I wear you to pray
For humility
For Power
In the sway of my skirt
I can feel my ancestors tug
Gentle resurgence of love
Carrying millennia of tradition in each step
keenly aware of the way
this imperial cloth brushes my thighs
Yet balanced with the vibrancy of my ribbons
cut, ironed and sewn just right to breathe
Indigenous knowledge into my existence
so when the other looks at me
They look confused
But still I stand
Humble in prayer
in Power
in Resistance
Building waves of survivance
With my sway
So that my babies unborn are awakened in a world that claims
Their spiritual existence
And on the days when I am tired and weak
My sway
soothes my weary soul
And reminds me that
I am descended from warriors
I am a carrier of tradition
And am their living breath eternal
with each sway of my step
I am Love.


Kelsey Leonard is the first Native American woman to graduate from the University of Oxford. Currently, she is a Ph.D student at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario where her research focuses on Indigenous water security and its climatic, territorial and governance underpinnings. In 2016, Kelsey was named to the class of “Native American 40 Under 40” in recognition of her leadership and service to Indian Country. She is an enrolled citizen of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.