Wild West - A Poem About Truth & Reconciliation by Cobra Collins
September 30, 20223 min read
We take comfort as smoke curls up towards the sky A campfire sermon on a summer night. A constellation cookout of kindness and burnt coals. Hotdog buns folded like hands in prayer. Toast to our marshmallow memories, we peel back our golden layers and share soft stories of grace, grief and hope. We make sure to set aside a small plate of sustenance for all our relations and all of our ghosts.
Can you feel the low thunder rumble of our stomachs as they grumble? We’re all longing for a taste of the last place we called home. To remember the roots of our family trees or to plant a wheat field grown from heirloom seeds. To be a part of a community. A community that gifts stocked streetcorner pantries to those in need. Or shares sourdough starters nailed to telephone posts to serve as a reminder that we are not alone. To be part of a community that when afforded abundance builds a longer table not a higher fence. And wouldn’t it be so neat, if we built that table long enough for everyone to have a seat harvested an honest conversation about access and equity.
I do wonder if sometimes the sharp sting of history gets lost in translation. When do words become weapons? We forage for context while rustic restaurants deep in the heart of the Stoney People’s land serve up Sauvage Cuisine. A word that carries a different meaning depending on your mother’s tongue. Depending on where your mother is from. If we’re not careful the buzz of a word like Resilience can end up ringing dinner bell hollow. And I know we’re all just trying to follow a sustainable path the best of our intentions remain intact. We can talk about giving back to the land, but when do we talk about giving the land back?
I would love to only ever have to speak of sweetgrass and sage. The nourishment of neighborhood gardens, never of unmarked graves. Only of Fresh lobster, not the burned-out boats of Indigenous fisherman on the eastern coast. To be called resilient, without reconciliation boasts like the backhanded compliment of being called Brave, when survival was the only choice that my Grandmother’s got to make.
I don’t think there is a quick way to fix this, but I do think we can start with a communal kitchen, using the whole animal and speaking the whole truth. I do know that the only way forward is through, we can only grow together if start from the roots and remember that much like Bannock, we need to also rest in order to rise. There’s a time to hunt, but for now let’s gather maybe around a campfire share our soft stories of grace, grief and hope after all we’re all just longing for a taste of the last place we called home.
In recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day in Canada, we hired Cobra Collins to share one of her Poems, “Wild West”. Upon our first meeting, she said, “Mostly I wish I could just write a simple love poem...and less about genocide, but here we are.” We love her beautiful words, especially the ones that bite as these things need to be said.
If, like us, you’re trying to figure out how to move towards reconciliation and do the right thing, one of the first steps you can take is to seek out local indigenous educators and artists and pay them fairly for their services so they can continue their work.
In addition to spreading Cobra’s work and message through our platforms, we’re donating 100% of sharpening proceeds from Sept 26 to Oct 2 to Water First, who help address water challenges in indigenous communities through education, training, and meaningful collaboration. The Knifewear Foundation will make a matching donation, so whatever you give by getting your knives sharpened will be doubled.
We’re continuing to educate ourselves and explore ways to do better. We hope you will continue taking these steps forward with us.
Cobra Collins is a Mohkínstsis-based mixed Indigenous and Metis poet of significant height. She has represented our city on a national level at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, as well as collaborated with artists of different backgrounds for dance (Fluid Movements Arts Festival) and performance festivals (IKG 1 ! Live Performance Festival). She currently sits as Indigenous advocate on the Writers’ Union of Canada’s (TWUC) National Council. Cobra was also honoured to be shortlisted as a nominee for Calgary's 2016 & 2018 poet laureate.