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Christina Smith

(1946-11-07) November 7, 1946 (age 74)
San Francisco, California, USA
Occupationwriter, artist, activist

Chrystos (/ˈkrɪsts/; born November 7, 1946, as Christina Smith)[1] is a Menominee writer and two-spirit activist who has published various books and poems that explore indigenous Americans's civil rights, social justice, and feminism.[2] Chrystos is also a lecturer, writing teacher and fine-artist.

Life and career[edit]

Chrystos – a resident of Ocean Shores, Washington]] since 2011[3] – is a lesbian- and two-spirit-identifying writer, artist and activist. Born off-reservation in San Francisco, California, self-identifying as an urban Indian,[4] Chrystos was taught to read by a self-educated father, and began writing poetry at age nine. Chrystos has written of a difficult, "emotional and abnormal" childhood, including sexual abuse by a relative,[4] life with an abusive and depressed Euro-immigrant mother, and a Menominee father who was a WW2 veteran. Menominee.

A self-described political poet, Chrystos was inspired by familial angst stemming from European American cultural hegemony,[5] and more positively influenced by the work of Audre Lorde, Joy Harjo, Elizabeth Woody, and Lillian Pitt, among others,[6] to produce a series of volumes of poetry and prose throughout the 1980s and 1990s (see bibliography below). Chrystos' work focuses on social justice issues, such as how colonialism, genocide, class and gender affect the lives of women and Indigenous peoples.[7] Much of the writer's childhood is evident in works about street life, gardening, mental institutions, incest, "the Man" (authoritarian patriarchy), love, sex, and hate. The works are primarily intended for an audience of Native American / First Nations, people of color more broadly, and lesbians.[8][9] The works are also aimed at raising awareness of Native American heritage and culture, while breaking down stereotypes.[10] Chrystos self-illustrated many of the covers, and usually had the books published in Canada to work around censorious American publishers and "very little support for writers" in the United States.[11]

Chrystos' awards and honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the Human Rights Freedom of Expression Award, the Sappho Award of Distinction from the Astrea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, a Barbara Deming Grant, and the Audre Lorde International Poetry Competition.[10]

Chrystos' activism has focused on efforts to free Norma Jean Croy and Leonard Peltier, and the rights of tribes such as the Diné (Navajo) and Mohawk people.[3][12]


  • This Bridge Called My Back (anthology) Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1981; contributor
  • Not Vanishing, Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1988, ISBN 0-88974-015-1
  • Dream On, Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1991
  • In Her I Am, Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1993
  • Fugitive Colors, Cleveland: Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1995, ISBN 1-880834-11-1
  • Fire Power, Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1995, ISBN 0-88974-047-X
  • Some Poems by People I Like (anthology of 5 poets; Sandra Alland, editor) Toronto: SandrasLittleBookshop, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9739540-1-2; contributor

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Valimaa, Virpi Maria Kristiina; Curtright, Lauren (1997). "Chrystos". Voices from the Gap.
  2. ^ "Chrystos". Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Chrystos: biography", Voices from the Gaps, University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, retrieved January 25, 2012
  4. ^ a b Brehm, Victoria (1998). "Urban Survivor Stories: The Poetry of Chrystos". Studies in American Indian Literatures. 10 (1): 73–82. ISSN 0730-3238. JSTOR 20739440.
  5. ^ Chrystos (1988). Not Vanishing. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers.
  6. ^ Chrystos (1988). Not Vanishing. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers. p. 103.
  7. ^ Stone, Martha E. (September 22, 2004). "Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America". Reference & User Services Quarterly. 44 (1): 84–86.
  8. ^ Chrystos (1988). Not Vanishing. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers. p. 106.
  9. ^ Sorrel, Lorraine, "Not Vanishing", review in Off Our Backs. Washington: March 31, 1989. Vol. 19, No. 3.
  10. ^ a b "12 Incredible Indigenous LGBTQ Women and Two-spirit People You Should Know". Autostraddle. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  11. ^ "Interview With Chrystos". Black Coffee Poet. September 15, 2010. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  12. ^ Local Authors, Bainbridge Public Library, March 26, 2011, archived from the original on January 19, 2012, retrieved January 25, 2012
  • Bealy, Joanne. "An Interview with Chrystos"; Off Our Backs, Vol. 33, September 2003, p. 11
  • E. Centime Zeleke. "Speaking about Language". Canadian Woman Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2, 1996, pp. 33–35.
  • Retter, Yolanda. "Chrystos". Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered History in America, Vol. 1. Edited by Marc Stein. Detroit: Scribner's; 2004, pp. 214–215,
  • "Chrystos", biographical entry at the Voices in the Gaps database of the University of Minnesota; 2009. (PDF download from the target page.)

External links[edit]