The Truth Is Out There

Daniel H. Wilson

Writing truthfully is an act of bravery. It takes courage to put words into the world, knowing they will be judged and you along with them. The more truth there is to a story, the more powerful it is, and the more vulnerable the one who wrote it. I am proud that every piece collected here represents a facet of truth, contributed by a group of writers who each are unique, talented, and courageous.

Some of the stories in this issue of TCJ Student paint pictures of fleeting moments of melancholy or happiness, while others capture the span of years that it takes trees to root. Some turn outward into the world to thrill with whip-crack snaps of violence, and others fold inward to ponder the patterns of thinking that can define a people. These stories are fascinating and touching, and they are more than just words on a page. By virtue of their existence, they are an unrepentant reclamation of a stolen narrative.

Stereotypes and clichés about Native Americans obviously abound today, as they have since the founding of this nation. These false narratives are often tolerated by the general public out of ignorance, and they are sometimes encouraged by those who should know better.

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But there is a tried-and-true defense against stereotypes, and you’re about to read it.

Every piece in this issue is a step toward reclaiming a distorted narrative, because these stories are told by Native American authors. Stereotype evaporates into boring nonsense compared to the complexity and humanity of truth. generations of books, movies, and biased history books have built up over 200 years of momentum, chugging along the same tired tracks. This can’t be stopped in a day, but all our voices together can slow it down.

That may seem like a simple observation, but it took me years to understand.

I am also a Native voice, though I hesitated for years to claim it. Although I grew up within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation and my family were citizens, it didn’t occur to me that my writing might intrinsically represent my tribe. Because I write science fiction, I didn’t consider my work “Indian” enough. Without even knowing it, I was letting someone else hijack my story with their ideas about Native Americans.

It took readers, many of them Native, to help me slowly understand.

When we write, we represent our roots no matter who we are. An author can claim this responsibility, ignore it, or even try to disavow it—but all of us deserve it. Being Native is not a choice an individual makes. It is not a choice that the United States government makes. It is decided by the sovereign tribal laws of our people. And every Native voice matters, in whatever medium— whether it’s poetry, fiction, or nonfiction (or even science fiction).

This whole planet of seven billion human beings understands itself through stories. Every day, we tell ourselves the story of who we are, where we are headed, and where we have been. We find stories to explain our world and the world we’d like to have. our minds are story machines, crafting narrative around everything we see, hear, or feel. The story of Native America that we tell in the United States is broken. It needs more truth in it. And that’s why what you are about to read is important.

Ultimately, it is readers who give writers a voice. We honor the risk an author has taken by reading their words, absorbing them into our own worldviews, and by sharing them with others. And when we recognize truth, we help change the narrative. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did. And please, keep on reading. As long as you do, I promise we’ll never run out of words.

Daniel H. Wilson, PhD (Cherokee), is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller Robopocalypse and the forthcoming The Andromeda Evolution. FA

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