Native American writers gather in Milwaukee

Native American writers from across the country will come together in Milwaukee from Sept. 4-9 for the 20th anniversary Returning the Gift Festival, titled  “Gathering of Words at the Gathering of the Waters.” The Gathering takes place at various locations throughout the city, and marks the 20th anniversary festival of indigenous writers and storytellers from the Americas. The Gathering unfolds as part of the 26th annual Indian Summer Festival at the lakefront.

“The first Returning the Gift in 1992 was a seminal event in the history of Native writing,” says University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor of English and conference coordinator Kimberly Blaeser. “That original gathering inspired a burst of publications and collaborations that continue to this day. It helped to put Native literature on the map, made people like Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, and indeed our keynote performers, recognizable names, not only in American letters, but in world literature as well. In Milwaukee we will again feature both our elders and our youth writers, thus nurturing the next generation.”

Those keynote performers include Joy Harjo, a poet, writer and musician from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and Joseph Bruchac, who has written poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and music reflecting his Abenaki heritage.

Joy Harjo

The Native writers festival will include performances at the Indian Summer Festival, conferences and other events. Topics of interest and discussion include storytelling, the use of indigenous languages in contemporary writing, the “Ojibwe Talking Dictionary,” publishing and copyright, an Open Mic and the 2nd Ever Indigenous Poetry Slam Championship.

Co-director of the writers’ festival is Jim Stevens, editor of the Native literary journal Yukhika-latuhse, which is releasing a special issue in conjunction with the conference.

Sponsors include the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University, Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Indian Summer Festival, Indian Community School of Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Woodland Pattern Book Center and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

For more information, a full conference schedule or to register for Returning the Gift, please go to http://yukhika-latuhse.org.