Translation (a prayer)

John Hill

Translation (a prayer) was produced by John Isaiah Edward Hill. Aliya Pabani provided editorial support on behalf of Constellations. Thanks to the University of Wisconsin Oneida Language Dictionary Project.

This piece is dedicated to Maria Hinton, the Oneida speaker heard at the end of the piece, and to Ima "Akoh" Johnson, Mohawk-Cayuga faithkeeper and language teacher. Without them, I would have no courage to speak. This piece is also dedicated to the land and its defenders everywhere.


John writes:

This piece is a prayer and poem which speaks directly to the ancestors and the future generations through language. A prayer and a promise.

It's goal is to send a message to generations passed and generations to come in the Oneida language, which is endangered by settler-colonial violence. The piece features two voices, the English voice which is static and unmoving, and the Oneida voice, which moves in a counter-clockwise motion, representative of traditional Haudenosaunee dance practices. When Sky Woman, our great-grandmother, danced on the great turtle's back, she did so in a counter-clockwise motion, and so the Haudenosaunee people do so to honour her.

Haudenosaunee people understand our responsibility to the land that gave birth to us, and so this piece is an address to not only the generations that have long since returned to the land, but those who are set to inherit this land. Across Turtle Island, Indigenous people are fighting to protect their ways and the land, and this poem is a message, a promise, to the next seven generations that we will not stop fighting on behalf of the land and the water and the non-human beings.


Inspirations:

  • I love the work of Ross Sutherland, who has always been a great source of inspiration. He's a fantastic poet and super handsome podcaster. His piece on the moon absolutely is one of my biggest inspirations for this piece. Ross often plays with repetition and language in a way that really inspires me.

  • Every time I speak, I try to get close to my Indigenous kin who are also writing. I don't think anyone really inspires me more as a queer Indigenous poet than Tommy Pico. His poem "Feed" is so inspiring, if not to the specific poem I'm writing, just in being an artist who occasionally gets out of bed once in a while.

  • I will always owe a debt to my Mohawk auntie Janet Marie Rogers*. She and I have performed together, she's given me advice, and she inspires me every day to keep doing what I'm doing. She's also a fantastic sound and film artist, and I hope to be as prolific and powerful as she is one day.
    *Janet Marie Rogers also has a piece on Constellations that you can listen to here.


Shoutouts:

I'd like to shout out the actions being taken to defend the land and to defend the sovereignty of nations across Turtle Island. I would like to specifically highlight the struggle of my people at 1492 Landback Lane and the Sipekne'katik Moderate Livelihood Fishery (Sipekne'katik Moderate Livelihood Fishery). Both of those actions require supplies, people, and support, and so any help that can be provided to them would be incredible. Let our voices be heard, for we speak for the land!

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