Texts by and about Natives: Commentary

11. Elizabeth Woody, "By Our Hand, through the Memory, the House is More than Form"

A member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Oregon), Elizabeth Woody is an artist and writer who belongs, she says, “to a people who cherish the land.” Woody describes her own art as a legacy from her grandparents, Lewis Pitt, Sr., and Elizabeth Thompson Pitt, two people who “made things.” Her grandfather descended from the ancient Fisher bands who made distinctive male and female figures and images of the deer and condors and sturgeon one could once see along the Columbia River. Woody’s grandmother, a Walla Wallan, made beaded buckskin clothing, baskets, and cradleboards as continuations of her own ancestors’ arts. These created objects, Woody believes, showed deep family love and served as avenues for prayer. In her grandmother’s tradition, Elizabeth Woody also makes things—poems, prose, and artworks. She has published in Ploughshares and in many other journals; her writings include a book of poems, The Pocket Cook Book, Hand Into Stone, which received the American Book Award in 1990 and has been expanded and republished as a book of poetry and prose, Seven Hands, Seven Hearts. She has since written another book of poems, Luminaries for the Humble. Woody has edited and/or been included in many anthologies, including Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America (1997), Salmon Nation: People and Fish at the Edge, (1999), and Here First: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers (2000). Woody taught creative writing at the Institute of American Indian and Alaskan Native Arts, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has also worked with Ecotrust in Portland, Oregon.

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