A Poem by Steve Russell on the 125th Anniversary of the Dawes Act

Chitto Harjo

Crazy Snake said: “Don’t sign!”

Indians signed.

Crazy Snake said: “Hold the white man to his word!”**

Indians took what they could get.

Crazy Snake refused his allotment. They put him in a cage.

(Indian justice under white rule required only a whipping post and a gallows: whipping and death, pain and the end of pain. A couple of cells to sober up drunks—but no living in a cage.)

They put Crazy Snake in a cage. Almost everybody signed, and the Muscogee Reservation disappeared.

Leaving historians to examine the transaction and ask:

Who was crazy?

Who was a snake?

***”He told me that as long as the sun shone and the sky is up yonder this agreement will be kept. He said as long as the sun rises it shall last; as long as the waters run it shall last; as long as grass grows it shall last. That is what he said, and we believed it.”

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A Poem by Steve Russell on the 125th Anniversary of the Dawes Act

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