Indigenous Arts & Stories - Crucible


2018 - Writing Winner

Leah Baptiste

Brooks, AB
Deline, Northwest Territories
Age 17

Author's Statement

I decided to write my poem “The Crucible” on the many issues that have affected our people. The poem exhibits the lesson that no matter what severe trial that our people go through; we will only come out stronger. Whether it be residential schools, missing and murdered indigenous woman, loss of language/culture, etc. First nations people have faced extreme challenges to our identity in the past that still affect us today, and we continue to see the face of racism and prejudice.

Most of the situations in which the speaker of the poem mentions are things that I have experienced, and come from my own life and background. My grandfather had to attend residential school. People very close to me experience prejudice and racism often. Ignorant words from people that I were supposed to call my friends have been said. I can see the injustice and unfair treatment that our people still receive to this day.

The end to the poem is meant to depict the blood of first nations identity, after racism has taken everything else. The blood still remains in tact, and it cannot be washed away. It is my own belief that identity is a grounding factor to everybody’s life. All of the trial that our people have been through has pulled and pried at our indigenous identity. Our identity involving our language and culture, which we have tried our very best to hold onto. These challenges to our identity are meant to take it away from us. If we continue to fight with peaceful protest the forces of racism and injustice that face our people, we can maintain our collective identity, and it will not be washed away.




(noun.) A ceramic or metal bowl in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures.



A situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.


Silver down my wrist

Dim light hangs above me

Knelt down before the crucifix

Drip, slow

Into the stone bowl


Flame grasps the bottom

Smoke rises from the hot blood

A wreath of stone, flame, and blood

They want it to seperate

They ache to pour in the bleach

But the blood clots

The blood binds

Hotter, hotter

And it only turns darker


My blood

Filled with heritage and culture that you refer to as bacterial

Take it out, with a thorn-like needle

It is dirt, scrub it away

Scrub until the skin that holds it together stings raw

Hold a knife to the tongue; press down

Pressure against it

Rip it from the grasps of innocent children

The children, grasp them by the collar

Repay their parents by a dollar

Dress them in grey

Make sure they pray

Not to their maker

Pray on bibles

Books of bleach soaked words

Wash the mouths with bleach

In the name of god, sin

We are saving them; through sin

These are the pretending thoughts


Through sin, they pretend

Sinners pretend their actions are valid

The great, white priest’s game of play pretend

First prime minister of Kanata, of the village

The man on my money

Treaty money, the money that is supposed to make it better

John A. Macdonald

Put my mother’s father there

In the mission

The house of tainted walls and desperate calls

Calls to a god; masked in lies

Residential school

Johnny put my grandfather there with his words

Take the indian out of the child

A white man’s burden

The ignorance that led them to study skulls

To determine intelligence and civility by the shape and anatomy

By the colour of skin

And we left that house with nothing

Only taught the nature of sins

Sins of the body

Sins of the mind

Nothing more

Lost a piece of our identity to that house

Though it ended, its evil still stings from generation to generation

From a fire pit

To the inferno

Not only the children

Put us to sections of the village

Into reservations

Reserved for our people

Liquor rotted teeth

Sleeping between liquor stained sheets

Children have children soon

Raised under a loveless moon

There are no I love you’s

No touch of identity

Some tongues stray from the english way

Some remember the old way

But our children would struggle to follow the same


Now we barely hang onto to the barbed wire

As the only way to survive

In a world dominated by bleach

Is to be engulfed by its components

Not through force

But are we really left with a choice?

The silver coated fingers that pluck and pull at my people’s voice

The irony that the village that we inhabited

In order to feel like we are still apart of it

Must blend in with the men who stole it

Or not reap the benefits that they do from this tiny village

Gets under my skin and makes my red blood boil over

But it still remains my own


Today, I still see it

In their eyes

When waitresses avoid the eyes of my friends

Sales clerks trail my mother around a store

My mother dresses respectfully

Can afford what they are selling

But I am not buying it

Because I refuse to respect it

The evidence is in my white friend

Telling me that my people are only crack induced drunks on street corners

Coin whores and change beggars

He swears that I am an exception

As if I want his acceptance and approval

He is not a friend to me

Turning a powdered cheek to their own

As if they are there on their own choice

There is privilege to the colour of skin that one possesses

The celebrated men with badges and guns

Would sweat and search to find anyone

Not my sisters, just not my sisters

Red dress at the dinner table

Red dress on the desk where the girl with the long black hair once sat

Red dress in picture frames perched on the wall

The heat rises

Chars at my skin

Burns away my hair

Leaves blisters

Blood continues to flow through my scar covered veins

Though not searching for them

The appeal of my sisters still catch eyes at costume parties

For women in poca outfits

Barely covered by fake feathers

Red and white lines on their face only representative of the stupidity

The mere stupidity that allows society to believe

In lies that the history books tell

Make it seem as if we are myths and our people no longer exist

Or false illusions of tieing in two cultures

It is not out of respect

It is appropiations

Appropiations of a culture that has been shamed

Slammed and shunned for its own traditions

Respect is not found in a sexualised costume

Sexualised “hot cherokee princess” costumes

Not found in a cheap “chief’s” headdress

Culture treated as a kink or character

But they do it anyways, because from privilege

When the white man does it

It is deemed okay

It becomes a trend


In my social studies class

A student complains of one singular presentation slide that shows

The perspective of an indigenous man

Since it is “too much” to have to hear about again

Poor child, it is almost as if it is your own country’s first people

A people that have been mistreated

A people that deserve to be listened to

A people with a history that should be acknowledged

Heritage and culture does not only lie in clothing and tradition

It lays in history

History that is not made of the stereotyped medicine men

History of a mistreated people

Now the leaders mistreat the lands

Hit the earth’s marrow with drills

Screwing pipes into its bones

Pipes filled with toxins

That leak into the waters

Water that provides life

Life to plants and animals

Next time, you should listen better

The land is a part of the culture that we grasp onto

Like a baby wrapping it’s tiny fingers around a sturdy thumb


This is the story that I tell

Not one of stereotypical birds and wise men

A story coated in my indigenous truth

The truth that may not yet set us free

No doubt will fill us with anger

As heated as this fire gets

Must clump together

Holding onto our identity

Hand in hand

With pride we will stand for our blood

The tint to our skin

The different curvature to our tongues

The lives that we practice

In this crucible made to seperate our culture from our blood

Will only bring about a people stronger than before

Until the fire consumes flesh

Leaving behind a pool of brown blood

That with no amount of bleach

Can ever be washed away.