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Dian Million (Athabascan / Alaska, 1950)

Dian Million

When we created this little webpage, in 2006 (audio reposted in 2009 on the new TP Podcast), there was no info on the Net about Dian Million. We had read her Housing Poem in the book linked below. However, in 2012 we found a picture of her on her webpage on a university site: American Indian Studies external link

Texts below, her own words about herself and the poem we've published on the TP Podcast, from pages 163-4 of "Reinventing the Enemy's Language. Contemporary Native Women's Writings of North America" external link, edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird external link.


The Housing Poem
Listen! Listen external link to this poem! - Comment the poem on the Dakota in Spain external link blog

Minnie had a house
which had trees in the yard
and lots of flowers
she especially liked the kitchen
because it had a large old cast iron stove
and that
the landlord said
was the reason
the house was so cheap.

Pretty soon Minnie's brother Rupert came along
and his wife Onna
and they set up housekeeping in the living room
on the fold-out couch,
so the house warmed and rocked
and sang because Minnie and Rupert laughed a lot.

Pretty soon their mom Elsie came to live with them too
because she liked being with the laughing young people
and she knew how the stove worked the best.
Minnie gave up her bed and slept on a cot.

Well pretty soon
Dar and Shar their cousins came to town looking for work.
They were twins
the pride of Elsie's sister Jo
and boy could those girls sing. They pitched a tent under
the cedar patch in the yard
and could be heard singing around the house
mixtures of old Indian tunes and country western.

When it was winter
Elsie worried
about her mother Sarah
who was still living by herself in Moose Glen back home.
Elsie went in the car with Dar and Shar and Minnie and Rupert and got her.
They all missed her anyway and her funny stories.
She didn't have any teeth
so she dipped all chewable items in grease
which is how they're tasty she said.
She sat in a chair in front of the stove usually
or would cook up a big pot of something for the others.

By and by Rupert and Onna had a baby who they named Lester,
or nicknamed Bumper, and they were glad that Elsie and Sarah
were there to help.

One night the landlord came by
to fix the leak in the bathroom pipe
and was surprised to find Minnie, Rupert and Onna, Sarah and Elsie, Shar and Dar
all singing around the drum next to the big stove in the kitchen
and even a baby named Lester who smiled waving a big greasy piece of dried fish.

He was disturbed
he went to court to evict them
he said the house was designed for single-family occupancy
which surprised the family
because that's what they thought they were.

Read Dian Million presenting herself...

I am Tanana Athabascan and Nova Scotian. I was born in Alaska in 1950, and lived on the road with my family from Nenana to Anchorage, and all over the Kenai peninsula. I was removed from my home when I was twelve because we were having a particularly hard time.

I spent my young womanhood in foster homes, one in Washington, D.C., and in Hillcrest School for girls in Salem, Oregon. I started writing stories to remember my folks and what we were feeling.

I want to reflect on some of the confusion I experienced as a native woman looking for reasons in history and in human nature, for a myriad of experiences. I cared deeply about the forces that moved within, about the losses we endured and learned from. One was loss of children. Because I was first concerned about how many native children were removed from Alaska in the 1950s I faced learning a whole history of the attempt to destroy our families.

Old cast iron stove

We must be very aware of the future that we portray in English. I think of English as a strange wing that sprouted, not grounded in the old thinking about the land, but one that we must learn to soar in.

Alaska, on the road, wolf, 1950s