Porcupine on the Highway

Permission: from Lois Red Elk. Our Blood Remembers. Many Voices Press, 2011.

Amos: They said sister is stranded on the highway.
            Her car is about 10 miles east of town.
Sister: I might as well pick up this porcupine or
            it’ll be smashed by tonight.
Porcupine: I give my body to a quill worker,
            and laugh at Magpie on the fence.

Amos: Mom, I’m taking Myrna to help sister.
            Her car quit and I might have to tow her in.
Sister: Oh, it’s a big one and he quills
            aren’t damaged. It’s got long hair, too.
Porcupine: Clouds are fading. Earth is cooling.
            Grass is calling me home.

Amos: There she is. She put something in her trunk.
            It looks like a big old porcupine.
Sister: This sure is a mess. I should skin it here.
            All the cats will be coming into the yard.
Porcupine: They used to read my bones, study my
            entrails for health and weather.

Amos: What happened? Did you break down?
            Don’t tell me, you’re scavenging road kill?
Sister: Yeh, both! All of a sudden this thing
            stalled, then I saw this huge porcupine.
Porcupine: They say our voice sounds like a
            whimpering child. People gather.

Amos: Pull your hood latch. Your cable was loose.
            Take it home and skin it. We’ll follow you.
Sister: I’ll make Myrna a quilled bracelet and
            brother some armbands. Surprise them.
Porcupine: She’ll remember later that last night she
            dreamed about a big porcupine on the highway.

Lois Red Elk

The Porcupine is very significant in the D/Lakota culture as it teaches patience and skill to the persons who use the quills. The persons have a vision and become quill workers. This skill is regarded as being equivalent to a warrior status. On my reservation my mother, sisters and I are known to be quill workers, we belong to the Quill Worker Society and teach quill work.

Take Her Hands

Permission: from Lois Red Elk. Dragonfly Weather, Lost Horse Press 2013 .

Female whole, but losing ground,
            standing there weeping
and screaming her loss.
It was like the sun and the moon left
            her alone on an isolated star,
her voice failing, her arms flaying,
            I thought she would fall over
from the vanishing of breath.
            Her body swayed in a
circular motion, an angle
            the force of anguish.
Loving feelings, so precious
and out of reach.
            Suicide thoughts
taking over all her senses,
                        all stability.
                         Her knife slashes her arms.
“You with the beaded moccasins,
            take her hands,” shouted my aunt,
“Bring her back,
            she needs to think clearly.”

It was our way of showing support,
   sharing her grief that she must
     continue with the earth for now,
       to remember the living.
                        And, it was enough
   to give her composure,
     to let her know, why she had to stay.

“Take her hands” are words Sioux women say when someone is overwhelmed.

When a woman intentionally takes the hands of another, it is to console them. Prayer is shared to keep the grieving spirit here in this time and place and to remind of their earth responsibilities. Sometimes grief can be extremely difficult and the spirit may leave or wander.

About the Author

Lois Red Elk is descended from the Isanti, Hunkpap, and Ihanktowan bands of the Dakota/Lakota Sioux Nation. Her father, James Red Elk is a descendent of the Sitting Bull family, and her mother spoke five different languages, French, Latin, Sioux, Assiniboine and English. She enjoys writing poetry and prose and practices the art of porcupine quill embroidery. She has a Human Services Degree from Ft. Peck Community College and an Education Degree from Rocky Mountain College. Married to her dear friend and husband Dennis, they have two children and eight grandchildren.

The word on the white board means “Porcupine Creek”

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