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  • Kate Lee

To A City Of Amnesia

In the turmoil of these last weeks, many threads, but nothing coherent. These thoughts are in my mind:

Algonquin storyteller Ken Little Hawk of the Micmac shares a story that intimates how hard it is to be a “real human being” in this world… [A grandfather] brought [his grandson] to the edge of a beautiful lake. He gave the boy a stick and said, ‘see this stick? I want you to take it over to the edge of that lake and stir up the water.”

The boy did so. Then Grandfather instructed the lad to stir up the stones, sand, and even the plants that grew under the water with that stick. The boy, being a boy, was happy to do so, and soon the water was a cloudy mess of leaves and mud and sand whirling around. They boy stepped back to admire his work. After the cloudy water began to clear, the grandfather said to the boy, “Now I want you to put everything back exactly as it was before.”

(Pritchard, p. 16)

This video was taken at Hallett Cove, a short walk from my home. The view looks to Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side. Harlem is in the distance.

The Lenape, from the Algonquin Native American people, were, before colonists, the custodians of the land where I live in Astoria/Long Island City. Not much is known of their time here, but from the little I’ve read, this area was rich in food, which the Lenape came to hunt.

I have moved a lot, and with ease. I’ve come and go without any obligation to where I am going or where I am coming from. I have neglected learning this history of the land I live on.

I moved to a "city of amnesia" of 'displaced immigrants" in a "displaced world" (Pritchard, p. 19)

Prichard, Evans (1970). Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York.

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