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IAIA Fall 2021 Creative Writing Contest

Nov 19, 2021

IAIA Creative Writing Contest

IAIA Creative Writing Contest

This semester the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Creative Writing department hosted a writing contest open to all IAIA students. The categories were Poetry, Fiction, and Non-Fiction, and four winners were chosen overall. We are pleased to showcase the incredible talent that is coming out of IAIA and will share these four pieces of work periodically through the remainder of the semester.

About Creative Writing

Inspired by the words of our elders and those in our literary lineages, we create worlds from words in pursuing excellence in the fields of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, journalism, and dramatic writing (both stage and screen). Although students choose one or two primary areas of focus, we support exploration of the overlaps and cross-pollination between genres. All members of our Creative Writing faculty are writers themselves. Our interests include environmental literature, hybrid forms, text and image, ecopoetry, creative writing informed by history and research, linguistics, language preservation, creative nonfiction and memoir, speculative fiction, graphic novels, and more.

This program is designed to offer students a strong foundation in craft, creativity, and criticism, as well as a solid understanding of Native and World literature.


The missing women,
The lost daughters,
The unforgotten.

The cries are heard throughout the valley.
She runs at night,
Hunted under the moon, she flees.

Her body goes numb,
Mind distant,
She keeps her fire close to her heart.

Grandmothers weep,
Families cry,
The missing women are not forgotten.

The snow breaks under her weight,
Barefoot and cold…bleeding,
She looks to the horizon, not looking back.

She runs, and flees, and fights!
Memories of hope,
Not forgotten…

We, the living, hunt for the lost.

Taken from us,
Taken from her child,
Taken from her dreams…

Her shell dress moves,
To the wind,
“Your spirit is with us!”

The tribe does not sleep,
Until she,
Comes home.

Dante Biss-Grayson (Osage)

You Helped Me

Gently bouncing above your lap  
Lighting holding arms, legs tight  
Below me Mother Earth and  
Father sky is balancing me  
from head to toe  
A glance of your smile picks  
Swaddle so good in my cradle board  
Presenting a strong resilient woman  
I am today  
Portion of you helps define me  
Each goal is achieved 
Never-ending visions  
Stories of your journey 
Each step you took in your mocs   
My feet stand still in your mocs now 
Comfort warmth of buckskin  
wraps around me  
Tense of strength builds  
Guidance surrounding me  
Spirits ready to share  
Your high top red mocs 
Are ready to shine on me

Shantel Chee (Diné)

that night i couldn‘t sleep

i ask myself why i miss people i‘ve
never met before but know tenderly.
how is it possible to lose sleep over my
mother, but want to comfort her child-self?
i miss my grandmother and the gentle
touch of her hands and catch myself
wondering what she went through to
learn such a steady delicateness.

i watch my father bumble around the
simple kitchen, his voice excited about dinner,
wondering if i could ever live without him again.

my eyes tire from the lamp’s cold light—
i‘ve seen too many spectacles of myself—
only to close up to a darkness which bore me.
i can’t afford a spiritual reunion.
prayers became too expensive for me to
summon and shit into this world.
how does a spirit weigh more than the
purest of devotion and intentions?

i miss being hugged by a man who knew
me more than i knew him—he always
claimed to be the last man to ever touch me but
yesterday i surrendered my body to the
skies and humidified heavens above my ceiling,
and i swear in that lapse of life, the last
man to ever touch me was god—or creator—
whichever held more power in the sun that day.
he claimed to love me beyond time itself,
but i was nurtured by the nipples of prophecy.

i miss my home and the warmth of a room
gone dark with no electricity and shadows.
we had lanterns and candles on the ready,
yet the only flames were the ones we spoke.
how often does a grown woman weep for
her parent‘s childhoods and tribulations?
each morning i offer my bowl of prayers
to my angel, hoping he understands my tongue,
running through each hallway of my psyche to
find and rebuke each stranger, to choke on every
threshold too low to drag my spirit over.

how is it possible for your skin to crawl when it
feels what it cannot read, yet your lungs collapse
and sigh when they hear my name spoken?

Rebakkah Santos

Always Remembered

When I walk I carry the weight of my bones through miles of pain and heartache. An ache so deep it calls upon the ancestors for healing and guidance. My sisters and brothers, missing and murdered. Leave us missing a piece of our hearts. As I bleed out onto the world, I remember the strength that runs through these veins. Coursing like a river flowing through the majestic mountains. Washing away all the tears and pain. May the stars watch over the souls of the missing and murdered and bring peace to those who hurt. Let the light shine down into the darkness as we try to gain understanding. Missing and Murdered. Murdered and missing. Why not always remembered? May we always remember our brothers and sisters when we look up to the stars. May their eternal light shine down on our broken hearts. I’ll dance and sing for you until my soul joins yours. We’ll meet in the heavens and dance and sing forever and ever.

KamiJo Whiteclay (Crow)

About the Institute of American Indian Arts

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is the only college in the world dedicated to the study of contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts. IAIA offers undergraduate degrees in Cinematic Arts and Technology, Creative Writing, Indigenous Liberal Studies, Museum Studies, Performing Arts, and Studio Arts; graduate degrees in Creative Writing and Studio Arts; and certificates in Broadcast Journalism, Business and Entrepreneurship, Museum Studies, and Native American Art History. The college serves approximately 500 full-time equivalent (FTE) Native and non-Native American students from around the globe, representing nearly a hundred federally recognized tribes. Named one of the top art institutions by UNESCO and the International Association of Art, IAIA is among the leading art institutes in our nation and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).