Between gathering mint tea along Tule Creek, composing answers for the question, Are you a writer of the West? and skinning deer with the instructions of matriarchs singing in her ear, Lois Red Elk keeps to the tasks which enable Wiconi—the good way of life: keep busy, be thankful, pray. Keep your eyes and ears tuned for lessons from Tusweca—dragonfly—and keep these poems close by because you’ll find yourself returning to them again and again for sustenance, guidance and grace.
—Tiffany Midge, The Woman Who Married a Bear (Salt Publishing) and Outlaws, Renegades and Saints; Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed (Greenfield Review Press)
About the Author
Lois Red Elk
Lois Red Elk is an enrolled member of the Ft. Peck Sioux in Montana, with roots from the Isanti on her mother’s side, and the Hunkpapa and Ihanktonwa from her father, who is descended from the Sitting Bull family. Raised in her traditional culture, she is a quill and bead worker, a traditional dancer and an advocate for cultural preservation and practice.
During her earlier years, living in Los Angeles, she was a T.V. talk show host at KCOP-TV, an FM radio host at Pasadena City College, and a technical advisor for many Hollywood film productions. She has been a member of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for forty years while working for all the major networks and Hollywood studios in film and television.
She enjoys writing poetry, prose and children’s stories and has been published in many Native American anthologies and poetry magazines. As a freelance writer she worked for her tribe’s Native newspaper and authored a weekly column titled “Raised Dakota.”
Presently she is on the adjunct faculty at Ft. Peck Community College, Montana, teaching cultural arts courses she developed, including Traditional Plants, Domestic Arts, Animals Significant to Dakota Culture, and Porcupine Quill Work.
Her first book, Our Blood Remembers, was published in 2011 by Many Voices Press, Kalispell, Montana, and won the Best Non-Fiction award from Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.
All Thirst Quenched
I didn’t want to scold the sky that year, but
Grandma’s words taunted my senses. If there
is a thirst, then you need to pity the flowers
in a loud voice. Ask the frogs why they are
being punished, stomp on the ground and talk
to the dried clay about cracking open the earth.
I know challenging the storm is risky. “Last
but not least burn cedar and pray the lightning
doesn’t strike your town.” That night, the stars
disappeared and so did the birds. Perhaps it was
the season for rain or the dance. In the western
distance we thought we heard cannon blasts,
looking over we watched the horizon fill with
lightning strikes. Rain couldn’t pour hard enough
over the thirsty plain. Accompanying clouds,
called to thunder’s voice in extreme decimals
requesting all the water heaven could send forth,
to come. Rain and more rain filled empty stream
bottoms. Rivers who had pulled their dry banks
further and further from their center begged for
a drink to startle dusty beds with a flooding roar.
Lives in dormant places begin to stir and awaken.
The lives of water beings, those that swim, the
ones that hop and the ones that fly begin to stir.
That year all thirst was quenched.
—Lois Red Elk