2014 Introduction by Irving Morris
Yá’át’ééh. Shí éí bilagáanaa k’ehji Irvin Morris dashijiní. Tábaahíéí nishlí dóó Tótsohnii éí báshíshchíín. Tó’áhaníéí dashicheii dóó Kinyaa’áanii éí dashinálí. Nahashch’idí hoolyéédóóéííyisí naashá. K’ad éí T’iists’óóz hoolyédi Diné bee hódehgo bidziilgo óólt’a’ígii, Navajo Technical University hoolyéegii éí naashnish. Bilagáanaa bizaad éí bína’nishtin. Saad naach’aah aldóó’ bína’nishtin. Kwít’éego éí Diné nishlí.
Greetings. My English name is Irvin Morris. I am of the Edgewater clan, and born for the Big Water clan. My maternal grandfathers are the Close-to-Water clan, and my paternal grandfathers are Towering House clan. I am from the place called Naschitti, New Mexico. Currently, I work at Navajo Technical University as an English and creative writing instructor. This is who I am as a man and as a human being.
I start off this way because it is the way I was taught to introduce myself. It is the only way. I am the product of a home that is typical of most Navajos my age. I grew up herding sheep, chopping wood, and doing all those other things that mark a Navajo childhood. An essential part of this upbringing was being privy to all sorts of storytelling, whether it was home stories of Coyote or the Hero Twins; Kit Carson’s depredations or the “Fearing Time” when people lived in constant fear of Ute raiders; Dick-and-Jane primers and Huck Finn and Jack-and-Jill in school; and Tarzan, Godzilla, The Three Stooges, and John Wayne movies at the chapter house. All of this left a lasting impression on me.
As I grew older, I discovered Native writers. I was inexorably drawn to the works of Momaday, Ortiz, Silko, Erdrich, Vizenor, and others. I latched onto each new discovered work like the lifelines that they were. For a time in my youth, I drifted in the uncertainty and malaise that many Native young men succumb to, but there was always some part of me that persevered. I can honestly say that a large part of that was due to the words of the authors I sought out so eagerly. Their words saved me. Now has come the time, I see, that is now my duty—and honor—to usher in a whole new crop of talented Native writers.
It is always exciting to come across a new piece of writing by a Native writer, particularly a new writer just beginning the writer’s journey. It is even more exciting to encounter writing by a group of new Native writers. When I was asked to play a role in the production of the annual student creative writing issue, I did not hesitate to say yes! Reading all the works was sheer pleasure.
This collection of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry was selected from submissions representing many tribal colleges across the nation. The subject matter touches upon all the precious and unique aspects of contemporary Native life. Here is living proof that the power of storytelling and the love of language—the verbal dexterity and artistry—live on.
Take, for example, the story about a man’s encounter with a stranger who dares him to drink from a jar in which a toe is suspended in an intoxicating liquid. If he does this properly, he is told, he will be granted a wish. Or the elegiac tale told by the ghost of a young boy who has walked on after enduring a lifetime of suffering. Or the recollection of a mother’s sage advice to her son on the vagaries of life.
The poetry doesn’t disappoint either. The brilliant and memorable poems are by turns thoughtful, provocative, and humorous. And they reflect a craftsmanship that is enviable. “X”, for example, is a fast-paced romp through a quirky and frenetic slideshow of words, images, and riffs centering on the letter “x”. “To Erase a Whisper” is a sensual and evocative meditation on the deeply intimate landscapes of relationships. “Apex Predator” describes the aesthetic qualities of avians while vividly drawing the shape of a bird on the page.
There is so much more to be said about these wonderful works, but rather than continue to belabor you with my impressions, I will leave it to you to read and enjoy them.
I encourage you all to share these works widely. And in turn, I hope that these works will inspire others to write. And finally, I wish to thank Tribal College Journal for allowing me this truly memorable experience. Ahéhee dóó’ hágo’ánee’.
Irvin Morris is chair of the Arts and Humanities Department at Navajo Technical University and author of From the Glittering World.
Introduction By Luci Tapahonso
Life Is Education By Melissa Matthews
Overcoming By Clifton J. Pecore
Sourtoe By David Weiden
What Comes From Hitting Sticks By Alice Rose Crow
Debwewin By Isabella Griffin
Heartbeats By Jordana L. Williams
X By Crisosto Apache
Apex Predator By Collestipher D. Chatto
To Erase a Whisper By Monty Little
Best of the Arts
Hidden Talents By Ramona Emerson
A Young Man By Janel Lewis
Untitled By Moriah Thompson
Hogan in Canyon de Chelly By Suchitra Baker