck


6’th … PAW (in Pa) 1992

4’th … NFSPF 1993

1’st … Arkansas NPD 1997


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