Just Feathers and Drums – Shaylene’s Poem


It’s April, 26th,

Exactly a week ago from today,

I experienced a pain in my soul that I can’t put into language,

This pain reopened a wound that has plagued my heart since the day I was born,

Maybe even before then,

When I heard the comment “oh it’ll be easy… it’s just feathers and drums right?”

Meaning Aboriginal Studies- my history.

I usually ignore the ignorant,

As I believe they don’t deserve the power their empty soul longs for,

However, this time it was different.

I can’t pinpoint just one feeling that I felt in that moment,

It felt as if though my blood stream froze completely,

My heart stopped,

The hope inside of my dark brown eyes became lifeless,

My smile became cold and it suddenly was hard to breathe,

Just like the broken girl four years ago who was in survival mode,

The broken girl who was depressed,



Another statistic of just some drunk Indian,

Who yet didn’t understand that she was just trying to fight off this colonial hangover,

That broken girl is a constant remnant of the old me.

In that moment of ignorance,

The mannerisms I once adopted took over,

I was done.

I caught my breath and asked “are you serious?”

He responded stupidly “it was just a joke,”

“Uh, well it’s not funny.”

The ice in my eyes stared coldly at him until he was fidgeting to get comfortable.

Man, that day awoke the broken girl inside of me that I never wanted to see again,

I thought that I was done with her.

In that moment,

My heart strings felt as if though they were being ripped,

One by one,

I wanted so bad to curl up into a ball and weep,

I was done.


With his nose in the air, he thought I was just feathers and drums.

I so badly wanted him to feel how it is to be a grand daughter of a residential school survivor,

How it is to be born into a hurt generation of brown skin and high cheek bone people like me,

I wanted so badly for him to feel the burden of my dead ancestors,

I wanted him to experience what it was like to grow up on a reserve,

To know what it’s like to have trust issues mess with your intuition as a result of broken treaties,

I wanted him to taste the trauma that bleeds through these history books,

I wanted him to feel the nobody I feel, because I can’t speak my language.

Maybe I was just overreacting,

But I doubt it.

As an individual who comes from a marginalized group of people,

I’m done,

I’m tired of the ignorance.

I’m not sorry for using my voice,

A voice that was once without a tongue,

Because hurt people hurt me.

I know for a fact that through my vulnerability,

I speak for the voiceless,

And without a doubt, I heal my ancestors too.

So, no,

My culture isn’t,

My people aren’t,

My history isn’t,

I am not just feathers and drums.

Our Peer Support program services can be accessed over the phone at 403-297-1402 or through email at peer@cmha.calgary.ab.ca.