I just signed a contract with Tribal College Press (TCP) for the publication of a book of poetry titled, Meditation on the Ceremonies of Beginnings. In 1972 I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and found a teaching position at an alternative school, Menominee County Community School, which was one of the first seven school of the Indian controlled schools movement in this country. It was through my association with Helen Maynor Scheirbeck, the greatest American Indian leader in Indian education during my lifetime, that I found out about the tribal colleges.
When Dr. Verna Fowler asked me to help her found what became College of the Menominee Nation in 1993, I started writing poems about the tribal college movement and its founding. I have written a substantial number of poems over the decades, celebrating, mourning, living the tribal college dream of creating a new form of higher education driven by American Indian cultures and languages throughout the United States.
Most of the early poems were written during American Indian Higher Education conferences, or later, World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium conferences, in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia. I usually wrote them on scrap paper or napkins and then promptly gave them to whomever I was with at the time. Luckily for me, Marjane Ambler, then Editor of the Tribal College Journal, prevailed upon person after person to save them and send them to her. Later on, once a handful of the poems appeared in print, I stated saving them myself.
The poems tell a different kind of history about the tribal college and university and World Indigenous controlled institutions of higher education movements in the United States and worldwide. I am grateful that Bradley Shreve and Rachael Marchbanks at TCP unexpectedly offered to publish the book.
This has been quite a year! In the Unsettled Homeland of Dreams, my Washington Island historical novel about the black fisherman community that settled on the island before the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act that led to the Civil War, should be coming out in the near future. Now Meditation on the Ceremonies of Beginnings. I’m really going to have to do some marketing work. I hope some of you might consider buying either one or both works. I’ve certainly worked hard enough on both of them.
by Thomas Davis
I thought some of the readers of Four Windows Press might enjoy this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XyqwWR3_d4, which describes the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math work being done in tribal colleges across the United States.
This is obviously not about poetry, art, or photography, but I have worked in American Indian Education from 1972 up to the present time. I helped establish the National Science Foundation’s Tribal College and University’s Program (TCUP), working closely with Carrie Billy, then the Director of President Bill Clinton’s White Initiative of Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), that this video explores. My role was not that important really, but I am proud of the work I did throughout my career in the tribal college movement nevertheless. Carty Monette and Carol Davis, both featured in the video, are not only good friends, but played a major role in helping establish the TCUs nationwide.
What the TCUs are achieving throughout the United States is, at least in my opinion, some of the most important educational work being done in the world today. This video just gives a small glimpse of that work and might introduce to at least some of you the TCUs.
Note: This starts a new series of poems, The Tribal College poems, that tell about the tribal college movement in the United States and the formation of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC). In many ways these poems have historical importance, describing events from some of the most important higher education movements that happened in the latter part of the 20th century.
The Maori came singing in rows,
Language as musical as colors of Hawaiian flowers,
Swaying rhythms weaving through island heat,
Capturing in movement wave song of ocean.
The tribal college people came, led by a hand drum,
Feet moving to the drum’s rhythm,
Spirit inculcated into the history of this moment
Away from the tribal homeland,
In the islands of Hawaii.
The singing and drumming met
In a swirl of traditional dress
And words from scores of cultures.
The meeting created waves and tides
And a singing beyond the singing of any one people
Or group of people,
And the waves and tides swept outward
From rocky shores of Hilo, past the reef
Into the ocean of the world
As a growing began
That sent echoes rumbling
Into years and decades in the process of borning.
Hi Yah Hi!