Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "His Fearsome Horse"

This is spillover from the April 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It also fills the "phobias" square on my 3-16-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. Based on an audience poll, it has been sponsored by the general fund.


"His Fearsome Horse"


Once there was an Oglala warrior
so skilled in battle that he was named
Tȟašúŋke Kȟokípȟapi, because
his enemies feared him so much
that they would run away from his horse,
even if he was not on it.

But the wašíču translators did not
understand or respect his name.

They rendered it as Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse,
or worse yet, shortened it to Man-Afraid,
hiding the true meaning.

Other times they made it
His-Horses-Are-Afraid,
which was hardly better.

People thought -- as perhaps
they were meant to think --
that he was a coward.

The bad translation made him sound bad,
combing causality in the wrong direction.

Later on, a better translation emerged:
They-Fear-Even-His-Horses.

By then the damage had been done, though,
and people remembered the funny name instead of
the great warrior and brilliant negotiator
sitting on his fearsome horse.

Now Láadan has words upon words
for language and the handling of it:

héedan -- to translate

rahéedan -- to mistranslate

rahéelhedan -- to mistranslate,
deliberately and with evil intent.

While there is no proving a crime
committed so long in the past,
a look across the many mistranslations
of tribal names does make a good case
for either incompetence or malice
or some combination of both.

Speak, then, of Tȟašúŋke Kȟokípȟapi,
They-Fear-Even-His-Horses,
or if you must have a shorter form,
Fearsome Horse.

Speak, and let history be restored.

* * *

Notes:

Read about Tȟašúŋke Kȟokípȟapi.  The Dakota-Nakota-Lakota Human Rights Coalition cites him as Chief Young Man Afraid Of His Horses.  I favor original language names myself, but where there's a tribal consensus, I'll back them for public use purposes and reserve my personal preference for my own writing.

Wašíču is a rude word for the European invaders and their descendants.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, history, linguistics, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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