The 17th annual Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival is underway, and this year, organizers are shining a light on the films, art and writing of Indigenous women and women of color. Jihan Gearon is a painter, activist and writer from the Navajo Nation. Her artwork is featured at this year’s festival in an exhibit called High Desert Matriarchy. In the latest installment of KNAU’s Poetry Friday segment, Jihan shares an original poem called A Conspiracy of Ravens, and talks about dreams and Indigenous feminism.
JG: ‘Indigenous Feminism’ is a little bit of a tricky phrase. Even within our art show there’s those of us like myself who are like, ‘Yes. I’m an Indigenous feminist,’ and others who are like, ‘No. I am not a feminist, I’m a matriarch.’ So, I think it’s a range of things. But I think what we have in common is really to highlight – not only highlight, but lift-up and reconnect with and reassume the power of women, Indigenous women in our home communities.
Our answer to almost everything, right, our answer to environmental injustice, our answer to climate change, our answer to economic injustice is really all about going back to our original teachings, our original instructions, who we’re supposed to be as Navajo people and our role in the world. And when it comes to Indigenous feminism, it’s the same thing. It’s the exact same thing: what is the role of women in these traditions and in these cultures.
It’s challenging because it’s very hard to admit that patriarchy has also influenced our traditions and cultures. And when I’m talking about Indigenous feminism, that’s the thing I’m trying to encourage people to put a critical eye to.
Because traditionally in our matriarchal system, we were the ones who made decisions about land, water, resources. And while people might acknowledge that their mothers and grandmothers are strong women and they lead the family, it’s not a rule in our legal system, it is not present on our tribal government. So that’s a disconnect to me.
When I’m talking about Indigenous feminism I really bring how do we reclaim power, real decision-making power and choice-making power for our communities as Indigenous of Navajo women?
I’m going to read one of my poems called A Conspiracy of Ravens. This was actually a dream that I had. This beautiful image that I saw in my dream was MY power.
A Conspiracy of Ravens
The Eastern sky is charcoal.
The clouds carry with them forewarning.
And a collective tremble shoots through us all.
I wait as things are hurried inside and doors shut.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
I open my eyes and my mother is in front of me.
Truly, she is I and I am she.
We walk out in the field.
The pale green grass scratching at our knees.
The trees changing color.
Everything is quiet.
We can only watch the approaching storm.
There is no thunder, no palpitation of rain.
No sounds to entertain.
A conspiracy of ravens fly into the field and circle.
In the center of their ring a white mist forms and spirals down –
A slow moving, illogically welcoming tornado.
A halo of ravens fly out and away –
A perfect 28 spoke wheel.
A rush of sparkles glitter to the ground and heal.
My mother lets go of my hand and walks away.
We offer a fearless opening.
The tornado comes toward us, between us, and away to the West.
And the storm follows.
We feel a breeze, smell rain, see lightening, and hear thunder.
Hand in hand my mother and I walk back to our family.
Truly, she is I and I am she.
Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu.