Meditation on Ceremonies of Beginnings: The Tribal College and World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Poems


“Tom Davis fills the pages of this collection with the dreams and memorable figures involved in the birth of the tribal college system. These historical poems become ‘the great song a movement sings’ while ‘remaking the world.’ Here we travel from the Great Lakes to Hawaii, Alaska to Australia, each place alive in images, with the challenges and celebrations of Indigenous cultures. Meditation on Ceremonies of Beginnings recounts the ‘liquid fire of oratory’-the metaphorical stories and ingenious responses to bureaucracy used by tribal leaders, determined men and women who lit the way with ‘globes of fire in their hands.’ Read so you may remember and carry this legacy.”

-KIMBERLY BLAESER (Ojibwe), author of Copper Yearning, Wisconsin Poet Laureate 2015-16

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Thirty years ago, tribal college educator and poet Thomas Davis began writing poems about the tribal college movement, beginning with the founding of College of Menominee Nation in Northern Wisconsin. He had no intention of developing a book out of the poems, using napkins and scraps of papers to create a mostly free verse poetry that chronicled the events and people trying to build a new kind of educational system that would preserve and evolve Indigenous language, history, and culture. Davis gave these poems away and many were lost. Until now.

Meditation on the Ceremonies of Beginnings is a new kind of narrative poetry, an informal history of the tribal college movement and the World Indigenous Higher Education Consortium told through poetic verse. It recounts, as acclaimed poet Kimberly Blaeser (Ojibwe) says, “the liquid fire of oratory” becoming “the great song a movement sings.” Meditation on Ceremonies of Beginnings captures the dreams and vision of Indigenous leaders in higher education. It tells their story, illuminating how two great movements set out to change the world and succeeded in a multitude of ways, both big and small.


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