IMG_6802.HEIC

“Haa aaní” is inalienable 

Sept 5, 2021

By Aaní Perkins

 

I am from the Lingít people of Sheet’ká (Sitka, Alaska). In our language, Lingít yoo x̱’atángi, “haa aaní” translates to “our land.” This implies an unseverable connection between ourselves and our ancestral homelands. 

This connection grounds me, yet I live each day with the knowledge that white western culture feeds on the destruction of my relationship with the earth, and with my body. This poem is a reflection on how this has shaped my experience as a Lingít woman no matter where I find myself. 

I have two bodies. One that I walk in and one that I walk on. My earth-body gives way to my person-body with each step and there are roots stretching from my forearms miles and miles back to where I was born from the ground of Lingít’aaní. 

Like at the ocean’s shore, there is no discernable boundary with earth. My bodies crash into each other messily. Recede cyclically. But my bodies cannot escape each other. They do not want to. 

My person-body is always daydreaming. Sometimes, the daydreams are more like nightmares are more like reality. 

And there is a recurring character — a figure lurking in my periphery. I cannot see him, but my earth-body tells me he is poised to sever us at the roots. Poised to divide earth from earth. 

I keep my eyes forward. Hope the severance doesn’t happen here. Doesn’t happen now. Just doesn’t happen yet. Know that it will. 

This is how I live. In fear of the men who might be around the corner. 

Men who have been raised to hurl themselves forcefully into me until something somewhere ruptures. 

In my dream state, I see them waiting to desecrate my bodies with their own. 

No matter where we ground ourselves, Native women are made easy to abandon. Jailed by dysphoria with this world, we are punished for nurturing. Killed for preserving life. 

My bodies know this innately: they are violated the same way. Threatened by the very implication of violence -- the possibility that it could be us too. 

My bodies live the same. Men who do not know them at all deprive them of breath. Feed on their generosity. Evilly devour them. Leave them to rot. 

I ask that you do not fear for my life. That you do not mourn me prematurely. That you do not mistake my roots for shackles. 

Cleave them and my person-body becomes lonesome for my earth-body: I become lonesome for myself.

 

The Dartmouth Radical