Writing, Reading and Living

   

Welcome and thank you for visiting. I'm an author, essayist, memoirist and nonfiction writer and I've been writing and publishing for decades. For me, writing is a way of reaching out to others, to people I don't know. I sit alone, in silence, but all that time I’m out there, connecting with whoever reads my words.

Race, Ethnicity and My Face

As a woman of Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca, German ancestry, I came of age understanding that I'm not totally white nor am I totally Native. I'm a border woman dwelling between the boundaries. 

I have light skin, light enough that some people think I’m totally white. My dad, a Native man, and my mother, a white woman, had me when they were teenagers. We lived in a mixed-race community in Los Angeles throughout the 1950s and 60s. The family next door was Bolivian and they loved me like a daughter. My best friend was Japanese and Mexican. Still, when I was 10 years-old, my dad sat me down to have “the talk” with me about race. He told me about how to navigate the streets, about how to stay safe. He wanted to make sure I understood that in order to be accepted by certain white people it mattered who your friends were. By that point, however, I already knew. 
 
I had discovered that when I went to play at the houses of my white friends after school I needed to be aware of how I was holding myself at all times. I learned to stay alert and watch for clues: sometimes there might be an older brother who pulled his eyes in an upward slant and said something mean about Chinese people; or a father that casually spouted racial slurs at people of color. When this happened, I knew I had to make an excuse to go home and I’d never go back. 

Yellow Medicine Review: Women’s Wisdom, Women’s Strength

“Remember that I am just a woman who is living a very abundant life. Every step I take forward is on a path paved by strong Indian women before me.” 
—Wilma Mankiller 
 
From our grandmothers and aunties and sisters to the women who write stories, lead states, and sit as poet laureate for the United States, we turn to Native women for their strength, wisdom, and leadership. 
 
“Oh woman 
Remember who you are 
Woman 
It is the whole earth.” 
“The Blanket Around Her” 
—Joy Harjo 

I’m deeply honored to have my work included. Growing Old in a Beautiful Way, page 59 is an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir, We Who Walk The Seven Ways.

A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought

Take A Stand: Art Against Hate


I'm honored to have my work included .

Take a Stand: Art Against Hate
A Raven Chronicles Anthology

“The poems and stories in this anthology offer necessary anecdotes against hate. They are inscription, instruction, witness, warning, remedy, solution, even solace. This anthology is relief.” 
 —Diane Glancy 
Winner of an Amerian Book Award and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry 

“We can regard Take a Stand: Art Against Hate as a print-form peace march, an ongoing campaign for justice for all of the struggles embodied in these writings and depicted in the artwork included here.” 
 —Carolyne Wright
co-editor of Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace

Take a Stand: Art Against Hate, contains poems, stories and images from 117 writers, 53 artists, with 69 illustrations, divided into five fluid and intersecting sections: LegaciesWe Are HereWhy?Evidence, and Resistance. We begin with Legacies because the current increased climate of hate in this country didn’t begin with the 2016 election, and to find its roots we must look to U.S. history.

Dancing to Remember

I am gathered with friends and family under a bead blue California sky. Powwow weekend. Santa Ynez Chumash Inter-Tribal. My shawl is folded over my arm. I listen to the wind, spilling through the tree leaves. Time merges with timelessness. Memories circle and carry me to a day forty years ago, when I stood on this good land, near the oak tree for the first time, with my young children gathered about. 
The same tree I am standing under today. 

I lean my back against this oak. This tree, giver of life. She has raised a community with song, dance and prayer. We return to this land, to this tree, in October every year. Laughter, flirting and romance in lives young and old take place all around her. 


She stands sentry. Her autumn softened leaves, swept up from a cool mountain breeze, fall gently on American Indian fathers holding sleeping babies. Mothers trading stories, their shiny cut beads reflecting light while braiding their children’s hair, with feathers in the colors of the earth, trailing. 

There were difficult times too for this oak tree, when she witnessed wild fires raging, drought years with dust rising against the clear sky. The times when her branches sheltered human arguments and angry outbursts, but mostly she is surrounded by love and caring. 


I stand high upon a flat rock, my eyes roaming, taking in the day, the years. Filling my lungs with sweet fragrances of the damp Mother Earth. Feeling my body grow light, like the feathers of the red tail hawk touching the soft clouds. 


For the record I am not California Indian. I am an Indian born in California, mixedblood Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca, and for forty years I lived in an area that makes up the traditional Chumash homeland. I’m walking gently, a guest on this good land and I hold the culture, traditions and history of the Chumash people in my heart. For my Chumash friends this is their landscape of time. 


