There is no dishonor in wisdom.
Before, Indian people had been so defeated, they were always looking for outsiders, for the government, to somehow come in and fix things. But now, they seem to realize that they're the only ones who can save themselves.
I think ethnic and regional labels are insulting to writers and really put restrictions on them. People don't think your work is quite as universal.
I wander around, get the lay of the land and try to imagine what kind of people would have lived there in that historical period. What would they eat? What kind of clothing would they wear? How did they shelter themselves? How did they get around?
Nobody would take checks from Indians, nobody would give them any credit, and nobody would let them drink in the bars. There was a rudeness, a brusqueness, with which the Indians were treated constantly. At a very young age, that had entered my consciousness.
The townspeople outside the reservations had a very superior attitude toward Indians, which was kind of funny, because they weren't very wealthy; they were on the fringes of society themselves.
In a lot of Indian societies, spirituality has been lost, I think it's still the best way of looking at the world for Indians - better than any organized religion in this country.
Richard Hugo taught me that anyone with a desire to write, an ear for language and a bit of imagination could become a writer. He also, in a way, gave me permission to write about northern Montana.
The economic piece is still missing, since it's so hard to attract industry to reservations, but spiritually and educationally, they're doing just fine. Each tribe has a community college now, and they teach the language, they teach the traditions.
My poems were just kind of all over the place. They had no focus, no location, nothing. Kind of a series of images that could have been set anywhere. A lot of the poems were just exercises for myself.
To receive this award from an organization I admire so much makes me totally happy and grateful.
Our literature is in great shape.