Layli Long Soldier Confronts the Duplicitous Language of the US Government

Three Poems from the New Collection, Whereas

March 7, 2017  By Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators. Long Soldier’s work has been described as, “Elegant and painful, formally surprising, personal and historic […] a fearless, polyphonic crossing of cultures and languages in the service of both tenderness and trenchant critique.”


From the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans (S. J. Res. 14—111th Congress (2009-2010)):


Acknowledgment of Apology. –The United States, acting through Congress–

(5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together;

Layli Long Soldier responds:

layli long soldier


Below is Long Soldier’s “Resolution (6),” from a sequence that responds to the 2009 Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans. After the opening paragraph, the text at left is from Mark K. Tilsen (Pine Ridge, South Dakota) in his Facebook post, September 20, 2016; the text at right is from Waniya Locke (Standing Rock, North Dakota) in a personal interview conducted by the author, September 19, 2016.

(6) I too urge the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land although healing this land is not dependent never has been upon this President meaning tribal nations and the people themselves are healing this land its waters with or without Presidential acknowledgment they act upon this right without apology:

To speak to law enforcement

these Direct Action Principles

be really clear always ask

have been painstakingly drafted

who what when where why

at behest of the local leadership

e.g. Officer, my name is _______

from Standing Rock

please explain

and are the guidelines

the probable cause for stopping me

for the Oceti Sakowin camp

you may ask

I acknowledge a plurality of ways

does that seem reasonable to you

to resist oppression

don’t give any further info


People ask why do you bring up

we are Protectors

so many other issues it’s because

we are peaceful & prayerful

these issues have been ongoing

“isms” have no place

for 200 years they’re interdependent

here we all stand together

we teach the distinction

we are non-violent

btwn civil rights & civil liberties

we are proud to stand

btwn what’s legal & what isn’t legal

no masks

the camp is 100% volunteer

respect locals

it’s a choice to be a Protector

no weapons

liberty is freedom

or what could be construed as weapons

of speech it’s a right

property damage does not get us closer

to privacy a fair trial

to our goal

you’re free

all campers must get an orientation

from unreasonable search

Direct Action Training

free from seizure of person or home

is required

& civil disobedience: the camp is

for everyone taking action

an act of civil disobedience

no children

now the law protects the corporation

in potentially dangerous situations

so the camp is illegal

we keep each accountable

you must have a buddy system

to these principles

someone must know when you’re leaving

this is a ceremony

& when you’re coming back

act accordingly


From the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans (S. J. Res. 14—111th Congress (2009-2010)):


Acknowledgment of Apology. –The United States, acting through Congress–

(7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.

Layli Long Soldier responds:

layli long soldier

Layli Long Soldier
Layli Long Soldier
Layli Long Soldier holds a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA from Bard College. She is the recipient of an NACF National Artist Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She is the author of Chromosomory (Q Avenue Press, 2010) and WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017), which received the 2018 PEN/Jean Stein Award and the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award and was named a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award. She resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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