Number of page: 102
Publisher: 39 West Press
Striking the Black Snake: Poems from Standing Rock by MG Salazar is a wild and raw book in
equal parts manifesto, testimonial, how-to-manual, and confessional.
Written during the winter of 2016-2017 after Salazar's "calling" to
travel to the Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota to be a water protector
and prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the poems
chronicle the struggles and trials of the protesters, look deeply at
those behind the crop dusters and riot gear, and speak to the children
of the future, for whom the water must be preserved.
But this book is more than a call to a shared humanity. It is a journal
of discovery and purpose in search of a code in which the heart, the
voice, and the tears—the primordial gifts of the Creator—can make a
being whole, and its poems are a liturgy couched in terms of a personal
narrative that investigates the poet themselves: their life-long sense
of alienation, their struggles with addiction, the acceptance of their
identity, and the need to contribute meaningfully to future generations
by standing up for the rights of indigenous peoples and the health of
Salazar, who was raised Latinx but discovered through genetic analysis
their native American lineage, shares with us from the ground their
perspective of an important moment in U.S. history, which has its roots
in a harrowing youth, a whispered and denied ancestry, and the dogged
determination to stand like a pillar of salt in the wake of a social and
political system intent on destroying rather than creating. The poet
also shares their intimate journey, facilitated by their endeavors at
Standing Rock, to reclaim an identity that had been lost to colonialism.
The songs of Striking the Black Snake tell not
only Salazar's story but also proudly sing of the strength and
endurance of native peoples, who battle daily the dirge of the black
snake, the oil, which the current U.S. government and its corporate
partners value more than We the People. This book, therefore, represents the culmination of those songs.