For Tomorrow

With reverence
For the sacred–
Ancestors, elders
Earth, language
Story, ceremony

I come as one
Of the first
Our arrival
Far too late

Nothing to celebrate;
Only birthright
Slowly being

Long before yesterday
Our tribes deserved
What medicine
Had to offer,
Other than neglect

But now I see:
Medicine needs
Our sacred knowledge
To be made more
For tomorrow

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

He was one of the first two people from his tribes to go to medical school. He told me that it was a difficult time to be away from his community because they were being hit so hard by the pandemic. “The oppression we face is showing itself through health,” he said. “We’re losing many of our elders, and when we lose our elders, we lose the sacred knowledge we’ve fought so hard to keep.” He told me he missed the ceremonies that had to be cancelled this year. While he was excited to be able to go back to his community to practice medicine as a doctor in the future, he didn’t see being one of the first to become a doctor as cause for celebration. “It’s more of an unveiling of a problem; it shouldn’t be this way. I might be one of the first, but I need to make sure I’m not the last. We have many gifted people in our community.” he said. I left this conversation with the sense that the field of medicine needed him and his community’s knowledge, perhaps as much, or more, than his community needed the field of medicine.

Interviewee: Anonymous, Medical Student
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland

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