I'd love to meet my ancestors. I'd love to be able to speak to them.
When I moved to Minnesota, I found there was a thriving and determined movement, a grassroots movement, to revitalize the Ojibwe language. And I've never come to be a competent speaker. I have to say that right now. But even learning the amount of Ojibwe that one can at my age is a life-altering experience.
Nothing I write ever has a moral. If it seems to a reader that there is one, that is unintentional.
I write first drafts by hand. Never do I open an umbrella inside the house. I don't predict wins or losses. I used to stand on a certain piece of rug if my brothers and husband were watching football and their team got in trouble - but now the luck went out of that rug. If a circle is involved, I try to go clockwise.
I rarely step on sidewalk cracks. I don't wear a watch. I touch my favorite tree before going on long trips.
Nothing I force myself to write about ever turns out well, and so I've learned to wait for the voice, the incident, the image that reverberates.
I grew up in North Dakota around Dakota and Ojibwe people, and also small-town people in Wahpeton. Writers make few choices, really, about their material. We have to write about what comes naturally and what interests us - so I do.
I grew up in Wahpeton, N.D., and I didn't leave until I was 18, and I've kept going back.
There are several kinds of land on reservations. And all of these pieces of land have different entities who are in charge of enforcing laws on this land.
Talking about how I might write the next book is like talking about whether or not to have sex. Any dithering ruins it.
Most writers have been influenced by Faulkner.
My parents' marriage is a gift to everyone around them - 60 years of making their kids laugh. How many parents are actually funny?
On any state elections map, the reservations are blue places. Native people are most often progressives, Democrats, and by no means gun-toting vigilantes.
My grandfather was a persuasive man who made friends with people at every level of influence. In order to fight against our tribe's termination, he went to newspapers and politicians and urged them to advocate for our tribe in Washington. He also supported his family through the Depression as a truck farmer.
My mother is Turtle Mountain Chippewa, and she lived on her home reservation. My father taught there. He had just been discharged from the Air Force. He went to school on the GI Bill and got his teaching credentials. He is adventurous - he worked his way through Alaska at age seventeen and paid for his living expenses by winning at the poker table.
I have never fully exorcised shames that struck me to the heart as a child except through written violence, shadowy caricature, and dark jokes.
It was enough just to sit there without words.
What I see in the book is an exquisite form of technology: one that doesn't require a power source and can be passed from hand to hand and lasts a lot longer than an electronic reader.
Revenge is a sorrow for the person who has to take it on. And the person who is rash enough to think it's going to help a situation is always wrong.
I have to write. I have to be an artist.
I live on the margin of just about everything. I'm a marginal person, and I think that is where I've become comfortable. I'm marginally there in my native life. I can do as much as I can, but I'm always German, too, you know, and I'm always a mother. That's my first identity, but I'm always a writer, too.
Women don't realize how much store men set on the regularity of their habits. We absorb their comings and goings into our bodies, their rhythms into our bones.
In order to purify yourself, you have to understand yourself, Father Trais went on. Everything out in the world is also in you. Good, bad, evil, perfection, death, everything. So we study our souls.
There is a legacy of violence against native women that has gotten worse and worse over time.
So what is wild? What is wilderness? What are dreams but an internal wilderness and what is desire but a wildness of the soul?
Can you stop your mother from singing to you? Who would do such a thing?
History works itself out in the living.
Your life feels different on you, once you greet death and understand your heart's position.
...don't read anything except what destroys the insulation between yourself and your experience...
I got well by talking. Death could not get a word in edgewise, grew discouraged, and traveled on.
How come we've got these bodies? They are frail supports for what we feel. There are times I get so hemmed in by my arms and legs I look forward to getting past them. As though death will set me free like a traveling cloud... I'll be out there as a piece of the endless body of the world feeling pleasures so much larger than skin and bones and blood.
some people meet the way the sky meets the earth, inevitably, and there is no stopping or holding back their love. It exists in a finished world, beyond the reach of common sense.
You see I thought love got easier over the years so it didn't hurt so bad when it hurt, or feel so good when it felt good. I thought it smoothed out and old people hardly noticed it. I thought it curled up and died, I guess. Now I saw it rear up like a whip and lash.
Love won't be tampered with, love won't go away. Push it to one side and it creeps to the other.
You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart.
Cold sinks in, there to stay. And people, they'll leave you, sure. There's no return to what was and no way back. There's just emptiness all around, and you in it, like singing up from the bottom of a well, like nothing else, until you harm yourself, until you are a mad dog biting yourself for sympathy. Because there is no relenting.
Of course, English is a very powerful language, a colonizer's language and a gift to a writer. English has destroyed and sucked up the languages of other cultures - its cruelty is its vitality.
Our songs travel the earth. We sing to one another. Not a single note is ever lost and no song is original. They all come from the same place and go back to a time when only the stones howled.
We do know that no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try.
When women age into their power, no wind can upset them, no hand turn aside their knowledge, no fact can deflect their point of view.