- By Native News Online Staff
Chris La Tray, a tribal citizen of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, has been named by Montana Governor Greg Gianforte for the term of 2023-2024. The announcement was made by the Montana Arts Council.
La Tray, known for his two poetry collections, "One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large" and "Descended From a Travel-worn Satchel: Haiku & Haibun," has firmly established himself as a prominent figure among Montana's poets.
His debut work, "One-Sentence Journal," received numerous accolades upon release, including the 2018 Montana Book Award, the 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best First Book), and a finalist spot for the 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best Book by Indigenous Writer). Anticipation is building for his upcoming book, "Becoming Little Shell," set to be published in 2024 by Milkweed Editions.
Upon learning of his appointment, La Tray expressed his excitement, stating, "I'm thrilled to have this opportunity. I never saw myself as a poet until others began to call me one."
Looking ahead to his new role, La Tray expressed his interest in reaching places that might not typically be associated with poetry events. He mentioned his plans to hit the road, visiting all tribal colleges. He even shared his excitement about an invitation from Wibaux, humorously adding that Wibaux is almost like North Dakota. In addition to his poetic endeavors, La Tray intends to continue collaborating with Montana's Office of Public Instruction and Humanities Montana in their Indian Education for All Initiative. This initiative aims to educate Montanans about the history of the state through the perspectives of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa and Métis cultures.
La Tray was born and raised in Frenchtown, Montana.His prowess with language runs in the family—his Métis great-great-grandfather Mose served as a multilingual interpreter for the US Army, while Chris himself advocates for the revitalization of Indigenous languages spoken in Montana. Prior to the publication of his first book, La Tray contributed writing to the Missoula Independent and had his fiction and nonfiction pieces featured in various publications. He maintains an online journal called "An Irritable Métis," where he grapples with matters of cultural identity, the natural world, and the path Montana is taking.
La Tray takes over the role of Poet Laureate from fellow Missoula valley writer Mark Gibbons. Mark's tenure included conducting a series of video interviews with fellow Montana poets and contributing regularly to the Montana Arts Council's publication, "State of the Arts." As Chris steps into this role, he becomes the eleventh Montana Poet Laureate and embarks on his two-year term.
The position of Montana Poet Laureate was established in 2005 through the efforts of the Montana State Legislature.
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