“The lives of Native women are not valued greatly in the Americas,” Arizona poet Natalie Diaz explains. This is not just a matter of feeling underappreciated; literal lives are at stake. “The rates of Native femicide in North and South America are astronomical, and also invisible in regard to mainstream media discussion.”
Part of the reason these lives are being snuffed out, Diaz says, is because Native women feel isolated and removed from the culture. “It is not often that we see positive and powerful representations and reflections of what is beautiful and strong and innovative about indigenous people, and especially indigenous women,” she writes in an email. With the help of the Hugo House and the Poetry Foundation, Diaz is working to celebrate Native women in the literary arts.
“I have been thinking a lot about the strong community of indigenous women artists and writers whose mentorship and friendship I have benefitted from greatly,” Diaz says. “I wanted to create a space where indigenous women's voices were regarded and value — to pay it forward in a way to some of the Elders whose work and friendships have made my own work possible.”
Now Diaz is ready to share that celebration with the world. It’s an ongoing program called Poetry Across the Nations, and it launches right here in Seattle in a multi-day celebration from December 6th to 8th. On Wednesday and Friday, Diaz will be hosting workshops for Native writers — find details at the Hugo House’s website — and on Thursday, December 7th, she’ll MC a reading of Native women poets at Fred Wildlife Refuge.
All are welcome at the Thursday night reading, which is free and will feature both Seattle readers and poets from across the country. The lineup is impressive: Celeste Adame, Laura Da’, Jennifer Foerster, Casandra Lopez, Sara Ortiz, and Cedar Sigo. Da’, Sigo, and Lopez have all been kicking ass at Seattle readings for quite some time; the three of them on a bill together should be practically lethal.
In the spring, Diaz will take Poetry Across the Nation on the road, with stops in South Dakota and Arizona already planned. But Seattle gets it first. If you’ve been outraged at the way Native voices have been silenced, ignored, and ridiculed by the Trump administration, here’s an opportunity for you to elevate and celebrate those voices. It’s up to all of us to witness Native women, to let them know that they’re seen, and welcomed, and appreciated.
Fred Wildlife Refuge, 128 Belmont Ave. E., 322-7030. http://www.hugohouse.org, 7:30 pm, free.