The 200 MPH Unicorn

As I board the train
French blasts through the speakers,
“S’il vous plaît prenez votre siege.”
(Please take your seat.)

I take my seat
next to an English woman.
I notice she is wearing a bright
red hat even before I know
I am to be seated next to her.
She is stereotypically English.
I never really knew what that meant
just knew that she fit the bill.
So proper.

As I take off my jacket
she glances at my tattoo.
The train begins at 200 MHP
toward London. She glances again,
“What’s that?”

I show her the lizard
on my arm. The Southwest
designs done by a Pueblo man.
The sharp angles
influenced by the land.
The red,
the yellow,
the black.
I am Laguna Pueblo
I am from the lizard clan
I am Native American.

She twists her face with confusion.
A face I’m all too familiar with.
I’m American Indian

I reference Apache Pizza, similar to Pizza Hut,
but an Indian warrior as their logo.
This rings a bell
but not loud enough.
She still doesn’t realize
what I am.
A real people
A real culture
A real history
Forged in generations
Amongst the tan rigid mountains,
The distinct air of the Southwest
Dry yet exotic.

In this moment
I feel as though
our people are unicorns here.
A myth
A people of legend
and not of reality.
A people forgotten by those
who exploited us for centuries.

I ask her if she has ever seen
a unicorn going 200 MPH.
She looks at me like I am crazy.
I just laugh.

Steven Jared Whitfield (Laguna/Chickasaw) is a 26-year-old nontraditional student at Haskell Indian Nations University. He plans to attend the University of Texas in fall 2012 as an English major. After his grandmother passed almost two years ago, he realized life is so short. “Life does not have time for procrastinators and the fearful,” he says. “My grandmother always wanted me to get a degree, and I always wanted to teach English. I quit my job to attend the university to do just that.”

He adds that he came to Haskell to attain a greater understanding of his culture. “I’ve always loved to read and discover new words,” he says. “I found beauty and comfort in expressing myself through words. The paper does not judge or cast criticism, and the words can always be edited.”

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