"Jacob" a poem by Maria Campbell

This poem is written in “Red English.” This poem is an excellent form of decolonization and way of empowering Indigenous students by validating the historical experiences of Indigenous peoples. This poem talks about misappropriation of Indigenous peoples, forced removal of children and the residential school legacy, the use of story telling by Indigenous peoples to pass down knowledge, teachings, etc., and talks about the importance of the Elder within Indigenous communities. This poem is worth reading.

Maria Campbell is an author, playwright, filmmaker and fluent in four languages. Read more about Maria Campbell here.

Mistupuch he was my granmudder.
He come from Muskeg
dat was before he was a reservation.
My granmudder he was about twenty-eight when he
marry my granfawder.
Dat was real ole for a woman to marry in dem days
But he was an Indian doctor
I guess dats why he wait so long.

Ooh he was a good doctor too
All the peoples dey say dat about him.
He doctor everybody dat come to him
an he birt all dah babies too.
Jus about everybody my age
my granmudder he birt dem.

He marry my granmudder around 1890.
Dat old man he come to him for doctoring
and when he get better
he never leave him again.

Dey get married dah Indian way
an after dat my granfawder
he help him with all hees doctoring.
Dats dah way he use to be a long time ago,
If dah woman he work
den dah man hehelp him an if dah man he work
dah woman he help.
You never heerd peoples fighting over whose life he was
dey all know what dey got to do to stay alive.

My granfawder his name he was Kannap
but dah whitemans dey call him Jim Boy
so hees Indian name he gets los.
Dats why we don know who his peoples dey are.
We los lots of our relations like dat.
Dey get dah whitemans name
den no body
he knows who his peoples dey are anymore.

Sometimes me
I tink dats dah reason why we have such a hard time
us peoples.
Our roots dey gets broken so many times.
Hees hard to be strong you know
when you don got far to look back for help.

Dah whitemans
he can look back tousands of years
cause him
he writes everything down.
But us peoples
we use dah membering
an we pass it on by telling stories and singing songs.
Sometimes we even dance dah membering.

But all dis trouble you know
he start after we get dah new names
cause wit dah new names
he come a new language an a new way of living.
Once a long time ago
I could ‘ave told you dah story of my granfawder Kannap
an all his peoples but no more.
All I can tell you now
is about Jim Boy
an hees story hees not very ole.

Well me granmudder Mistupuch
he never gets a whitemans name an him
he knowed lots of stories.
Dat ole lady
he even knowed dah songs.
He always use to tell me
one about an ole man call Jacob.

Dat old man you kow
he don live to far from here.
Well hees gone now
but dis story he was about him when he was alive.

Jacob him
he gets one of dem new names when dey put him in dah
residential school.
He was jus a small boy when he go
an he don come home for twelve years.

Twelve years!
Dats a long time to be gone from your peoples.
He can come home you know
cause dah school he was damn near two hundred miles
away.
Him Mommy and Daddy dey can go and see him
cause deres no road in dem days
an dah Indians dey don gots many horses
‘specially to travel dat far.

Dats true you know
not many peoples in dem days dey have horses.
Its only in dah comic books an dah pictures shows dey
gots lots of horses.
He was never like dat in dah real life.

Well Jacob him
he stay in dat school all dem years an when he come
home he was a man.
While he was gone
his Mommy and Daddy dey die so he gots nobody.
And on top of dat
nobody he knowed him cause he gots a new name.
My granmudder
he say dat ole man he have a hell of a time.
No body he can understand dat
unless he happen to him.

Dem peoples dat go away to dem schools
an come back you know dey really suffer.
No matter how many stories we tell
we’ll never be able to tell
what dem schools dey done to dah peoples
an all dere relations.

Well anyways
Jacob he was just plain pitiful
He can talk his own language
He don know how to live in dah bush.
It’s a good ting da peoples dey was kine
cause dey help him dah very bes dey can.
Well a couple of summers later
he meets dis girl
an dey gets married.

Dat girl he was kine
an real smart too.
He teach Jacob how to make an Indian living.

Dey have a good life togedder an after a few years
dey have a boy.
Not long after dat
dey raise two little girls dat was orphans.

Jacob and his wife dey was good peoples
Boat of dem dey was hard working
an all dah peoples
dey respect dem an dey come to Jacob for advice.

But dah good times dey was too good to las
cause one day
dah Preeses
dey come to dah village with dah policemans.
Dey come to take dah kids to dah schools.

When dey get to Jacob hees house
he tell dem dey can take his kids.

