She lives in Wellpinit, where she works for the Spokane Tribe and teaches at the Salish-Kootenai College campus. Her poetry collections include Full Moon on the Reservation, The River of History, and Red Roots Sparse. Her poetry and prose focus on how the representations of native peoples can facilitate harmful stereotypes. She is a member of the Northwest Native American Writers Association. For five years she has taught creative writing at the American Indian Art Institute.
Through her creative work, GLORIA BIRD has helped create a community of native writers in Oregon and in the northwest. Born in 1951 in the Yakima Valley, she attended the Indian American Art Institute in Santa Fe, earning a Bachelor’s degree in English in 1990 and a master’s degree in literature in 1992. She received a Witter-Bynner Foundation grant in support of a single writer in 1993, the Diane Decorah Memorial Prize in 1992 for her poetry book, Full Moon on Booking.
WHAT WE OWE – Rain fanning its gray light early over an eastern sky could be the tail of some great salmon in the river of history. The sun comes up bright forgetfulness. Sometimes the mind perverts the natural cycles clamping shut around its petty denials and all things we refuse to bring into the present with us. Freud knew the consequence of muffled history, yet continued to lie about it, to disguise the one truth that might have liberated us all. I know what I owe to women whose fingers were rubbed raw digging roots on some northwestern plain. Maybe they were on-the-run or preparing the ceremonial wake for the camas fields that would be replaced in their lifetimes by miles of wheat. The land there bears our pain, and there is no cleansing only stark refusals like the river receding from jutting rock. Back then, I did not understand how the old people endured that sad place along the Tshimakain where they would eat and tell stories beneath the pine trees. In a tender fleshy place called inheritance, like an old wound healed over a small stone, begins this long understanding, the way the bones of sleek animals that fed generations belong to the river, are returned to those liquid beginnings to communicate our need to those living there. To the earth goes the innermost heart of the heart in which the essence of deer mingle with that of our ancestors in this continuum where what we owe, we owe, and pass on to our children.
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