Another writer among First Peoples Fund artist alumni

Sondra Simone Segundo (Alaskan Haida) is on a writing roll.

Having just published her first children's picture book, the 2012 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership fellow has two more in the works and plans to keep writing after that.

"I feel like I'm dreaming," said Segundo, who is Alaskan Haida and born and raised in Seattle, Washington. "My book is finally published. It took a long time and maybe that's why it means so much."

The book, "Killer Whale Eyes," was published by Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI). Segundo wrote the story to teach Southeast Alaska Native culture to young people. The story was inspired by Haida stories and beliefs that were passed down to Segundo from her maternal Haida grandparents and other Elders.

"These are stories that are passed down through the years from my family," she said.

She dedicated the book to her uncle, the late Claude Morrison, a well-known fluent Haida speaker, and her aunt Viola Burgess. Both helped her translate some of the words to Haida. She also included a dedication to Louise (Morrison) Arrington, who supported her work on the book.

Segundo wrote a song for the book and sought help from Elders in her tribe to help her translate it so she could record it and include it with the book. Segundo said the picture book has been a way for her to continue to teach others about her culture, which her grandparents encouraged her to practice through music, language, eating traditional foods, visiting tribal lands and honoring Native art.

Segundo also paints traditional Haida designs on contemporary shoes and clothing and makes traditional regalia with her family to wear in performances for the Haida Heritage Foundation, of which she is a drum and dance leader.

Her next goal is to publish an art instruction book, which she was able to write with the support of First Peoples Fund. The book, "Form Line Drawing Made Easy," gives instructions on Haida art.

"It's the art of my people and it's drawn shape by shape," she said.

After that, it's on to a second children's picture book about her grandparents called "Love Birds."

Segundo said she still carries with her the lessons she learned while working with First Peoples Fund.

"It gave me confidence to approach people," she said. "It built my confidence as a Native entrepreneur. It's hard to switch from my art mind to my business mind, but I'm still using the tools they taught me."

Segundo teaches special education students at a public school in Seattle, where she is also raising her three children. She said she's enjoying the moment, but is now even more focused on accomplishing her next goals.

"This has been a lifelong dream," she said. "I have been wanting to write children's books since I was a child myself. I'm excited and motivated to get these other ones finished and out there."