From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with: Christos (disambiguation), Christo (disambiguation) or Christus.

Chrystos[pronunciation?], born November 7, 1946 as Christina Smith, is a Menominee two-spirit self-educated writer, activist, and warrior. They have published many books and poems that explore indigenous rights, social justice and feminism.[1] They are also a lecturer, writing teacher and fine-artist.

They have our bundles split open in museums
our dresses & shirts at auctions
our languages on tape
our stories in locked rare book libraries
our dances on film
The only part of us they can’t steal
is what we know.-[2]

Life and career[edit]

Chrystos is a Lesbian- and Two-Spirit-identified writer, who is identified with the pronoun "they". Born off-reservation in San Francisco, California as part of a group called Urban Indians,[3] Chrystos was taught to read by their father, who was self-educated, and began writing poetry at age nine. English was not their first language, and the first version of English that they learned was Black American Street slang because of their residence in the projects, which they were later scolded and humiliated for. They also suffered sexual abuse by a relative.[4] Chrystos experienced an emotional and abnormal childhood due to an abusive and depressed Euro-immigrant mother and a father who was ashamed of his Menominee heritage. At the age of seventeen, Chrystos was put into a mental institution for a summer, and claims that they may not have survived on the streets if that had not happened. They continued to put theirself in and out of the nuthouse for ten years until they realized that it was making the pain worse. Inspired by what they describe as the pain that white culture caused their father,[3] their writing introduces a diverse mixture of characters and ideas and focuses on social justice issues, reaching towards a better understanding of how issues such as colonialism, genocide, class and gender affect the lives of women and Native people. Much of their childhood is evident in their writing about street life, gardening, nuthouses, incest, the Man, love, sex, and hate. Their work is mainly for First Nations people, people of color, and lesbians.[5][6] They also try to raise awareness of Native American heritage and culture, while breaking down stereotypes.[2] They have published many works including Not Vanishing, Dream On, In Her I Am, Fugitive Colors, Fire Power, Red Rollercoaster, and Wilde Reis, and self-illustrated many of the book covers. Their works are published by printing presses in Canada due to America's censorship and the "very little support for writers".[7] They edit minimally by reading the work aloud and sometimes removing words or changing the way that the lines appear. Breaths, thought, and correlation organize the lines of their poems, in which they use visuals to create orality. Chrystos claims that poetry and oral readings are not separate. They hide internal rhymes, puns, word play, and clichés in their poems. They describe themselves as a political poet. Numerous awards including NEA, Human Rights Freedom Of Expression, Sappho Award of Distinction from the Astrea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Barbara Demming Grant, and they also won the Aude Lorde International Poetry Competition have been awarded to Chrystos[2][8] Chrystos was inspired by the work of Audre Lorde, Joy Harjo, Elizabeth Woody, and Lillian Pitt, among others[9] International novels are their preference, because they find the American publishing industry to be too nostalgic of white supremacy. Activism work by Chrystos includes working to free Norma Jean Croy and Leonard Peltier, and working for the rights of tribes such as Dine and Mohawk. They have lived on Bainbridge Island, Washington since 1980.[10][11]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chrystos : The Poetry Foundation". Retrieved 2015-10-22. 
  2. ^ a b c "12 Incredible Indigenous LGBTQ Women and Two-Spirit People You Should Know | Autostraddle". Autostraddle. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  3. ^ a b Chrystos (1988). Not Vanishing. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers. 
  4. ^ "Interview-with-Chrystos". Black Coffee Poet. Retrieved 2016-04-07. 
  5. ^ Chrystos (1988). Not Vanishing. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers. p. 106. 
  6. ^ Sorrel, Lorraine, "Not Vanishing", review in Off Our Backs. Washington: Mar 31, 1989. Vol.19, Iss. 3.
  7. ^ "Interview With Chrystos". Black Coffee Poet. 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2017-05-01. 
  8. ^ "Chrystos". Retrieved 2015-10-22. 
  9. ^ Chrystos (1988). Not Vanishing. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers. p. 103. 
  10. ^ "Chrystos: biography", Voices from the Gaps, University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, retrieved 2012-01-25 
  11. ^ Local authors, Bainbridge Public Library, March 26, 2011, archived from the original on January 19, 2012, retrieved 2012-01-25 
  • Bealy, Joanne. “An Interview With CHRYSTOS.” Off Our Backs, vol. 33, Off Our Backs, Sept. 2003, p. 11
  • E. Centime Zeleke. “Speaking about Language.” Canadian Woman Studies, vol. 16, no. 2, 1996, pp. 33–5.
  • Retter, Yolanda. “Chrystos.” Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered History in America, Edited by Marc Stein, vol. 1, Charles Scribner's Sons, Detroit, 2004, pp. 214–215,

External links[edit]