The Powwow at the End of the World

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   

after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam   

and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive   

and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam   

downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you   

that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find   

their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific   

and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive   

and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon   

waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall  

after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia   

and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors   

of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   

after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River   

as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives   

in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.   

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after   

that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws   

a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire   

which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told   

by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   

after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon   

who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us   

how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;   

the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many   

of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing   

with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

Sherman Alexie, “The Powwow at the End of the World” from The Summer of Black Widows. Copyright © 1996 Hanging Loose Press. Reprinted by permission of Hanging Loose Press.

Source: The Summer of Black Widows (Hanging Loose Press, 1996).