Introduction: A Passion for WritingMay 15th, 1997 | By mambler | Category: Student 1997
By Marjane Ambler
The breath and blood of tribal college students flow through the pages that follow. The students represent different cultures, different colleges, and different generations, but they all take their writing seriously. Shanna Estigoy conveys their passion for writing when she says, “I will continue writing until my hand cripples and falls off.”
These students’ writing differs markedly from college students’ elsewhere. They speak about the joyful anguish of childbirth, the pain of racism, the cost of alcoholism, and the simple pleasures of hanging laundry.
The typical tribal college student is older and thus would be considered “non-traditional” at most universities. Many are single women with several children. In recent years, however, the number of younger students and the number of men have begun to increase. For example, Shanna Estigoy attends Haskell Indian Nations University classes with her father, who retired from the U.S. Navy and now plans to be a teacher. Henry Etcitty attended Crownpoint Institute of Technology with his mother, Shirley Ellsworth, and both are accomplished poets.
Virgil Chase (Ma-E-Bah, Good-ash) is a 54-year-old student at Fort Berthold Community College. His many life experiences, in the military and in the sport of boxing, provide a rich lode for his writing to draw upon. Yet it was not until he signed up for the tribal college’s composition class that he discovered his talent for writing poetry and short stories.
While Virgil is new to writing, his classmate, Twyla Baker, has been writing short stories for many years. She believes, like many writers, that she can express herself much better on paper than in person. Despite her age, 19, her insights about racism are profound.
Most of the writers in this collection would be considered “traditional” in their own communities, and their writing reflects that. Winona St. Claire, for example, provides her insights on a very traditional practice, smudging. Ronya Hoblit intertwines concepts of cooperation in her poem, “The Braid.” The language and the landmarks of the Blackfoot Confederacy enrich the poetry of Cheryl Blood-Rides at the Door. In Tony Rowe’s short story, a raven carries an important message about appropriate behavior. The poems of both Kathy Birdsbill and Rhonda Quagon convey their respect for their elders.
Through her grandmother’s words, Rhonda learned to be grateful for everyday pleasures despite the hardships. The words of these students represent more than everyday pleasures. They represent hope for the future of their people.
Winds of Breath Blow By Cheryl Blood-Rides at the Door
The Black Sea’s Water Tastes Like Tears By Shanna Estigoy
The Big Meeting By Virgil Chase (Ma-E-Bah, Good-ash)
Superficial Wounds By Henry Etcitty
Live Fast, Love Hard, and Die Young By Shirley Ellsworth
Rebirth of Day By Michelle Vernon
The Braid By Ronya J. Hoblit
Hands By Kathy Birdsbill
I am Worthy By Donette White Bear
Grandmother’s Words By Rhonda Quagon
Laundry Day By Cindy Heart
Smudging By Winona St. Claire
Growing Up By Twyla Baker
In the House of a Raven By Tony L. Rowe
Crow Boy and the Magic Feather By Michelle Rose Judy