[Silence] is a Weapon

Blackfire, 2007

The songwriters have said this song was inspired by the incarceration of Leonard Peltier. Who is Peltier, and why is his incarceration controversial?

Why do you think this song incorporates traditional Navajo singing?

According to the lyrics, "the silence is screaming." Who has been silenced? What do you think the songwriters want us to take away from this silencing? Why should we "take the time to listen" to the silence?

The song lyrics do not mention Peltier by name. How do the lyrics reflect the songwriters' opinions about Peltier and his incarceration?

"[Silence] is a Weapon" performed by Blackfire on [Silence] is a Weapon, Nashville: Tacoho, © 2007. Available on iTunes, YouTube, and Spotify.

For more information about Blackfire, visit their official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult the following online resource for lyrics:


Blackfire is a rock band that consists of three siblings: the brothers Clayson and Klee, and their sister Jeneda Benally. They were born into a musical family in the Navajo Nation in Black Mesa, Arizona. Their father was a traditional Navajo (or Diné) singer, and their mother is a folk singer who participated in the folk music scene in Greenwich Village, New York City. The three siblings came of age at a time when the Navajo people were protesting the relocation of Native Americans and the construction and maintenance of a nearby coal mine that threatens their drinking water and public health. These issues have shaped their lives and music. "Blackfire" is a translation of the Navajo term for warning. The word is derived from the use of smoke signals to alert tribe members of an approaching enemy.


Blackfire's sound was initially inspired by the rawness, driving beat, and emotional content of punk bands such as the Dead Kennedys and the Ramones. They combine this sound with elements of Native American music, creating a fusion called "Alter-Native." After meeting Nora Guthrie, the daughter of Woody Guthrie, Blackfire became influenced by Woody's musical activism (for more on Woody Guthrie, see "Roll On Columbia" and "(If You Ain't Got the) Do, Re, Mi" in Unit 7, as well as "Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" and "This Land Is Your Land" in Unit 8). Nora introduced Blackfire to many of the songs written by her father that were never recorded. One example is "Mean Things Happening In This World," an antiwar song penned in 1943. Blackfire recorded the song as a protest of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The band members believe that recording Guthrie's music connects them to a protest movement that started many years ago and continues to this day.

The song "[Silence] Is a Weapon" comes from the band's 2007 album, also called Silence Is a Weapon, which fuses traditional Native American music and more contemporary styles. The song opens with traditional Navajo singing before diving into the punk sound that characterizes so much of the band's music. The song was inspired by the incarceration of indigenous activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of murdering two FBI agents in 1975. His conviction has been called into question, and Amnesty International has deemed his trial unfair. In an interview with NPR, Klee said that Peltier "stood up to defend his land and his people, [and] has been incarcerated for more than half of his life for a crime he did not commit."

Diné means "the People" or "Children of the Holy People" The Navajo reservation is the largest in the United States, encompassing ten million acres across northern Arizona, northwest New Mexico, and southeast Utah. It is one of the most arid and barren portions of the American desert.



Creative Commons License
Voices Across Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at voices.pitt.edu/Permissions.html.