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Montana Indian Poetry and Culture

The Indian in the Liquor Cabinet

Historian, teacher, and poet Joseph McGeshick talks about Montana’s Native American poets and about what’s happening on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. He also read a few of his poems.

Joseph McGeshick has published two books of poetry, The Indian in the Liquor Cabinet and Never Get Mad at Your Sweet Grass, and co-authored two volumes of history about the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. His essay "What Does Poetry Do For You?" is the forward for Birthright: Born to Poetry - A Collection of Montana Indian Poetry, a publication by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

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The music in this program was written and performed by John Floridis.

Historian and storyteller, Joseph Robert McGeshick, is an enrolled Sokaogon Chippewa (Ojibwa), his father’s tribe, and grew up on the Assiniboine and Sioux Reservation in Wolf Point, Montana, his mother’s reservation, where he teaches at Fort Peck Community College. On his father’s side, Chippewa ancestors, Big Martin (kichiwabeshashi) and Big Eagle (kichimigizi) signed a number of treaties trying to save their traditional land, which caused the Sokaogon Chippewas to be landless for about 80 years until the 1930?s when they were given a reservation under the Indian Reorganization Act. They occupied the lake areas southeast of Lake Superior. There was deer hunting, wild life, fishing and wild rice. Wild rice was their mainstay. Rice Lake produced enormous amounts that helped keep them alive during the time that the tribe was not federally recognized. His mother’ side, the Assiniboine/Sioux, a buffalo and horse culture, occupied the plains of northeastern Montana. The Assiniboine, which is actually a Chippewa term meaning “men who cook with stones,” called themselves Nakona. The Sioux called themselves Lakota or Dakota. The reservation in Fort Peck today has about 2 million acres of land.

Chérie Newman is an arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. Her weekly literary program, The Write Question, is broadcast on several public radio stations, and available online at PRX.org and MTPR.org.
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