Indigenous Trinity

Misty Shipman Ellingburg is a Shoalwater Bay Indian from the coast of Western Washington. Her passions include teaching English (writing & rhetoric), social-justice blogging, and participating in Tribal Journeys. Currently, she is blogging about Ferguson at, curating for an American Indian literary journal, Four Winds (, and desperately cramming for finals at the University of Idaho, where she is obtaining her MFA in writing, class of 2016.


Medicine Man

Before he began a long and illustrious career inhaling vicodin up his ever-bloody but still straight and somehow noble nose, my grandfather was a wild wave rider like canoe sojourners of old.

But even after he was going strong with the white powder, blonde and aging women in the local Wal-Mart couldn’t help but notice and remark on the Noble Savage sniffing milk past its expiration date while peeking sideways lest my grandmother arrive while he was trying to get away with something.

“God, his hair is long,” one would whisper to the other as he recapped the half-gallon and put it back on the shelf.

“Unkempt,” a second intimated to her friend, “But somehow, more authentic that way. Close to nature. All Indians are close to nature,” she added knowledgeably. “My great-grandmother was an Indian medicine woman, I should know.”

“I have Indian in my background, too,” said the iron-straight blonde. “Cherokee, I think. Or Choctaw. One of those. I don’t know.”

They both laughed. My grandfather had by now moved onto the block cheese, no doubt comparing it to Rez commodities in terms of relative foulness and trying to make a value judgment.

“I don’t know anything about my Indian side, or about Indians at all, really. But I think if I were Indian, I wouldn’t wear my hair down that way. I’d braid it back. And I definitely wouldn’t sniff cheese in a grocery store.”

“I’m distantly related to Pocahontas,” the other put in. My grandfather had moved on to the next aisle, a brick of cheese and a quart of half-and-half in his shopping basket.

“It must be so romantic, to be so close to the Creator. Gitche Manitu or whatever they call it. And having all those dances and ceremonies. If I knew more about the Indian in me, I wouldn’t squander it, that’s for sure. I’d be a medicine woman, like my grandma.”

“Great-grandma, I thought you said.”

“Whatever, great-grandma.”

In a Wal-Mart bathroom stall, having purchased his Velveeta and pocketed the dairy, my grandfather pulled a pill from his pocket, and crushed it using the back of a pen as a makeshift pestle inside an Altoid can. Procuring a razor from his boot, he chopped the powder up fine on the toilet roll dispenser, twisted a dollar bill into a straw, and inhaled up his noble nose.


A Love Song for the Impossible Chicken Dancer


When you were seven years old, I watched you throw rocks, hurl kid insults and laugh with the other pre-k’s, swing a baseball bat into another child’s stomach and run.

I was fourteen and captivated by the yellowy-blonde boy’s wild eyes when he carried a pigskin; the smell of brown skin like sweat, wet.

Now brown skin smells of sweetgrass and sage. It smells like the calm after the rain.

When you were a child, you hit another child in the stomach with a baseball bat. How was I supposed to know over a decade later I’d have the wind knocked out of me, too, the next time I saw you.

2. A list of boys or men (dead or living) I have intended to fall in love with:

a. Martin Freman
b. any Doctor, ever
c. Langton Hughes
d. the dentist, even with his fingers in my mouth – blue latex gloves and thumb pressed into my cheek, my (as he calls it) “excessive saliva” dripping down his hand

3, A list of girls or women (dead or living) I have intended to fall in love with:

a. Desirae Hafer
b. any jazz singer (see a)
c. Lana Del Rey (see b)
d. the Shawl Dancer from last week’s powwow who didn’t place because her outfit wasn’t as pretty as the others, but whose high kicks and war paint made me feel brave.

4. A list of people I have not intended to fall in love with, but did anyway (dead or living)

a. You.


It goes without saying you are too young for me.


I have tried not to notice you when you sit across from me at work, singing Salish low under your breath, drum chants and tribal songs, or when you say the name of your tribe proud and deep, surfing Facebook, putting all the spit into the hard consonants, utilizing that archaic glottal stop, “Qalispe.”

I know your father is the cultural director and Language lead.

I know I am only a part-Indian from another tribe whose white skin tells no tales.

So when I see you see me I look away. Of course I look away.

You do not see me very often.


Desire makes me flushed in the face.  I try to capture my thoughts and tuck them in secret places, in my bra, under my belt loops, in the empty spaces of my drawstring purse. But each time I see you, they flush my face again, they fill me with shame and excitement, and I am vulnerable to your youth and beauty.


This weekend we danced together in your tribe’s powwow, and I wore my tribal colors and on the hard honor beats of the drum, I raised my fan into the air. I smelled like the sage I burned. I smelled like smudging and smoke and white leather and beadwork and fry bread and Pepsi and

the otter furs I wore in my hair and

at last I felt that I could look at you – and so when you danced, I watched you, the proud swoop of your neck and your shoulder-length black hair course and

I watched your eyes when you danced and the quick, pecking movements of your chin, the way you carried the staff and bag with stiff arms bent at the elbow and broad shoulders, with your jingling fur-capped ankles and the orange beads looped under your eyes and your feathered roach headdress and I felt worthy to look at you, then, with my own Eagle feathers high and proud

I wanted you to see me.

Sometimes when I danced I felt your eyes on me. I tried to dance harder, then, to get the swift up-down movements of Traditional dancers right, to look like All That is Woman since you are All That Is Man.

I don’t know how well I did.


When I notice people notice me, I pretend not to see, refuse to acknowledge them in their curious approval. Sometimes I think this is why I will die alone. But it’s out of self-preservation and the fear of shame that I do it.


If you notice me, I mean, really notice me, I won’t look away.


Kalispel 39th Annual Powwow, 2014

That day at the powwow, a tornado blew through the outdoor arboretum. The caucasian spectators, who’d come to watch us Indians in our finery and feathers, were quick to get into their vehicles and skip town as soon as the wind blew hard, but all the dancers put on their regalia anyway, and the children played in the center of the dance circle while a drum group, all under ten years old, beat their drum and sang while the rain came, barreling through two tee-pees and upturning all our tents. The children’s laughter kept us warm past the thunder, and even after the power went out, all the Indians were dancing, and the children were smiling as they cried out, “Hit-cha-a-a-a-!” and nobody was afraid.  We had already survived the apocalypse; what was a little rain?


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2 Responses to “Indigenous Trinity”

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  2. カルティエ 時計コピーよく知らないそれらのために、Ætherの腕時計は、フェニックスaz、家に電話をすると起動する店は、2012年には周辺の石の小川ストラップビジネスの延長として。レビ Says:

    カルティエ 時計コピーよく知らないそれらのために、Ætherの腕時計は、フェニックスaz、家に電話をすると起動する店は、2012年には周辺の石の小川ストラップビジネスの延長として。レビューともう一つの非常に驚いたことを意味し、Æther石の小川のストラップをインストールして来るのを見て、いくつかのカスタム化オプションで利用できます。私のために、これまた超私の良いに興味があって、エキゾチックレザーストラップ(スミス&ブラッドリー遺産によって起こす関心)。

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