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Paula Gunn Allen

  • The shadows cannot speak.

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • "Shadows," The Blind Lion ()
  • ... I / fall into noisy abstraction, / cling to sound as if it were the last protection / against what I cannot name.

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • "Shadows," The Blind Lion ()
  • In my dreams / my father is always kind.

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • "Paternity," Shadow Country ()
  • I have noticed that as soon as you have soldiers the story is called history. Before their arrival it is called myth, folktale, legend, fairy tale, oral poetry, ethnography. After the soldiers arrive, it is called history.

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • in Judy Grahn, Queen of Wands ()
  • I stir wild honey into my carefully prepared cedar tea / and wait for meaning to arise, / to greet and comfort me.

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • "Recuerdo," in Joseph Bruchac, ed., Songs From This Earth on Turtle's Back ()
  • ... Indians think it is important to remember, while Americans believe it is important to forget.

  • America does not seem to remember that it derived its wealth, its values, its food, much of its medicine, and a large part of its 'dream' from Native America.

  • An odd thing occurs in the minds of Americans when Indian civilization is mentioned: little or nothing.

  • Breath is life, and the intermingling of breaths is the purpose of good living. This is in essence the great principle on which all productive living must rest, for relationships among all the beings of the universe must be fulfilled; in this way each individual life may also be fulfilled.

  • For the American Indian, the ability of all creatures to share in the process of ongoing creation makes all things sacred.

  • We are the land. To the best of my understanding, that is the fundamental idea that permeates American Indian life ...

  • Idealization of a group is a natural consequence of separation from the group; in other words, it is a by-product of alienation.

  • The moon lives in the all the alone places / all alone.

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • "What the Moon Said," Skins and Bones ()
  • Mother has lupus. / She says it's a disease / of self-attack. / It's like a mugger broke into your home / and you called the police / and when they came they beat up on you / instead of on your attackers, / she says.

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • "Dear World," Skins and Bones ()
  • Do you suppose that / when grandma dies / more of her stays than goes?

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • "Grandma's Dying Poem," Skins and Bones ()
  • I am not especially defined by my sex life, nor complete without it.

    • Paula Gunn Allen,
    • in Tee Corinne, Intricate Passions ()
  • True shamans live in a world that is alive with what is to rationalist sight unseen, a world pulsing with intelligence.

  • Medicine people are truly citizens of two worlds, and those who continue to walk the path of medicine power learn to keep their balance in both the ordinary and the non-ordinary worlds ...

  • In the native world, major gods come in trios, duos, and groups. It is the habit of non-natives to discover the supreme being, the one and only head god, a habit lent to them by monotheism.

  • Snowflakes, leaves, humans, plants, raindrops, stars, molecules, microscopic entities all come in communities. The singular cannot in reality exist.

  • ... America has amnesia. ... Certainly, there is a passion for memory loss in American thought. ... Americans may be the world champion forgetters.

  • 'The only good Indian is dead,' they said; now that the Indian is presumed dead, he gets better and better all the time. The 'Indian' can be interjected into the American dream, transformed, un-humanized, a sentimentalized sentinel of America's ideal of virtue.

  • In America, law substitutes for custom.

  • What the Indians are saying is that they are recognizing the right of wilderness to be wilderness. Wilderness is not an extension of human need or of human justification. It is itself and it is inviolate, itself. This does not mean that, therefore, we become separated from it, because we don't. We stay connected if, once in our lives, we learn exactly what that connection is between our heart, our womb, our mind, and wilderness. And when each of us has her wilderness within her, we can be together in a balanced kind of way. The forever, we have that within us.

  • Truth, acceptance of the truth, is a shattering experience. It shatters the binding shroud of culture trance. It rips apart smugness, arrogance, superiority, and self-importance. It requires acknowledgment of responsibility for the nature and quality of each of our own lives, our own inner lives as well as the life of the world. Truth, inwardly accepted, humbling truth, makes one vulnerable. You can't be right, self-righteous, and truthful at the same time.

  • It's a little-known linguistic curiosity that the name Jehovah or Jaweh is the same name as Eve; Havva, the counterpart name in Farsi, the language spoken by the Persians, means either Jaweh or Eve.

  • As long as we avoid the creative, we are condemned to reaction.

  • Some feminist critics debate whether we take our meaning and sense of self from language and in that process become phallocentric ourselves, or if there is a use of language that is, or can be, feminine. Some, like myself, think that language is itself neither male nor female; it is creatively expansive enough to be of use to those who have the wit and art to wrest from it their own significance. Even the dread patriarchs have not found a way to 'own' language any more than they have found a way to 'own' earth (though many seem to believe that both are possible).

  • The root of oppression is the loss of memory.

Paula Gunn Allen, Laguna Pueblo/Dacotah-U.S. writer, poet

(1939 - 2008)

Born: Paula Marie Francis.