Kaagwaantaan Colleague
John Oliver Hodges

The colleague I barely know, a Native
Alaskan, I would not call her
Eskimo, wrote a beautiful book on her
culture and life growing up amongst mean
white priests, her mother’s indifference a
source of grief, and the jobs she
had as a stripper, a waitress, a woman
dressed as a bear to amuse the pleasure
seeking tourists small relief in a city
tolerant of gross prejudice, the ice of her
forebears preserved in red roads flowing into
a grim future, my colleague the girl who
married the bear, whose mother kept
her emotion to herself, at the faculty meeting
ate crackers with goat cheese, and I wanted
to compliment her on her book, so did, saying that
now, each time I hear the Taku Wind, I think of
her grandfather, but my colleague never knew
her white father, and I believe I heard a
subdued guffaw from another teacher
standing there, a white lady, the very
type who’d discriminated grossly against
her and her indifferent mother so long ago,
my beautiful colleague whom I would
never call Eskimo

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