The Powwow at the End of the World
By Sherman Alexie

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam and topples it.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam downriver from the Grand Coulee.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific and causes all of it to rise.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon waiting in the Pacific.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors of Hanford.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire which will lead all of the lost Indians home.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours; the third story will give us reason to dance.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

Sherman Alexie, “The Powwow at the End of the World” from The Summer of Black Widows. Copyright © 1996 by Sherman Alexie.
Source: The Summer of Black Widows (Story Line Press, 1996)

2 Comments

  1. i truly understand .living in vernonia since late 60s in my late forty’s have watched the land and people change i don’t recognize this place any more i love your blog it brings fresh air to me use to fish the nehalem with my father and grandfather from the headwaters to the reef of neakahnie mountain.iam being priced out squeazed out and lock out of the old hunts i miss the old times and the tipi.

  2. Health and happiness to all of our relatives!

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