Writing, Reading and Living

   

Welcome and thank you for dropping by. I’m an essayist and memoirist, the author of two memoirs, and a contributor to 15 books. My essays and memoirs are infused and shaped by my Native roots, my identity as a mixedblood, and my connection to the landscape. My stories illuminate our humanity, remind us to be open, to connect, to hope, to question—or bring change. 
 
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. 
 
Within my collection of essays and other writings offered here, many are serious/substantial, balanced with lighter topics. Most of all, my writing is timeless (vs timely).

Earth and the Great Sea

I have the window open wide, just to the left of me as I write. The wind plays in the trees and the air is heavy with scent of mountains and earth. I can feel late Spring reaching toward Summer. I have the window open to keep me company. Read more >>

My journal of stories, photographs, thoughts and ponderings, at Earth and the Great Sea, is my open field to explore, think out loud, find inspiration, and share updates.  Wander along with me.

At Home on the Mountain


A soft mist fell this morning, the sky looks silver-blue in this light, and the wind has cleared. The redwood trees are still, nothing is moving across the mountain. 

Race, Ethnicity and My Face


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

I have light skin, light enough that some people think I’m a white person. My dad, a Native man, and my mother, a white woman, had me when they were teenagers in 1953. We lived in Compton, a mixed-race community in Los Angeles. 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. 

Back in Those Days in Compton

My bags and the boxes are unpacked, and I’ve moved away from the city where I lived for forty-three years, and relocated 265 miles north. While unpacking my box of keepsakes, the carefully saved material things I’ve attached meaning to, I lifted the lid and peered at the contents. This is when I became aware of what is not inside my box of treasures, what can’t be seen and can’t be packed up and placed in a box. It’s the nearly forgotten memories tucked into the margins of my mind, now floating on air currents, of the events that have shaped me into the woman I am today. I’m reminiscing and my memories caught me by surprise when they began rolling all the way back to when my family moved from Compton, California. 

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-three years I lived in an area that makes up the traditional Chumash homeland. I spent those years 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. This essay also appears in Terra Trevor's upcoming memoir, We Who Walk The Seven Ways. 
© Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.  

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, forthcoming from University of Nebraska Press, Spring 2023.

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.

In Writing Motherhood

Author Terra Trevor turns to themes of Motherhood 
 
Essays exploring themes of community, race, identity, family ties, foster parenting, adoption and motherhood in all of its forms.
    
Before I was a mother, I have always been a writer. I'm well into grandmotherhood now, leaving a trail of my motherhood footsteps behind with twenty-one of my favorite previously published essays.

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 written a second memoir about love, aging from youth into beauty, with reflections on the deep power of female friendships, and reconciling complicated roots. 

My new memoir, We Who Walk the Seven Ways, will be published by University of Nebraska Press in 2023. And when I was in the early stages of writing the book, I discovered that first I needed to explore how my identity as a mother has grown and changed over the past four decades, and in order to move forward, I had to go back. 
 
Please join me at In Writing Motherhood. Or maybe you would rather read 'Sex and the City Indian.'

Yellow Medicine Review

Indigenous writers, young, old, established, emerging, traditional, urban, two spirt, academic, incarcerated, are brought together. We are sharing our voices, our best words, the thing we do in our community.  

I’m honored to have my work included. 

Learning to Grow Right as an Elder, an excerpt from my memoir, We Who Walk the Seven Ways, shares space with a unique tapestry of voices, and speaks to the diversity and complexity of Native writings and culture. 
 

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. 

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


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.