By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
Poet, writer, and educator Tanaya Winder was raised on the Southern Ute Reservation in Ignacio, Colo. An enrolled member of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, her background includes Southern Ute, Pyramid Lake Paiute, Navajo, and Black heritages.
A winner of the 2010 A Room Of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando prize in poetry, Tanaya has taught writing courses at Stanford University, UC-Boulder, and the University of New Mexico. Tanaya is the director of the Upward Bound Program at the University of Colorado Boulder and an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. She created Dream Warriors Management, an Indigenous artist management company and collective. Tanaya is a 2017 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership (ABL) fellow.
The art of re-membering.
A mosaic of memories, the way the mind protects from pains of the past. Tanaya knows someone has to dive headfirst into this muck and darkness to bring forth hope and beauty. She pieces together memories to answer questions in life, to re-member and to explore healing words through poetry. She writes from a place of love.
The way schools teach poetry often intimidates. It stifles creativity. But Tanaya shows people — from youth to elders — how to write their stories and express their hearts freely through poetry. It becomes a tool for them to re-member the journey of their lives.
Years ago, the direction of Tanaya’s life story took a sharp turn. She lost a dear friend from her reservation community to suicide in college. Shaken with grief, she questioned who she was, what she was doing. Who did she want to serve and help in this lifetime?
The journey brought her together with poetry — spoken word performances, singing, teaching, and founding Dream Warriors, a Native artists management company. The performing artists in the company understand the gifts they’ve been given. They take action and will stop at nothing until they are living their dreams, passions and goals. Most of all, “a Dream Warrior does not step on others in order to reach his/her destination, but rather uplifts others in fulfilling their life paths.”
Tanaya plans to strengthen this collective with her ABL fellowship. Gathering the Dream Warrior artists — which includes FPF fellows past and present: Frank Waln, Mic Jordan and Tall Paul — Tanaya is coordinating a retreat to collaborate on new work, envision the future and video their own stories to inspire others. They’ll take all this back to their communities individually and as a collective.
Tanaya re-members. Through poetry, she is piecing communities back together.