Our April 2015 Collaborative Residency features Alice Crow and Ruby Murray, who will be living and writing together for the month.
An introduction from Ali: I am Maar’aq~Alice Rose Crow. My family and friends also call me Ali (pronounced All-E or Alley).
Born and raised in Bethel—on the lower Kuskokwim River in southwest Alaska—my journeys are extensive. My life experience includes fishing, hunting, gathering, hiking, camping, creating, writing, boating, flying, ferrying, rafting, train-ing, and/or driving from our Bay upriver to near the Kusquqvak headwaters, through Alaska, Hawai’i, into western Canada, across theUnited States and along her shores, into Mexico, and the northern reaches of Japan.
I have lived around the state, including the Mat-Su Valley, Kotzebue, and Fairbanks. I nest in Spenard, a homestead turned old westside Anchorage neighborhood, near water and where planes take off. I am a momma, granny, lover, ilung, relative, and friend.
Wherever I find myself, I am a Yuk. Yuk refers to a Central Yup’ik Eskimo indigenous to windswept low watery tundra deltas. Yup’ik, Yuit, Yupiat, Yuks translate as real people. This Yuk writes for all of us, to affirm and represent the existence of my own people through the lens of my direct experience within my own real family.
As an emerging diasporic writer of the far west, I embark on a journey to create and release varied-form unhidden works of my homeland: our diaspora, and world.
I have been an emerging writer for over fifteen years. My short pieces have been read and heard close and far since 2000. A next writerly goal is to publish book-length works. Towards this end, I have migrated to and from the snaking high desert road outside of Mud City for two years to earn my seat as a member of the inaugural class of the Institute of American Indi(genous)an Arts low-residency MFA program in creative writing. I study under expert guidance, including mentorship by Chip Livingston, Elissa Washuta, and Linda Hogan.
While in Sitka I will complete a dual tracked ten-part mixed-form literary nonfiction manuscript. An Offering of Words is a collection of personal monographs naming rapid changes to indigeneity while also offering reminders to maintain balance and continuity passed down…to Maar’aq to Granny—to Ma—to me… In this offering, I name absurdities of invasion in the generation of great-grandmothers and highlight forces that shape our renewal as real people staying steady in these times of rapid change and anomie. I unmask unspoken silences for possibilities of stepping through lulling lies, disinterest, and suspicion to arrive at truer reflections of relationships with and on this earth; for the sake of our future as distinct peoples.
An Offering of Words will be submitted in May 2015 to fulfill a creative manuscript requirement for an MFA degree. Earlier versions and excerpts of the work have been published inBrevity blog, Camas, Yellow Medicine Review, River, Blood, and Corn, Retort, Frontiers, and Standards, and read at a Ceremony of Healing: Expressions Concerning Violence toward Alaska Native Women, Literary Reading by Alaska Native Women in 2001, and at the inaugural Alaska Native Studies Conference held at the University of Alaska Anchorage in April 2013. In December, a first chapter of this work was nominated for national review in the AWP Intro Journals Project competition. Several excerpts are forthcoming in the Hinchas de Poesia Issue 15 and in the Spring 2015 issue of Yellow Medicine Review slated to be launched at Alaska Pacific University by guest editor Joan Naviyuk Kane on Hitler’s birthday, April 20.
My second focus will be to finalize an approximately 6700-word experimental mixed form academic essay. In it—like ceremonial masks created by real people to simultaneously manifest intent and alter circumstances—a heavily annotated braided mosaic form is used to illustrate how creative works might achieve multiple aims.
To augment my quiet work, during my Island Institute fellowship I will visit residents at the Pioneer Home each Thursday afternoon in April. On Tuesday afternoons I will sit with a curator in the presence of representations of Yup’ik material culture taken from our homeland to live in our diaspora, in this case, at a state museum. I have also offered to participate in dialogue with Mount Edgecumbe High School Braves. Whatever our conversation, I hope to encourage each person to give voice to their own life experiences and foster artistic development that by its nature strengthens community dialogue. I hope to facilitate listening, encourage witnessing through the written and spoken word, and express what life has taught me about resiliency and continuance. I will visit and gather with my kinspeople living in Sitka, and be egged on by my award-winning colleague Ruby Hansen Murray. We have proposed a public reading to coincide with Earth Day, April 22nd. See you there?
An introduction from Ruby:
I’m a writer and photographer living on Puget Island in the lower Columbia River. As an enrolled Osage, I travel to Pawhuska, Oklahoma where my father was born for ceremonial dances and meetings of our Native American Church.
I’ve been a reader and writer from my earliest years. As a girl, I spent time tucked in libraries on military posts in Japan, France, Virginia and Arkansas. When my father retired to Ft. Bliss in El Paso, I didn’t know that some people stayed in one place. I lived in cities in Northern California and Portland, Oregon before I came to Cathlamet and encountered multi-generational stories like those I’d heard from my parents about the Osage and about life in the Virgin Islands.
Fishers from Cathlamet travel to Alaska each year as the fishery on the Columbia River declines as a result of political and environmental challenges. My father-in-law was one of the men who first ran a boat up from Puget Island to fish the Copper River flats and Prince William Sound. An immigrant, Pete said the reason he now lived on Puget Island was that the herring hadn’t come to Norway one year. My creative work focuses on resilience in the face of environmental change and displacement. I write about commercial fishing communities, and also, about present and historical Wah Zha Zhi.
The Heart Stays People is my novel-in-progress set in the early 1820’s when hundreds of Osage children were orphaned. Junot Díaz said he was “fascinated by the almost mythic resonances of the story” in which an Osage girl tries to return to her tribe. Chapters have won notice in contests in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Portland, Oregon. Recently, a chapter that intrigued IAIA faculty Sherman Alexie placed in the Tribal College Journal contest. My Osage relatives tell me how important it is that I add to the published stories of indigenous people.
My creative work, poetry, hybrid essay and fiction, appears or is forthcoming in Wild in the Willamette, Four Winds Literary Magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, About Place, and Oregon Humanities Magazine and Oregon Public Radio. My process has been inspired by generous teachers like Luis Urrea at Fishtrap in Eastern Oregon and Joanne Mulcahy at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the Oregon coast. I began studying for an MFA in fiction at Warren Wilson College in 2014 and transferred to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe where I’m completing my third semester. I’m fortunate to be a VONA/Voices fellow, and have been awarded residencies at Jentel, Playa and at Hypatia-in-Woods: each took me deep into a distant community, brought me stories rooted in those places. While at Sitka I will revise the novel, a hybrid form that aligns historical records with the oral histories in our family and tribes.
My photographs, inspired by the lower Columbia River and the trips I take with my husband away from our home in the temperate rainforest, appear in Hinchas de Poesia, Salal and American Ghost: Poets on Life After Industry by Stockport Flats Press. I’ve participated in collaborative projects that appear in Duende and Conversations Across Borders and have exhibited regionally in “Connecting Waters,” curated by Lower Columbia College and at River Life Interpretive Center in Skamokawa, Washington.
I look forward to spending time in Sitka at the Island Institute. I’ll come to know Sitka’s libraries, its communities and history, and spend time with Alice Rose Crow, whose instinct for truth telling feeds my creativity. I will offer writing workshops that have been successful with post-MFA writers like those at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, as well as with community and tribal groups. I look forward to meeting local writers, and the chance to share stories.