I'm on the phone with Jamie Figueroa at the Institute of American Indians Arts, a call after several email conversations about how we might feature the schools creative writing MFA students in this week's show on Native American writers. Very diplomatically, she stopped me to let me know something important: when it came to talking about Native Americans, I needed some language lessons. She then sent me a lot to read.
It wasn't a problem of who I was speaking to. Award-winning novelist Tommy Orange, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Best-selling memoirist Terese Mailhot, a member of the Seabird Island Band. Ojibwe novelist and historian David Treuer.
It was an issue of a lack of care in how I was describing who they were. So often we put Native Americans in a box as, well, Native Americans. A monolith. These are unique and different people of an expansive group, citizens of nations, member of tribes, and yes, Native American.
So here’s a shout out to groups represented in this show:
Ojibwe, Nooksack, Muscogee (Creek), Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa, Saponi, Iñupiaq, Diné, Hidatsa, Paiute, Cahuilla, Cupeno, Lower Tanana Athabascan, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sea Bird Island Band, Boricua, Afro-Taíno, Zacateco, and Anishinaabe.