Red Indian Road West:
Native American Poetry from California
Edited by Kurt Schweigman and Lucille Lang Day
Introduction by James Luna

Praise for Red Indian Road West

"Red Indian Road West draws together work by poets we already know as Native American alongside poets whom we discover have deeply felt Native American ancestry that is profoundly reflected in their poems. One of the best things about this radiant anthology is its illumination of its specific territory: California Native American poetry. These poems live in nature but visit jail cells, casinos, city streets, meth labs, marinas, and San Francisco’s Tenderloin; they feel of California with their images of abalone and shellwork, dry grasses, sea lions, earthquakes and fault lines, missions, the 'blue bowl' of Lake Tahoe. As Jennifer Elise Forester writes, 'Poppies lit up the hills and were eating the oak.' Even when they get gritty, scratch us with harsh realities, as in Kurt Schweigman’s poem on Ishi, 'a death mask prepared in your closing breaths/ to be photographed and displayed,' or Natalie Diaz’s 'Her missing kneecaps are bright bones caught in my throat,' the poems as a whole approach us with a gentle twist, silky as a blue California sky, deeply spiritual yet of daily life, as in Kim Shuck’s 'Water, music, smoke/ Old prayers…/ Sing of disconnecting my anger.'” — Joyce Jenkins, editor of Poetry Flash

"An anthology is a community, each voice telling its story in this tribal gathering. Red Indian Road West is a pow wow of sorts. It takes many voices to tell the story of the Native spirit and experience. The voices often are uprooted, yet find place within language. There is camaraderie, wounding, anger, defiance, celebration and disclosure in these wolf songs of the heart." — Diane Glancy, author of Fort Marion Prisoners and The Trauma of Native Education and Report to the Department of the Interior

"Red Indian Road West is an assertion and a statement saying, “We have always been here. You will never forget us. You cannot do so.” Indigenous people and their insistent passion. Traveling from inland hills to seashores. Their experiences in hot desert and hard mountain. Vital moments to viral moments like no other, but always within the present one. Karuk. Wintu. Konkow. Pomo. Miwok. Mojave. Chumash. Costanoan Esselen. Ohlone. And more. And more than we can name but which will always be remembered. And later on, the Lakota, Dakota, Cherokee, Wampanoag, and others, so our indigenous essence will always be momentous. Read, listen, hear, and be assured. Know again and always!" — Simon J. Ortiz, author of Out There Somewhere and Men on the Moon

"Braiding together like the many rivers of our state—rivers in our mountains that have been dammed but not forgotten; rivers that run wild to this day through our canyons and valleys on their way to the Pacific Ocean; and rivers that hover dry as bone in our deserts, waiting for the next flash flood—the rich weave of the many California Indian voices in Red Indian Road West crafts its own unique and powerful pattern of poetry that speaks with the tongues of many Native languages and memories, and affirms the continuing presence of the indigenous inhabitants of the Golden State. Together, these poems combine to powerfully flow and deepen our understanding of our state’s widely varied indigenous people and the places they know so well, to sculpt a momentous geography in image and verse that’s as breathtaking and deeply imprinting as the lay of the California landscape itself." — Ruth Nolan, editor of No Place for a Puritan: The Literature of California’s Deserts

Contributors: Indira Allegra, Judi Brannan Armbruster, J.P. Dancing Bear, Nanette Bradley Deetz, E.K. Cooper, Roberta Reyes Cordero, Lucille Lang Day, Natalie Diaz, Carolyn Dunn, Jennifer Elise Foerster, Jewelle Gomez, Janice Gould, Alison Hart, John Hershman, Senna Heyatawin, Dave Holt, Frank LaPena, Sharmagne Leland-St. John, James Luna, Sal Martinez, Shaunna Oteka McCovey, Stephen Meadows, Deborah A. Miranda, Manny Moreno, Catherine Nelson-Rodriguez, Linda Noel, Wendy Rose, Sylvia Ross, Kurt Schweigman, Marlon Sherman, Kim Shuck, Georgiana Valoyce-Sanchez.

From Red Indian Road West:


“Shoo-mash,” he says
and when he says it
I think of ancient sea lion hunts
and salt spray windswept
across my face
They tell him
his people are dead

It’s official
U.S. rubber-stamped official
Chumash: Terminated
a People who died
they say
a case for anthropologists

Ah, but this old one
this old one whose face is
ancient prayers come to rest
this old one knows
who he is

“Shoo-mash,” he says
and somewhere sea lions still gather
along the California coast
and salt spray
rainbow mist
above the constant breaking
of the waves

—Georgiana Valoyce-Sanchez: Chumash


Black crow sits on a pine tree,
white clouds against an azure sky.
North wind whispers her secrets
as crow listens
from the top of the Earth.

We watch each other
from different galaxies,
circles intersecting circles,
as the waters of the San Francisco Bay
flow around us.

Crow begins his dance
as squirrel appears
from behind the pine tree.
Butterfly and dragonfly watch,
as our galaxies intersect
for one moment,
under a pine tree by the Bay,
from the top of the Earth.

—Nanette Bradley Deetz: Lakota/Dakota/Cherokee