I remember the words of my aunties and my grandmothers, about how each person is a connection to history and when we gather around the area and form a circle around the drums, singers and dancers we are all connected, and it's our way of saying that American Indian people are still here. This is our celebration of life past, present and future. 


First published in the Spring 2019 issue of News From Native California a quarterly magazine devoted to California's Indian peoples. 

© 2019 Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.  

The Cherokee Word for Water

I grew up within in a large extended Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca family. With grandparents and great-grandparents, with roots in Oklahoma. Great-grandma could fix a meal to feed fifteen of us and I loved to sit beside her coal black stove, listening to her stories. I’m the granddaughter of sharecroppers, and I was born to a teenage mother and father in 1953. When I was young, we were poor—but we had water. 

Having water meant we always had plenty to eat. We had fresh running water to rinse, soak and simmer pots of pinto beans and black-eyed peas. In the summer when rainfall was not plentiful, since the water table was usually high, we could turn the hose on to soak the apple and peach tree and their fruit fed us in return.

There was water for pie baking, and when the sun seared overhead water to mix with Kool-Aid to freeze into popsicles. Home canned goods must be put up in hot, sterilized jars and we had water for boiling before we used them. We had water to wash our hands before pressing a tortilla on a hot skillet, and it was clean and safe to drink.

 

When no one else believed in them, they believed in each other. 


Set in the early 1980s, the story of The Cherokee Word for Water begins in a small town in rural Oklahoma where many houses lack running water. The film tells the story of a tribal community joining together to build a waterline by using traditional Native values of reciprocity and interdependence and is told from the perspective of Wilma Mankiller and Charlie Soap, who join forces to battle opposition and build a 16-mile waterline system using a community of volunteers. In the process, they inspire the townspeople to trust each other, to trust their way of thinking, and to spark a reawakening of the universal indigenous values of reciprocity and interconnectedness. This project also inspired a self-help movement in Indian Country that continues to this day.


The Cherokee Word for Water” is dedicated to Wilma Mankiller’s vision, compassion and incredible grace, and tells the story of the work that led her to become the Chief of the Cherokee Nation. The film was funded through the Wilma Mankiller Foundation to continue her legacy of social justice and community development in Indian Country. 

Earth and the Great Sea

I am sitting at a small pine table, writing, facing southwest, toward the creek. Outside, it’s a sunny, hot day. My view has a birdbath with two thirsty scrub jays taking turns drinking and splashing. Behind the birdbath is the garden with late season cherry tomatoes and red serrano peppers clinging to spent vines. My dog is rooting in the garden, she has developed a taste for tomatoes. 

A few minutes before I sat down to write I received an email from an editor letting me know that my work was accepted for publication in a literary journal I value. Sometimes, when I am at my best, it’s wonderful being a writer. I’m happy writing and people pay me to be happy. This is a result of the days when my writing work is serious and focused. 

Other days I write without a goal or a plan. First, with pen and paper I write three pages of raw, rough draft thoughts. The purpose is to tap into my mind, and see what might be lurking in my subconscious. Later I pick through my journal and find selections to share in my online journal. My online journal at Earth and The Great Sea, is my open field to explore, think out loud, push boundaries and have fun. Wander along with me.

In Writing Motherhood

I'm well into grandmotherhood and I'm leaving a trail of my motherhood footsteps behind. I've reprinted twenty of my favorite previously published essays with themes of motherhood, race and ethnicity, community and family ties.
 
The other day a good writer-friend asked me, “Have you considered writing a book about motherhood after the kids are grown?” A sequel to my memoir Pushing up the Sky? Hmmm. I wonder what that book would be about? 
 
Another writer-friend came up with the perfect title 'Sex and the City Indian' a collection of narratives written by Native women about romance, family and marriage, and you can count me in. 
 
But kidding aside, I have completed a second memoir and when I was in the early stages of writing I discovered that first I needed to explore how my identity as a mother has grown and changed over the past 40-plus years, and in order to move forward, I had to go back and explore themes of community, race, ethnicity, family ties and motherhood. 

Please join me at In Writing Motherhood. Or maybe you would rather read 'Sex and the City Indian.'

River, Blood, And Corn Literary Journal

As a writer with four decades of writing and publishing behind me I've reached an age at which I spend a great deal of time working to make sure the diversity in writing I find important will continue. 
 
At River, Blood, And Corn Literary Journal, I'm collaborating with writers, storytellers and artists, promoting community and strengthening cultures with storytelling, poetry and prose. 

Follow along with us. 
Terra Trevor, Founding Editor 

Indigenous Thoughts: American Indians, Looking Back, Going Forward

It’s Fall, my favorite time of year and the season when the teacher, educator, activist, Native American woman, mother and grandmother in me gets up and roars. Because we’re heading into territory where some Americans celebrate some American holidays in a manner that can leave harmful images and lasting negative impressions. 

