Salli M. Kawennotakie Benedict

        Sweetgrass Is Around Her

A woman was sitting
on a rock.
I could see her
even though
she was far away.
She was Teiohontasen,
my mother's aunt.
She was a
basket maker.
When I was young,
my mother told me
that her name meant,
"Sweetgrass is all around her."
I thought that it was a good name
for a basket maker.
She was in her eighties
She was short like me,
and a bit stout.
She knew the land well;
and the plants,
and the medicines,
and the seasons.
She knew how to talk
to the Creator too;
and the thunderers,
and the rainmakers.
She had a big bundle of sweetgrass
at her side.
It was long, and green,
and shiny.

Her big straw hat
her round face.
It was very hot.
She pulled her mid-calf length dress
down to her ankles,
over her rubber boots.
She brought her lunch
in a paper bag;
a canning jar of cold tea,
fried bread,
sliced meat,
and some butter,
wrapped in tin foil.
She placed them carefully
on the rock.
She reached
into the bag,
and pulled out a
can of soft drink.
I thought it strange.
She didn't drink
soft drinks.
she reached for her
pocket knife.
Basket makers always
have a good knife.
It was in the pocket of
the full-length
canvas apron,
that was always
safety-pinned to her dress.
She made two sandwiches,
. . . looked around.
Saw me looking at her.
Her eyes sparkled,
she smiled.
She lifted up the soft drink,
and signaled me to come.

After we ate,
she stood up
on the rock
and looked out.
She smelled the air.
I knew that she
could smell the sweetgrass.
I never could.
She pointed to
very swampy land.
Mosquitos, I thought.
I was dressed poorly.
We didn't talk much
but we could hear,
and listen to each other.
She never forced me
to speak Mohawk.
Mohawk with an
English accent
made her laugh.
She didn't
want to hear
English though.
We would spend
all day
picking sweetgrass.
we would look for
One time,
my mother asked her
what she thought
Heaven would be like.
She said
that there was sweetgrass everywhere
and people made
the most beautiful

Salli M. Kawennotakie Benedict, Sweetgrass Grows All Around Her,
Native Women in the Arts, 1997.