Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

  • Not a critical or scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar


I Have Not Signed a Treaty

with the United States Government

Chrystos, b. 1946, Menominee Nation (Wisconsin)

Discussion questions: 1. How does this poem exemplify American Indian identity as a minority narrative, particularly loss and survival? How does it differ from the immigrant narrative? Compare to Handsome Lake, How the White Man Came to America.

2. What images or symbols identify the dominant culture, its system or values? What images or symbols identify American Indian culture and its values? Other literary devices?

3. What poetic, aesthetic, and cultural appeals or disadvantages to the confrontational style of minority attitudes of resistance or opposition rather than assimilation?

4. How do the spacing and intermittent punctuation imitate a spoken performance, suggesting a spoken-word culture like the American Indians and not a literate culture like dominant-culture USA?

I Have Not Signed a Treaty with the United States Government

nor has my father nor his father

nor any grandmothers

We don’t recognize these names on old sorry paper.

Therefore we declare the United States a crazy person

nightmare   lousy food  ugly clothes  bad meat                                      5

nobody we know


No one wants to go there.  This US is theory   illusion

terrible ceremony   The United States can’t dance  can’t cook

has no children   no elders   no relatives

They build funny houses no one lives in but papers                             10

Everything the United States does to everybody is bad

No this US is not a good idea   We declare you terminated

You’ve had your fun now go home we’re tired   We signed

no treaty   WHAT are you still doing here  Go somewhere else and


build a McDonald’s   We’re going to tear all this ugly mess                 15

down now   We revoke your papers

your soap suds   your stories are no good

your colors hurt our feet   our eyes are sore

our bellies  are tied in sour knots  Go Away Now

You must be some ghost in the wrong place   wrong time                   20

Pack up your toys   garbage   lies

We  who are alive now

Have signed no treaties

Burn down your stuck houses  you’re sitting

in a nowhere gray glow  Your spell is dead                                           25

Go so far away we won’t remember you ever came here

Take these words back with you