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5 Questions with Tanaya Winder of the Reach The Rez Campaign

By       Message Bill Wetzel     Permalink
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Tanaya Winder
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1. Can you tell us a little about As/Us journal and its mission?

Our mission is to provide a space for Indigenous women and women of color in the world to share their stories of laughter, love, loss, heartache, hope, pain, growth, learning, and love through art. We wanted to show a pipe of possibility by publishing well-established writers alongside those just emerging including our youth. Every issue features a youth writer. The world is full of brave and beautiful voices that share common threads; we hope As/Us can be one place to weave these threads together into a collective of experiences and living that inhabits multiple spaces and crosses borders. We recognize that we have supporters and allies who cross the borders of the definition of our journal's mission and provide opportunities for other women and men of color to submit their work to us for special themed issues. We believe in access, publishing the journal online and in print to get it into as many places in the world as possible. As of today, As/Us has been viewed in approximately 129 countries. We open our hearts to the universe to take us as we are: words, movements, dance, photography, music, and art"the gifts

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of who we are as humans.   

2. How many issues have you published so far and do they have any specific themes?

So far we've published four issues (Issue 1, Issue 2, V-Day Issue in support of All Nations Rising, and our most recent Queer issue) -- all are available online. Issues 1 and 2 are also available in print. Issue 3 is currently in the works. We have a Decolonial Love issue planned for spring. We're also excited about an upcoming collaborative issue we have with the Just Write organization and San Quentin to share student work. Finally, we're working on a language revitalization issue with some prominent Indigenous writers; it will also include our first contest as well. More soon on that! 

3. What is the "Reach the Rez" campaign that As/Us has started?

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Reach the Rez is our gift to our communities. Our youth are our future. Now is the time to help cultivate their creativity, encourage their passions, and provide outlets for expression. We want to help spread the word about As/Us as one of those places where they could submit work and maybe even get their first publication. We'd love to see As/Us used in classrooms or be available in libraries and schools in our communities where students can sit down and read work by other Indigenous people. This is how our future begins, by showing others what is out there, what is possible.   

4. Can a contributor pick any community to send journals to and/or do you have any suggestions?

Yes! A contributor can pick ANY community, school, library, or institution to send journals to as long as they give us an address and contact person to send it to. We also have a list of suggested places where we have contacts on reservations and in rural areas serving low-income, first-generation Native youth. 

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5. Why do you believe it is important to promote and empower youth through art?

Our communities contain so much talent, yet sometimes the institution of higher education and the academia can silence those creative abilities. As young writers we encountered feedback of our stories being too raw and so different that they didn't "belong" in mainstream publications. So we created a space where this type of sharing could not only be possible, but also validated and shared.   As a people we experience many soul lessons, some of which threaten to break and deter us from our dreams. As writers and Indigenous people we know the importance of good mentors; in our lives these mentors can be books, words, and art. Empowering each other and our youth through art is extremely important because we can see our realities reflected in words, mirrored back through others. This is empowering. This is connection. This is loving ourselves As/Us". who we are as individuals over who we are as an us is wholeness. Through words we dig into our pasts to piece them together to discover our present, and imagine what we'll leave behind in the future.

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Bill Wetzel is Amskapi Pikuni aka Blackfeet from Montana. He's a former bull rider/wrestler turned writer and a coauthor of the short story collection "The Acorn Gathering." His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from the American Indian Culture (more...)

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