The Hide of My Tongue

They must adjust to their environment and conform to our civilization …They cannot escape it, and must either conform to it or be crushed by it.

          Thomas J. Morgan, commissioner, "Report of the Commisioner of Indian Affairs," 1889
Yee yoo x’atángi áwé haa sinéix a yáx yatee x’áal’ a káx’ haa s’éil’ x’éiyi.
                  --Keet Yaanaayí
Your words are healing like the skunk cabbage applied to our open wounds.
      —Paraphrased from a speech by Willie Marks, Keet Yaanaayí with translation help by Ethel
             Makinen, Daasdiyáa, and Irene Paul, Yaaxl.aat

I spent the last twelve years creating my first full-length poetry collection, The Hide of My Tongue, Ax L'óot' Doogú.
Plain View Press, devoted to publishing social issues, has now published my collection. The Hide of My Tongue is dedicated to my daughter, Vivian Mork, Yeilk', Cute-Little-Raven, and those who work at revitalzing the Tlingit language.

The Hide of My Tongue is a familial and historical account of the loss & revitalization of the Tlingit language. The Hide of My Tongue explores the historical and contemporary effects of the loss of one of the world’s most complex languages: Tlingit.

The book includes a study guide by Professor Lance Twitchell, X'unei, and a Tlingit language glossary.

For your enjoyment here is a poem from this collection:

Cephalic Index

I took my baby
to the Public Health Nurse
and the nurse measured her head,
pulling the tape taut around
my baby girl’s thick black hair,
measuring her cranial capacity,
measuring again just to be sure.
They wanted me to come back
but I told them
of course she has a family head,
she’s from the Head House
—Kaa Shaayi Hít,
and she is also a Mork
She is Norwegian
She is Táax’—Snail
She is Yéil—Raven
But they made me
bring her back anyway
and they still kept measuring,
telling me they were concerned
about the diagnosis behind
the circumference of her head,
but I told them
no need to be concerned because
I am the mother-expert
who knows
there needs to be room enough
inside her head
for all our histories;
because someday I know she’ll be the one—
the one who tells our stories,
since we belong
to a people
who are measured
by our words.

*originally appeared in Tidal Echoes

Photo by Mitch Mork


Vivian Faith Prescott writes poems that explore the boundaries of a marginalized people whose language has survived centuries of genocidal intentions and now hangs on by delicate tendrils. She is faithful to the beauty of an ancient language that is rooted in place, and her poetry is a welcome and violent resistance to linguistic and cultural death.
X'unei, Lance A. Twitchell, M.F.A., Associate Professor of Native Languages, University of Alaska Southeast, author of Tlingit Language Dictionary
The Hide of My Tongue is also available on Amazon.


craftygreenpoet said…
Congratulations! That's an amazing poem too!
Cindy M Bell said…
Morning Vivian! I've awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award! As with all awards, tiaras, and the like, there's some responsibilities (which is really just a fun way to meet great bloggers). More info at

Also, congrats on The Hide of My Tongue! Great things are happening.

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