Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Carol A. Hand

You came to our home uninvited
Said the little canary
We took pity on your desperate condition
And shared our food and shelter
Believing we could live in peace
As good neighbors
Ah, how naïve we were


Photo: Bromstone Canary (Wikipedia)

Your numbers grew and you demanded more
You wanted all we had
Said the little canary
Your diseases and weapons killed my people
You shot us for sport
Scalping and plucking us as trophies
To display your might and power
And then you confined those who survived in cages
As you ravaged the beauty of our land

caged birds

Image: Caged Birds (Microsoft WORD Clip Art)

Unless you wake up, you will suffer the same fate
As we are now, so shall you be
Breathing the toxic air of all you wrought
Just like the miner’s canary
Who will notice, who will hear our plea?

It’s time to end endless wars
It’s time to stop corporate greed
It’s time to turn away from hate
Caring for each other and the earth
Will give us all we need
Said the little miner’s canary


Photo: Miner’s Canary (Wikipedia


This poem was inspired by history and contemporary Native American concerns. In the past, noted legal scholar, Felix S. Cohen, referred to Native Americans in the U.S. as “the miner’s canary.”

“Cohen, it seems, was quite fond of his paragraph saying that oppression of Indians, like the dropping of the miner’s canary in a mine shaft, was the warning sign of poison in the society. He was so proud of it he used it twice, with some difference in wording…. Here is what Cohen wrote in 1953:

“It is a pity that so many Americans today think of the Indian as a romantic or comic figure in American history without contemporary significance. In fact, the Indian plays much the same role in our society that the Jews played in Germany. Like the miner’s canary, the Indian marks the shift from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall in our democratic faith.”” (Source: Indian Country Today Media Network)

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Today, Bernie Sanders is the only U.S. presidential candidate who has explicitly addressed Native American issues and taken a progressive, compassionate stand to honor sovereignty and address the serious issues they face – the legacy of dispossession, attempted genocide, and the imposition of colonial oppression for more than 500 years. To learn more about Bernie’s efforts, here are some links to explore.

Native American Rights

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

17 thoughts on “Wednesday, March 23, 2016

  1. Carol, this is the first time I’m learning that Native Americans were likened to “the miner’s canary.”

    “Unless you wake up, you will suffer the same fate”
    ~ Yes, what we do to others, at home and abroad, comes back to haunt us.

    “Who will notice, who will hear our plea?”
    ~ For decades, Americans have been the aggressors though we prefer to think of ourselves as liberators, spreading democracy worldwide. Now, it’s up to us to save ourselves. No one else can.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It seems we have all become canaries to the top 1%. And, yes, “all” is the appropriate word, because even the 1% are canaries who have not yet been dropped down the shaft, or given the shaft. But there time is coming, and when they fall, they will fall further and faster and land harder than anyone else, as their illusory world built of stacks of money and self-importance suddenly collapses completely. When they lose all net worth, in terms of money and self-perception, they will, as has happened in the past, leap from bridges and high windows and land with a splash or a crash more violent than any stock market crash. There will be no wings to sustain them.

    All canaries will suffer, yet not all will parish. Ironically, those higher up in the system are the least likely to survive. The lowly ones are the only ones who know how to provide for themselves and for each other, when given a chance to work to produce the food, the tools, the materials, the society needed in order for all to survive and even thrive. The only way to attain the strength, ability and stability to sustain is for all to work, play and live together, as harmoniously and cooperatively as possible, with equanimity for all canaries.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There should always be an Edit button. I read, re-read, edit, read some more, and finally click to Post. Then I immediately see an error I missed!. My third sentence should have started with: “But their time is coming…”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We no longer need a miner’s canary to see how we are spiraling into self-destruction. The absence of empathy and compassion breaks my heart. I’m so glad to hear that Bernie has taken a stand in support of Native Americans. It’s about time someone has. Bernie’s voice has been consistent and compassionate all along.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right, Diana. The absence of compassion is heart-breaking and deadly. And sadly, the media have chosen to emphasize the voices of fear and hatred, or status quo corporatism, rather than those of reason, peace, hope and compassion.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As a Vermonter, Bernie’s positions, including and especially his attention to the Native American community, are a source of hope and light in a society gone dark and mad. I am happy to support his work of compassion and justice: tell it like it is, Bernie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your lovely insights about Bernie. He does reawaken hope “in a society gone dark and mad.” The powerful forces arrayed against him actually inspired me to write a post about Bernie.


  5. Your poem is quite right, and beautifully expressed.
    If one wants to see where the canary dies, go to where we have offshored our production (and destruction, such as shipbreaking and disposal of wastes) of consumer society. Places like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, and many parts of Africa are permanently despoiled by our production.
    Having lived in and traveled in these places, I can say that you can never get the full impact without being there, for not just the pictures, but the smells and sounds and palpable experience. Watching people work with no safety equipment and children playing, or working alongside, in rivers of toxic waste and dangerous chemicals and literally explosive conditions is a sobering experience.
    The ignorance and brutal insensitivity seem to be boundless. I have lost any faith in our solving these problems before they destroy us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your crucial comments, Joanne. I have been reflecting on the fact that the experiences described in this poem reflect the situation for indigenous peoples around the world. The people on the land are expendable when they’re in the way of “progress” and profit. How little things have changed in the hearts of the greedy and power-hungry over time.


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