Intertribal Friendship House Hosts Poetry Workshop with Frank Waln & Tanaya Winder

Local American Indian come out to support at Oakland's Intertribal Friendship House - Photo by Nanette Bradley Deetz

Local American Indian come out to support at Oakland’s Intertribal Friendship House – Photo by Nanette Bradley Deetz

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA — On Saturday, June 20, Intertribal Friendship House presented a very special multi-generational, creative and healing poetry workshop for the Bay Area Native community led by Frank Waln and Tanaya Winder. “We began these poetry workshops together one year ago, in order to heal our people and our communities through creative expression,” said Ms. Winder. “My poetry flows from my experiences with students, my own life, and I present it in order to heal our people, bring our communities together, and motivate all of us to recognize and actualize our dreams and strengths,” said Ms. Winder.

Tanaya Winder is a poet, writer, educator, and motivational speaker from the Southern Ute, Duckworth Shoshone and Pyramid Lake Paiute Nations. She has a B.A. in English from Stanford University and an M.A. in poetry from Univ. of New Mexico. Poems from her manuscript “Love in a Time of Blood Quantum” were produced and performed by Poetic Theater Productions Presents Company in NYC. She has taught poetry at Stanford, UC Boulder, and teaches at the University of New Mexico, and was awarded the 2010 Orlando prize in poetry. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications. Currently she is the Director of the Upward Bound program at UC Boulder. “My poetry is an expression of who I am as an indigenous woman, and I shape and create that in order to tell our stories.”

Tanaya Winder & Frank Waln _ Photo by Nanette Bradley Deetz

Tanaya Winder & Frank Waln _ Photo by Nanette Bradley Deetz

Frank Waln is a Sicangu Lakota award winning poet, perfomer and producer who chooses to tell his personal story and the history of the Lakota people in the form of music and song. He is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Nation, where he was born and raised. Waln has a B.A. in Audio Arts and Acoustics from Columbia College, Chicago, where he was a Gates Millennium scholar. He is also the 2014 recipient of the Chicago Mayor’s Award for Civic Engagement from Columbia College; was awarded the 2014 National Center of American Indian Enterprise’s “40 Under 40” recognition, and in 2015 he was awarded the Mic.com Celebration of the Next Generation of Impactful Leaders, Cutural Influencers and Breakthrough Innovators.

In 2013, Frank Waln produced “AbOriginal” a music video, and in 2012 “Born Ready”. Waln was one of the featured artists in MTV’s “Rebel Music Native America” which aired internationally. Currently he lives and works in Chicago as the Youth Development Coordinator for the Chicago city-wide American Indian Education Council.

“Tanaya and I met one another when she opened for us in a concert at UC Boulder. It was Frank Waln and the Sampson Brothers (Will Sampson’s two sons). We realized how important it is to reach out to youth and make cross generational connections in order to strengthen community,” said Waln. “We really enjoy the workshops,” said Winder.

Ms. Winder began the workshop by asking those present to simply focus on breathing.

“We’re going to build community with our words. I feel like I’m back home. I grew up on a reservation, and I was shy to step out of my comfort zone. Music was a way for me to get my feelings out. We’re born into this trauma of colonization, we didn’t create it. We’re Native artists, and this is a gift to us, because we can now give that gift back to you. The key to our culture is storytelling. We descended from the greatest storytellers and each one of you has that ability,” said Waln.  

Tanaya then explained, “We each have a light. Everyone has the ability to create something beautiful. Think of this space as a beautiful blanket, so that you are safe. Sometimes we are all afraid, so we need to hold each other up. It’s important to cheer for each other,” said Ms. Winder.

Tanaya then asked everyone to write three poems each beginning with the statement, “I know joy, I know love, I know pain.” Each participant shared what they wrote, with Tanaya’s encouragement, “You never know when someone will need to hear what you have to say.”

Participants were then asked to write, ” I feel free when..”

After the writing workshop Frank Waln and Tanaya Winder gave a performance of their tremendous poetry and music. Frank Waln performed “My Stone” a song dedicated to his mother’s love and all she endured; domestic violence, poverty, trauma from colonization, and racism. “Forever in my heart, you will be my stone. You kept me smiling. It’s not easy coming up through genocide…” Tanaya Winder performed her poems, ” Back to the Beginning” and “Patrick would never say the word Love”.
The final writing prompt was about freedom. Participants were asked to write ” I feel free…” As an example Ms. Winder quickly wrote, “they say freedom can’t be defined-a concept too big, grandiose and expansive to hold. But they’re thinking freedom lies in a fist held closed. Whether it’s raised in the air pointing to the sky, freedom doesn’t reside in a specific place, location or zip code, it lives in our hearts…
For those interested in contacting Frank Waln and Tanaya Winder for workshops or performances visit:franciswaln@gmail.com

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