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poetry Welcome to Indian Country

Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest celebrates the beloved “Indian Country,” even welcomes people aboard, but adds a surprise twist to the invitation.

Welcome to Indian Country

By Rena Priest


Where is Indian Country?

It’s everywhere we stand.

It’s anywhere we dance.

It’s where the earth loves

the feel of our feet.


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Welcome to Indian Country.

What does that mean?

It means this is where

we lift our voice in song

and make a joyful drumbeat

so our hearts can sing along.

Welcome to Indian Country.

This beloved country here,

where we honor our ancestors

by growing stronger every year,

by making laughter the answer

that wipes away our tears.

Welcome to Indian Country.

What does the future hold?

In uncertain times like these

we reach for words like hope

and things we can be sure of—

sunrises, beauty, and love.

Welcome to Indian Country.

It’s everywhere we dance

and where the feast is truly grand.

Welcome to Indian Country.

Now give us back our land!

Rena Priest is a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. She is the incumbent Washington State Poet Laureate and Maxine Cushing Gray Distinguished Writing Fellow. Priest is also the recipient of an Allied Arts Foundation Professional Poets Award and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, Indigenous Nations Poets and the Vadon Foundation. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.