Matryoshka Song

An Indigenous anthropologist-poet speaks to the Russian colonization of Alaska from 1784–1867 and how stereotypes and histories shape the lives of Indigenous women.

If you missed the introduction to “Matryoshka Song,” you can find it here.

I put an awl case
on my belt
around my waste, just like the placard said

I am industrious   mother

I sport the awl, like the picture book shows

I am an industry   mother

The little pouch
is for starting fires

I am hospitable   mother

I carry the fire
in my mouth, the way the bible teaches

I am a hospital   mother

I wear a knife
to feed the people

I too am generous   mother

I feed the people
in their belly
with my knife

They made me a general   mother