Fall 2003 TCJ Student Edition – Introduction

Aug 15th, 2003 | By | Category: Student 2003
By Joseph Bruchac

Telling Their Own Stories

Two thoughts came to me as I read these new writings by tribal college students. The first was how important it is to tell your own stories. Not only because no one can see the world as you do, but also because if you don’t tell your story someone else may tell a story about you. (We all know what sorts of things have been published in the past by those who think they know us better than we know ourselves. Indian writers are one fine antidote against Anglo anthropology. )

The second thought was that I wished I had more space to discuss the promising, strong, and moving stories and poems in this collection. I have read things here that I’ve not seen before, yet are so well-expressed they seem as familiar as old friends. I love, for example, the way Orlando White begins his poem “Dots” with the line “Open a book. Read with semicolon eyes.” I don’t mean that these works are easy or soothing. Some of these writers have spun words together like the tip of a bowdrill on a board, bringing forth fire. Athena Marie Gray’s poem, “Cheyenne Baby,” offers one example of the power of poetry to shock us out of complacency. Her description of a doctor being “as calm as a cavalry colonel about to attack” as he suggests an abortion is like being punched in the stomach. It speaks to so many of our histories.

All these young men and women deserve to be mentioned. So let me do just that. Melanie Cesspooch, James J. Pushetonequa, Dulbert Yazzie, Matilda Dili, weaving their words into the fabric of imagination. Garren Denny, Sacheen Smith, D.G. Nanouk Okpik, dancing their dreams across the page. Jennifer Foerster, Dusty Murphy, Doug Begay, walking the trail of words with courage. Julius A. Holy Bear, Sr., Jeffrey Scott Tibbetts, Mitigemezh, Ben L. Rosales, Madeline Morningfire Myers, Adrian Jawort, painting the cave walls of the mind. Nina Denise Lincoln, Geraldine Witt Goes in Center, Lela Schwitzer, Jerry Kirk, adding their logs to the ceremonial fire of our songs. I suspect that all these are names you’ve never seen in print before. But if you’re lucky, you’ll probably encounter them again.

One of the best things about being asked to write an introduction to a collection of work by young writers is that it gives me the opportunity to respond to poems and stories that no one else has written about before, to remind readers to pay close attention and keep the names of these people in their memory.

And now it is your turn. Listen. Read with care. It’s not that these young Native wordsmiths may be the next Sherman Alexie, the next Simon Ortiz or Louise Erdrich. But that they are so wholly themselves, already crafting songs of intellectual and spiritual survival. May these poems and stories be just their first steps as they continue to write and grow, sharing their histories, strengthening our future.

Joseph Bruchac is the founder of The Greenfield Review Press and has edited a number of anthologies of contemporary American Indian writing. His own work as a writer and storyteller often reflects his Abenaki ancestry–as is the case with his new novel, The Winter People.


Telling Their Own Stories by Joseph Bruchac
Cheyenne Baby By Athena Marie Gray
Dots By Orlando White
Cyberworld By Doug Begay
Spring Flowers and Breeze By Matilda Dili
I Read By Melanie Cesspooch
Returning By James J. Pushetonequa
Matt-Choo-Choo And Me By Garren Denny
An Ordinary Day By Dulbert Yazzie
The Sympathetic Eagle And The Poor Chicken By Mitigemezh
Adoption By D.G. Nanouk Okpik
October 12, 2001 By Dusty Murphy
Birthmark By Jennifer Foerster
Frida Kahlo By Sacheen Smith
Rescue From Hell By Julius A. Holy Bear, Sr.
More Than An Elk Hunt By Jeffrey Scott Tibbetts
The Speed Of Pain By Jerry Kirk
Scream Of The Eagle By Ben L. Rosales
Without Apology By Madeline Morningfire Myers
Life After Death By Nina Denise Lincoln
Summers On Legend Lake By Lela Schwitzer
To The Clouds By Adrian Jawort
Automatic Pilot By GeraldineWitt Goes In Center

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