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by Tahnahga Yako

with artwork by ANDREA CARLSON


I step from your room your spirit comes with me

that last lasting touch

oops I stayed in your moccasins a bit too long

this is not my journey this is yours

I burn sweet leaf to rub myself of your spirit that walks with me

the smell of death is strong in my bones

your smell I will not forget holds me to your spirit

I speak with the spirit of your soul send prayers to guide you home

yet you linger each step with my step

my sleep becomes your journey to open the door

I struggle I fight I scream I plead I beg I bargain

bear awakens growling kicking fighting to release your soul


Today, bear, you showed up to care for the old ones.

Why do you care? Bear!

Crow, why do you bring them back to be cared for?

Cause, bear, I know you! It’s your medicine to care.

You, who care for the dead, the dying, those who sit on the cusp between living and dying.

Crow you are the one, the black messenger.

Right, bear, that is what they say but remember it is “you-know-who” that comes calling, not me.

But the wind, crow, it sings their songs, the voice of the old ones.

The silent ones that come in the fog who dance between the shadows.

The wind that carries their pain and suffering echoes in my ears.

It says “feed me, feed me,” then it is done.

Yes, bear, the silent voice that vibrates throughout the time of the no-time.

Why do you care, crow?  Just who are you anyway?

Bear, I am the one who walks between both worlds: of dying, and Death.

I peck at the souls who are left behind. You might want to fear me, Bear!

Crow, now is not the time to get your feathers all puffed up.

We need to speak with the wind to bring a calmness of silence.

Why, bear, do we need to speak? Is it not just being here, in the mystery of life, and with life, death?

Crow it’s time for you to dance the dance of voice!

Bear dance the voice of silence!

Yes, crow! Time to sit with death and speak with death.


Your voice a whisper

of past spirit that rises

from the depth of heart-land

land of the ancient ones

just a bit of your time, old ones

what was it like to ride free?

to walk freely through the woods

speaking with nature, being with the 4-legged ones,

watching the skyworld-winged ones flowing freely

with ever-changing voice of grandmother wind?

Just a little bit of your time to help your great, great, great, great

great, great, great granddaughter to take in your breath, 

to exhale the sweetness of your breath that reaches into the past.

Just a little bit of your time, just a little bit of your time

to remember what was! 

to comfort this restless soul of your granddaughter!

“The West is not in the West. It is a project, not a place.”

~Edouard Glissant (Caribbean Discourse, 1989:2)

Based on one’s vantage point or cultural expectations, the significance of a place can become lost. The West as a colonial project, produced descriptions of the “Americas” as new land, a new world, while actively destroying and uprooting evidence of ancient history. One example of this can be seen in the defacement of ancient effigy mounds throughout Wisconsin. Hundreds of massive, shallow mounds depicting birds, lizards, men, panthers and snakes blanket the landscape. Many of the ancient mounds have been destroyed, dissected by roads, or flattened by settler farmers.

Exit is a print about absence and propagating presence. A potential exit can represent a fear. Within Indigenous communities exists a deep-seated fear of losing cultural practices, languages and art forms. With this in mind, Exit is also a print about that fear. Specifically, the print references ancient Indigenous creations (Man Mound of Baraboo, Wisconsin, mica hand/talon forms of the Mississippian peoples) that have been falsely attributed to non-natives, lost tribes and extinct peoples. 

Because prints are editioned and produced in multiple they have the ability to make a single image diasporic. This inherent quality of the print is my sigil for warding off loss. The imagery of this print represents an attempt at reparative presence for the space between the Twin Cities and Chicago, the lands of several Anishinaabe tribes, Dakota and Ho-Chunk people. This print is meant to be a sigil for the thought forms of those who travel I-94, the road that cuts through mound country.

~ Andrea Carlson


Tahnahga Yako is Mohawk, Taino and Ojibwa who was adopted into the lineage of her grandmother Keewaydinoquay. She has been named within the Longhouse and also carries her name from her grandmother’s lineage. Tahnahga Yako is a Chaplain and Cultural Liaison who has worked in serving the American Indian community within the Great Lakes region as a person who shares traditional cultural practices that promote healing for the ongoing of her people.


Andrea Carlson is an artist living and working in Chicago, IL and St. Paul, MN.

EXIT & ANTI-RETRO (2018): reproductions of screenprints editioned by Highpoint Center for Printmaking.

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