Native American Resilience

In the poem “Savage Eloquence,” Chrystos writes about the importance of land to Native Americans. Chrystos begins and ends the poem directly speaking to a mountain by saying “Big mountain/ you big story you big/ thing” (1-3). By starting the poem off like this, speaking to a landmass as if it is a living being, she is establishing the Native American belief that spirits inhabit everything around us. This sets the groundwork for the poem being all about Native American beliefs and customs and how white America views Indigenous peoples.

Chrystos writes, “walls more walls jails more jails agencies thieves rapists &/ drunken refuge/ from lives with nothing left” (18-20). This is succinctly saying that non-natives in America view the Native Americans as walled in drunken convicts that have nothing to live for. However, Chrystos doesn’t care that this is how white people view Natives because at the end of the day, the Native Americans are holding onto their culture as tightly as possible and will not let it go just because a bunch of white people try to take it from them. Instead, she says, “Everything we have left is in our hearts/ deeply hidden No photograph or tape recorder or drawing can/ touch/ the mountain of our spirits” (29-33). She is saying that Native Americans remember their history and will not succumb to white people in power trying to erase their culture and customs. She writes, “Vanishing is no metaphor Big mountain you are no news our/ savage/ eloquence is dust between their walls their thousand deaths” (25-27). This is saying that Indigenous voices are meaningless in the eyes of white people. They don’t care what Natives have to say because whites believe Native Americans are inferior to them and not worth listening to. But Chrystos doesn’t care because by writing “Big mountain you are too big you are too small you are such an/ old/ old story” (57-59), she proves that Native American stories and culture will not be forgotten as long as they remember it.

2 thoughts on “Native American Resilience”

  1. Hello, I really enjoyed how sympathetic your analysis was towards the Native American experience, and rightly so! Some of the lines you picked from this poem, “walls more… nothing left” (18-20) brought to mind the sections of Eli Clare’s Exile and Pride titled “clearcut: end of the line” and “casino: an epilogue.” Clare exposes the fact that, in attempt to combat the inevitable unemployment that would accompany the defunding of the timber industry, more maximum-security prisons are being built. In addition, she mentions the Mill Casino developed by the Coquelle Indian Tribe, which could be a type of “drunken refuge” where these Native Americans are able to garner a decent fortune by creating a space where they can also feel they are taking back from the white man, but who, unfortunately, still holds captive so many other parts of their homeland for the accumulation of their own wealth. So, while I absolutely agree with your analysis, I believe it can also be read as a description of problems and solutions that haven’t truly solved much of anything.

  2. I think this was such an insightful post and interesting close reading of “Savage Eloquence” because it highlights the importance of Native American beliefs and the perspectives “outsiders” have on them. The author of this does a good job of analyzing the quotes that relate to nature and connecting the meaning back to the significance it holds to Native Americans. Perhaps in an effort to further answer the So What question, the author can speak about why it is so important that they conserve their tradition that is so actively working to be undermined by White America. Maybe push to add your own inference as to why it matters how White America views Native Americans? Why should they care, what are some possible implications that can lead to harmful stereotypes that are inflicted with the White America stereotypes?

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