I'm listing a few of my previously published articles and other links that shine a bright light on strong, positive views of collective Indianness and the dignity of Native American identity. 

Given the diversity and the demographics of the United States, perhaps people of many ethnicities, including recent immigrants from throughout the Americas as well as other parts of the world will find something in this collection that will speak to them with respect to issues of race, identity, culture, community, and representation. 

10 of my favorite places in the US where you can experience Native American cultures

One of my earliest memories is watching Grandma sew beads on Uncle Elmer’s deer skin leggings. Listen to my grandmother and you’ll hear stories about me in diapers moving to the heartbeat of the drum. 

Talk to me and I’ll tell you about my husband recalling how unfamiliar he felt when he first met me and found himself the only non-Indian person among American Indians. Blending our lives (and later raising our children) helped me gather opportunities where he could begin to understand and learn about Native lifeways.  


Recently an editor invited me to contribute an article about friendly places to experience Native American cultures. While researching the piece I had fun traveling from my armchair revisiting some of my favorite places. 

You will notice that the title of the original article says culture. It ought to read cultures, reflecting the fact that Native American people are of many tribes, Nations, cultures, languages and histories. 

I greatly enjoyed researching and writing the article and I’m thankful for the invitation to take my readers into Native America to visit the thriving lifeways of a continuing land and people. 

Read my article at Matador Network to see 10 of my favorite places to discover modern-day Indian life and to observe tribal descendants echo and give expression to cultural traditions. 

"The landscape will teach you who you are."—Pikuni Elder Joe Crowshoe, Sr.


The Alvord desert, a home I carry within.

Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits

University of New Mexico Press

I’m honored to have my work and portrait included.

Tending the Fire by photographer Christopher Felver with an Introduction by Linda Hogan and a foreword by Simon J. Ortiz, celebrates the poets and writers who represent the wide range of Native American voices in literature today. In these commanding portraits, Felver’s distinctive visual signature and unobtrusive presence capture each artist’s strength, integrity, and character. Accompanying each portrait is a handwritten poem or prose piece that helps reveal the origin of the poet’s language and legends.

As the individuals share their unique voices, Tending the Fire introduces us to the diversity and complexity of Native culture through the authors’ generous and passionate stories, reminding us that “Native Americans today are as modern as the Space Age, and each in their own way carries forth the cultural heritage ‘from whence they came.’ Their abiding legacy as the first people of this continent has found its voice in the hard-won wisdom of their art and activism.


Featured authors include: Francisco X. Alarcón; Sherman Alexie; Indira Allegra; Paula Gunn Allen; Crisosto Apache; Annette Arkeketa; Jimmy Santiago Baca; Dennis Banks; Jim Barnes; Kimberly L. Becker; Duane Big Eagle; Sherwin Bitsui; Julian Talamantez Brolaski; Lauralee Brown; Joseph Bruchac; Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle; Elizabeth Cook-Lynn; Jonny Cournoyer; Alice Crow; Lucille Lang Day; Susan Deer Cloud; Ramona Emerson; Heid E. Erdrich; Louise Erdrich ; Pura Fé; Jennifer Elise Foerster; Eric Gansworth; Diane Glancy; Jewelle Gomez; Rain Gomez; Sequoyah Guess; Q.R. Hand, Jr.; Joy Harjo; Allison Hedge Coke; Travis Hedge Coke; Lance Henson; Trace Lara Hentz; Inés Hernández-Avila; Charlie Hill; Roberta Hill; Geary Hobson; Linda Hogan; LeAnne Howe; Andrew Jolivétte; em jollie; Joan Naviyuk Kane; Maurice Kenny; Bruce King; Sharmagne Leland-St.John; Chip Livingston; Charly Lowry; James Luna; Lee Marmon; Molly McGlennen; Russell Means; Deborah Miranda; Gail Mitchell; N. Scott Momaday; Catherine Nelson-Rodriguez; Linda Noel; dg nanouk okpik; Simon J. Ortiz; Laura Ortman; A. Kay Oxendine; Juanita Pahdopony; Evan Pritchard; Mary Grace Pewewardy; Ishmael Reed; Martha Redbone; Bobby J. Richardson; Ladonna Evans Richardson; Barbara Robidoux; Linda Rodriguez; Wendy Rose; Kurt Schweigman; Kim Shuck; Cedar Sigo; Leslie Marmon Silko; Arigon Starr; James Thomas Stevens; Inés Talamantez; Luci Tapahanso; Nazbah Tom; Cecil Taylor; Rebecca Hatcher Travis; David Treuer; Terra Trevor; Quincy Troupe; John Trudell; Gerald Vizenor; Elissa Washuta; Floyd Redcrow Westerman; Orlando White; Kim Wieser; Diane Wilson; Elizabeth A. Woody

Click here to read more
University of New Mexico Press

Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education

 The University of Arizona Press.

