The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee

Horses running

Horses and Gathering Storm in Sandhills, Nebraska. Photograph by Brett L. Erikson

In a 1984 homily to the native peoples of Canada, Pope John Paul II generously recognized where Native American and Christian spiritualities converge:

The revival of Indian culture will be a revival of those true values which they have inherited and which are purified and ennobled by the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Through his Gospel Christ confirms the native peoples in their belief in God, their awareness of his presence, their ability to discover him in creation, their dependence on him, their desire to worship him, their sense of gratitude for the land, their responsible stewardship of the earth, their reverence for all his great works, their respect for their elders. The world needs to see these values – and so many more that they possess – pursued in the life of the community and made incarnate in a whole people.

There is something of the Psalmist in N. Scott Momaday’s poem below; together, they sing joyfully about being alive in creation – a majestic witness to the Creator.

The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee [1]

I am a feather on the bright sky.
I am the blue horse that runs in the plain.
I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water.
I am the shadow that follows a child.
I am the evening light, the lustre of meadows.
I am an eagle playing with the wind.
I am a cluster of bright beads.
I am the farthest star.
I am the cold of dawn.
I am the roaring of the rain.
I am the glitter on the crust of the snow.
I am the long track of the moon in a lake.
I am a flame of four colors.
I am a deer standing away in the dusk.
I am a field of sumac and the pomme blanche.
I am an angle of geese in the winter sky.
I am the hunger of a young wolf.
I am the whole dream of these things.

You see, I am alive, I am alive.
I stand in good relation to the earth.
I stand in good relation to the gods.
I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful.
I stand in good relation to the daughter of Tsen-tainte.
You see, I am alive, I am alive.

[1] N. Scott Momaday was given the name Tsoai-talee, meaning “rock-tree-boy,” to commemorate his having been taken as an infant to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, a sacred place in Kiowa tradition.


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