Dah Prees he tells him
he have to lets dem go cause dats the law.
Well dah Prees
he have a big book
an dat book he gots dah names
of all dah kids
an who dey belong to,

He open dat book an ask Jacob for his name
an den he look it up.
‘Jacob’ he say
‘you know better you went to dah school an you know
dah edjication hees important.’

My granudder Mistupuch
he say Jacob he tell that Prees
‘Yes I go to dah school
an dats why I don wan my kids to go.
All dere is in dat place is suffering.’

Dah Prees he wasn happy about dat
an he say to Jacob
‘But the peoples dey have to suffer Jacob
cause dah Jesus he suffer.’

‘But dah Jesus he never lose his language an
hees people’ Jacob tell him.
‘He stay home in hees own land and he do hees
suffering.’

Well da Prees him
he gets mad
an he tell him its a sin to tink like dat
an hees gonna end up in purgatory for dem kind of
words.

But Jacob he don care
cause far as hees concern
purgatory
he can be worse den the hell he live with trying to
learn hees language and hees Indian ways.

He tell dat Prees
he don even know who his people dey are.
‘Dah Jesus he knowed his Mommy and Daddy’
Jacob he tell him
‘and he always knowed who his peoples dey are.’

Well
dah Prees he tell him
if he wans to know who hees people dey are
he can tell him dat
an he open in dah book again.

‘Your Dad hees Indian name he was Awchak’
dah prees he say
‘I tink dat means Star in your language.
He never gets a new name cause he never become a
Christian.’

Jacob he tell my granmudder
dat when da Prees he say hees Dad hees name
his wife he start to cry real hard.

‘Jacob someday you’ll tank the God we don dis.’
dah Prees he tell him
an dey start loading up dah kids on dah big wagons.
All dah kids dey was crying an screaming
An dah mudders
dey was chasing dah wagons.

Dah ole woman
dey was all singing dah det songs
an none of the mans
dey can do anything.
Dey can
cause the policemans dey gots guns.

When dah wagons dey was all gone
Jacob he look for hees wife but he can find him no
place.
An ole woman he see him an he call to him
‘Pay api noosim’
‘Come an sit down my granchild I mus talk to you.
Hees hard for me to tell you dis but dat Prees
hees book he bring us bad news today.
He tell you dat Awchak he was your Daddy.
My granchild
Awchak he was your wife’s Daddy too.’

Jacob he tell my granmudder
he can cry when he hear dat.
He can even hurt inside.
Dat night he go looking
an he fine hees wife in dah bush
Dat woman he kill hisself.

Jacob he say
dat ole womans
dey stay wit him for a long time
an dey sing healing songs an dey try to help him
But he say he can feel nutting.
Maybe if he did
he would have done dah same ting.

For many years Jacob he was like dat
just dead inside.

Dah peoples dey try to talk wit him
but it was no use.
Hees kids dey growed up
an dey come home an live wit him.
‘I made dem suffer’ he tell my granmudder.
‘Dem kids dey try so hard to help me.’

Den one day
his daughter he get married an he have a baby.
He bring it to Jacob to see.
Jacob he say
he look at dat lil baby
an he start to cry and he can stop.
He say he cry for himself an his wife
an den he cry for his Mommy and Daddy.
When he was done
he sing dah healing songs dah ole woman
dey sing to him a long time ago.

Well you know
Jacob he die when he was an ole man.
An all hees life
he write in a big book
dah Indian names of all dah Mommies and Daddies.
An beside dem
he write dah old names and
dah new names of all dere kids.

An for dah res of hees life
he fight dah government to build schools on the
reservation.
‘The good God he wouldn of make babies come
from Mommies and Daddies’
he use to say
‘if he didn want dem to stay home
an learn dere language
an dere Indian ways.’

You know
dat ole man was right.
No body he can do dat.
Take all dah babies away. Hees just not right.
Long time ago
dah old peoples dey use to dah naming
an dey do dah teaching too.

If dah parents dey have troubles
den dah aunties and dah uncles
or somebody in dah family
he help out till dah parents dey gets dere life work
out.
But no one
no one
he ever take dah babies away from here peoples.

You know my old granmudder
Mistupuch
he have lots of stories about people like Jacob.
Good ole peoples
dat work hard so tings will be better for us.
We should never forget dem ole peoples.

Maria Campbell

I came across part of this poem reading an article for an essay I am working on and I thought I would search for the full length of it. I found the full length of it here. I am glad I took the time to search for the full length.

Back to researching. ❤

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