As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Nila Northsun – Poetry

angel tree

one year on the rez
i picked a boy and girl’s name
from the angel tree
bought them winter jackets
hats gloves
a play outfit
and jammies
a week after Christmas
was surprised to see
my niece and nephew
wearing the clothes i bought
i just said
‘nice jacket’
and they smiled.

* * *


it is finally there
just on the other side
of the freeway
located on our tribal land
our poverty is over
we get all of the sales tax
besides the lease on the land
it is a fact
our unemployment rates
will decrease
an elder is a greeter
her white hair brilliant
against the blue of her
walmart smock
she smiles at me and
says ‘welcome to walmart’
minimum wage is
better than nothing.

* * *

Nila Northsun Headshotnila northSun, Shoshone/Chippewa, has been writing for over 3 decades and her books include: diet pepsi & nacho cheese; Coffee, Dust Devils and Old Rodeo Bulls (with Kirk Robertson); small bones, little eyes (with Jim Sagel) ; a snake in her mouth: poems, 1974-96; love at gunpoint 2007; and whipped cream & sushi published in 2009. She’s received the Silver Pen award from the University of Nevada, Reno, the Indigenous Heritage award from Atayl out of Florida and a Sierra Arts Foundation Literary Award. She lives and works in Reno.

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3 comments on “Nila Northsun – Poetry

  1. LaEsha Sanders
    February 6, 2013

    Really enjoyed these poems, Nila. They hold a certain joyful sorrow, a familiarity that I know very well.

  2. Kacie
    April 24, 2013

    Hi Nila, I am doing a research paper about Indian Reservations using different poems/short stories from my textbook. I am using one of yours titled “Up and Out” and I was wondering if you could tell me when you wrote that poem?

  3. Valirie Serawop
    November 19, 2016

    Hello nila, My name is Valirie Serawop, I am currently a student at Institute of American Indian Arts, located in Santa Fe. I enjoy your poetry, it brings me back to my childhood, and the happy memories I hold. Some say that your poetry is sorrowful, but as a child my memories were full of happiness. I never knew that I was “poor.” I had food, love, shelter, and parents who loved me. I never knew we had enough money to cover bills, and get a few groceries.

    So now for my final presentation for Fall semester, I have chosen you as my author to present on. I just wanted you to know I appreciate your community service and your works. Keep up the great writing!

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