The Powwow at the End of the World

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.

Bibliographical info

Sherman Alexie, “The Powwow at the End of the World” from The Summer of Black Widows. Copyright © 1996 Hanging Loose Press. Reprinted by permission of Hanging Loose Press.

Source: The Summer of Black Widows (Hanging Loose Press, 1996).

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