“After All This Becomes Lit”: “Becoming” and Performativity in Contemporary Native Poetry
In contemporary struggles for Indigenous sovereignty, language use is a consistent point of contention. The technology of writing is currently being used as a weapon to erase Indigenous peoples from dominant narratives and out of existence, following in the steps of a long history of linguistic colonialism. As Muscogee writer Joy Harjo states in the introduction to Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America, “To write is often still suspect in our tribal communities, and understandably so. It is through writing in the colonizers’ languages that our lands have been stolen, children taken away.”1 How, then, do Indigenous writers negotiate the complex implications of writing in the words and grammar of the settlers? What does it mean to “reinvent the enemy’s language,” to twist the tongues of an oppressor for one’s own creative and political purposes?