The economic piece is still missing, since it's so hard to attract industry to reservations, but spiritually and educationally, they're doing just fine. Each tribe has a community college now, and they teach the language, they teach the traditions.
Before, Indian people had been so defeated, they were always looking for outsiders, for the government, to somehow come in and fix things. But now, they seem to realize that they're the only ones who can save themselves.
I used to object to being called an Indian writer, and would always say I was a writer who happened to be an Indian, and who happened to write about Indians.
The townspeople outside the reservations had a very superior attitude toward Indians, which was kind of funny, because they weren't very wealthy; they were on the fringes of society themselves.
Nobody would take checks from Indians, nobody would give them any credit, and nobody would let them drink in the bars. There was a rudeness, a brusqueness, with which the Indians were treated constantly. At a very young age, that had entered my consciousness.
Richard Hugo taught me that anyone with a desire to write, an ear for language and a bit of imagination could become a writer. He also, in a way, gave me permission to write about northern Montana.
The title of the poems was The Only Bar in Dixon. We sent it out to The New Yorker on a fluke, and they took them and printed all three in the same issue.
In a lot of Indian societies, spirituality has been lost, I think it's still the best way of looking at the world for Indians - better than any organized religion in this country.
My poems were just kind of all over the place. They had no focus, no location, nothing. Kind of a series of images that could have been set anywhere. A lot of the poems were just exercises for myself.
I wander around, get the lay of the land and try to imagine what kind of people would have lived there in that historical period. What would they eat? What kind of clothing would they wear? How did they shelter themselves? How did they get around?
I think ethnic and regional labels are insulting to writers and really put restrictions on them. People don't think your work is quite as universal.