Yonnondio means lament for the lost.
Lament for the aborigines . . . the word itself a dirge . . .
No picture, poem, statement, passing them to the future Yonnondio! Yonnondio!—unlimn’d they disappear; To-day gives place, and faces—the cities, farms, factories fade; A muffled sonorous sound, a wailing word is borne through the air for a moment, Then blank and gone and still, and utterly lost.
From Walt Whitman’s “Yonnondio”
This is the opening quote, placed after the dedication page, of the novel. The first seven lines of Whitman’s poem are removed (leaving only five lines) to direct the quote to relate to the topic of the book—to the people of America and not the original subject the aborigines. The first line is a compilation of Olsen’s own words defining the original poem's intention and part of the missing first line of the original poem. The quote not only references the characters but also the novel itself—in that the end of the book was lost.