I’m honored to have an excerpt from my memoir, Pushing up the Sky, included in Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education.

Native American children have long been subject to removal from their homes for placement in residential schools and, more recently, in foster or adoptive homes. The governments of both the United States and Canada, having reduced Native nations to the legal status of dependent children, historically have asserted a surrogate parentalism over Native children themselves.

Children of the Dragonflyedited by Robert Bensen, is the first anthology to document this struggle for cultural survival on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. Through autobiography and interviews, fiction and traditional tales, official transcripts and poetry, these voices— Seneca, Cherokee, Mohawk, Navajo, and many others— weave powerful accounts of struggle and loss into a moving testimony to perseverance and survival. 

Invoking the dragonfly spirit of Zuni legend who helps children restore a way of life that has been taken from them, the anthology explores the breadth of the conflict about Native childhood.

Included are works of contemporary authors Joy Harjo, Luci Tapahonso, and others; classic writers Zitkala-Sa and E. Pauline Johnson; and contributions from twenty important new writers as well. They take readers from the boarding school movement of the 1870s to the Sixties Scoop in Canada and the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 in the United States. They also spotlight the tragic consequences of racist practices such as the suppression of Indian identity in government schools and the campaign against Indian childbearing through involuntary sterilization.

CONTENTS
Part 1. Traditional Stories and Lives
Severt Young Bear (Lakota) and R. D. Theisz, To Say "Child"
Zitkala-Sa (Yankton Sioux), The Toad and the Boy
Delia Oshogay (Chippewa), Oshkikwe's Baby
Michele Dean Stock (Seneca), The Seven Dancers
Mary Ulmer Chiltoskey (Cherokee), Goldilocks Thereafter
Marietta Brady (Navajo), Two Stories

Part 2. Boarding and Residential Schools
Embe (Marianna Burgess), from Stiya: or, a Carlisle Indian Girl at Home
Black Bear (Blackfeet), Who Am I?
E. Pauline Johnson (Mohawk), As It Was in the Beginning
Lee Maracle (Stoh:lo), Black Robes
Gordon D. Henry, Jr. (White Earth Chippewa), The Prisoner of Haiku
Luci Tapahonso (Navajo), The Snakeman
Joy Harjo (Muskogee), The Woman Who Fell from the Sky

Part 3. Child Welfare and Health Services
Problems That American Indian Families Face in Raising Their Children, United States Senate, April 8 and 9, 1974
Mary TallMountain (Athabaskan), Five Poems
Virginia Woolfclan, Missing Sister
Lela Northcross Wakely (Potawatomi/Kickapoo), Indian Health
Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene), from Indian Killer
Milton Lee (Cheyenne River Sioux) and Jamie Lee, The Search for Indian

Part 4. Children of the Dragonfly
Peter Cuch (Ute), I Wonder What the Car Looked Like
S. L. Wilde (Anishnaabe), A Letter to My Grandmother
Eric Gansworth (Onondaga), It Goes Something Like This
Kimberly Roppolo (Cherokee/Choctaw/Creek), Breeds and Outlaws
Phil Young (Cherokee) and Robert Bensen, Wetumka
Lawrence Sampson (Delaware/Eastern Band Cherokee), The Long Road Home
Beverley McKiver (Ojibway), When the Heron Speaks
Joyce carlEtta Mandrake (White Earth Chippewa), Memory Lane Is the Next Street Over
Alan Michelson (Mohawk), Lost Tribe
Patricia Aqiimuk Paul (Inupiaq), The Connection
Terra Trevor (Cherokee/Delaware/Seneca), Pushing up the Sky
Annalee Lucia Bensen (Mohegan/Cherokee), Two Dragonfly Dream Songs

Pushing up the Sky

Terra Trevor’s ‘Pushing up the Sky’ is a revelation of the struggles and triumphs packed into the hyphens between Korean and Native American and American. From her, we learn that adoption can best be mutual, that the adoptive parent needs acculturation in the child’s ways. With unflinching honesty and unfailing love, Trevor details the risks and heartaches of taking in, the bittersweetness of letting go, and the everlasting bonds that grow between them all. With ‘Pushing up the Sky’, the ‘literature of adoption’ comes of age as literature, worthy of an honored place in the human story. Read more...

—Robert Bensen, editor of 
Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education
The University of Arizona Press

The title ‘Pushing up the Sky,’ is from a traditional story from the Snohomish tribe, about the power of people working together for a common good, this is the theme in Terra Trevor's memoir.