Arizona book ban leads to new edition of Mohawk poetry book
By Brenda Norrell
TUCSON -- The banning of award-winning Native American authors by Tucson public schools and the State of Arizona, and the forbidding of Mexican American Studies, has led a publisher to release a new edition of a Mohawk's book of poetry.
The magic came in the mail.
Inside a small brown envelope is a piece of paper and a book. There is a note written on a copy of an article, "Simon Ortiz: Shocked at banning of Native books in Arizona," which I had written and posted at Narcosphere.
The note says, "This article was the initial impetus for publishing a new edition of Peter Blue Cloud's 'Back Then Tomorrow.' We originally published it in 1978. And here it is, speaking to us. We need to hear his voice, these voices."
The note is signed, "Gary Lawless, Blackberry Books."
In the little brown envelope from Maine, is a yellow book, with a drawing on the cover of Coyote Man with a walking stick. The book is Back Then Tomorrow by Peter Blue Cloud (Aroniawenrate) drawings by Bill Crosby.
On the copy of the article, highlighted in yellow marker is the name of Peter Blue Cloud. Blue Cloud's name is in a quote by Simon Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo poet, author and professor.
"I am very stunned and very shocked and very pissed off the Tucson Unified School District would ban Mexican American Studies and books like Rethinking Columbus," Ortiz said in the article. Ortiz named the names of Indigenous authors, including Peter Blue Cloud, in the book Rethinking Columbus, now banned by Tucson public schools, following Arizona's demand to forbid Mexican American Studies.
Opening the yellow book, I read the first poem of Peter Blue Cloud, "The Cry."
The poem ends with:
When I begin to create the universe,
I must remember to give the cry
a very special place.
I'll call the cry
Peter Blue Cloud, Aroniawenrate: I am Turtle, passed to the Spirit World on April 27, 2011.
Peter Blue Cloud's journeys carried him to many Indian lands and struggles of resistance, from Mohawk territory to the occupation of Alcatraz, and then home to write for Akwesasne Notes and home again to Kahnawake. According to his wishes, he was cremated and his ashes scattered in northern California, in the land of the Modoc warriors.
In 1981, Peter Blue Cloud received the American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation. His books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry include "Alcatraz is not an island", 1972; "Back then tomorrow", 1978; "White corn sister", 1979; "Sketches in winter, with crows", 1984; "Elderberry flute song : contemporary coyote tales", 1989; " The other side of nowhere : contemporary coyote tales", 1990; "Clans of many nations : selected poems, 1969-1994", 1995.
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