Healing Gila

for The People

A photograph of Ruins of the buildings in the Gila River War Relocation Center of Camp Butte. A few rough blocks of concrete sit amid a desert dotted with sagebrush, with a barren hill in the distance.

Tony Santiago

The people don’t mention it much.
It goes without saying,
it stays without saying—

that concentration camp
on their reservation.

And they avoid that massive site
as they avoid contamination—

that massive void
punctuated by crusted nails,
punctured pipes, crumbled
failings of foundations . . .

What else is there to say?

This was a lush land once,
graced by a gifted people
gifted with the wisdom
of rivers, seasons, irrigation.

The waters went flowing
through a network of canals
in the delicate workings
of balances and health . . .

What else is there to say?

Then came the nation.
Then came the death.

Then came the desert.
Then came the camp.

But the desert is not deserted.
It goes without saying,
it stays without saying—

wind, spirits, tumbleweeds, pain.




4 comments have been posted.

Standing in the land and listening is a good idea for most of us. Thanks to the poets of the land who translate what we haven't listened closely enough to hear.

Virginia Euwer Wolff | April 2023 | the Hudson Valley, NY

Maybe it takes an elder to take the long view. Poetry, too, goes without saying...stays without saying. I imagine the wind whispering these words there.

Kim Stafford | March 2023 | Portland, Oregon

Thank you Prof. Inada. The word-smithing craft profound, Weaving time, lives, natural and unnatural Bowing with the wind of the words.

Katrina Son | January 2023 | Newport Oregon

This haunting poem left me breathless. Thank you.

Lina White | January 2023 | Eugene

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From the Director: Grounding

Editor's Note: Underground

Healing Gila

“My Heart Belongs Where the Trees Are”

The Toxins Beneath Us

“We Are the Original Conservationists”

Purple Prairie

Long Live the Kings

Stretching Toward the Sun


People, Places, Things: Xmaash Tamaycht

Discussion Questions and Further Reading: Underground