Courtesy Native Wiki.

Ray A. Young Bear (born 1950) is a Native American poet of the Meskwaki (People of the Red Earth) tribe.


Young Bear was born in 1950 in Marshalltown, Iowa, and raised on the Meskwaki Tribal Settlement near Tama, Iowa, where he lives today with his wife, Stella. His great-great grandfather, Maminwanike, as a Sacred Chieftan or Okima, purchased the settlement land in 1856, on ancestral lands along the Iowa River. This was done after the federal government forced the tribe to remove to Kansas. This tribally-owned land is not a "reservation." Ray and Stella are co-founders of a cultural performance group, Black Eagle Child, that has toured the Midwest and The Netherlands. Ray often begins his readings with Meskwaki songs, accompanied by a hand drum and English translations.

Young Bear's first language is Meskwaki. He began seriously writing in English when in his early teens. He first wrote by thinking in Meskwaki and then translating into English. While he no longer does this, he still writes in the heightened, formal style of Meskwaki oratory. He does not write to reveal or to conceal, but to correct the errors of misrepresentation that have occurred over generations. Although his poetry was first published in 1968, he was introduced formally as a tribal contributor in the South Dakota Review American Indian II by John Milton. Robert Bly, a Minnesota poet, in the role of mentor recommended him to various literary magazines.

Young Bear attended Pomona College between 1969 and 1971. (In 1971 he met James Welch and Duane Niatum at a conference which had been organized by Milton at the University of South Dakota.) He has also attended the University of Iowa, Grinnell College, Northern Iowa University and Iowa State University. Ray has since taught creative writing and Native American literature at The Institute of American Indian Art (1984), Eastern Washington University (1987), Meskwaki Indian Elementary School (1988-89), the University of Iowa (1989) and at Iowa State University (1993 and 1998).

Ray's book covers show his wife, Stella's, elaborate bandolier-style beadwork. He uses the pronoun, we, in discussing his work. His poems are not written as an extension of his individual ego. They are collages of many voices, both interior and exterior. This polyvocality is an expression of his view of human insignificance in the universe, sharing the universe with all other beings.

Ray's writing has been published in journals such as the American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Parnassus, Ploughshares, Solo, Virginia Quarterly Review and Witness.

Recognition Edit

Young Bear received a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976. He has also received an honorary Doctorate in Letters from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, in 1993, and the Ruth Suckow Award for Remnants of the First Earth as an outstanding work of fiction about Iowa, in 1997.

Publications Edit

Poetry Edit

  • Waiting to be Fed. Port Townsend, WA: Greywolf Press, 1975.
  • Winter of the Salamander: The keeper of importance. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.
  • The Invisible Musician: Poems. Duluth, MN: Holy Cow! Press, 1990.
  • The Rock Island Hiking Club. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2001.

Novels Edit

  • Black Eagle Child: The facepaint narratives. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 1992; New York: Grove Press, 1997.
  • Remnants of the First Earth. New York: Grove Press, 1996.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[1]

Audio / videoEdit

  • The Woodland Singers: Traditional Mesquakie songs. Canyon Records, 1987.

See alsoEdit


  • Native American Writers of the United States, (Dictionary of Literary Biography, V. 175), Kenneth M. Roemer (Editor), Gale Research.
  • Beyond Bounds: Cross-Cultural Essays on Anglo, American Indian, & Chicano Literature, Robert Franklin Gish, Univ of New Mexico Press.
  • New Voices in Native American Literary Criticism, Arnold Krupat (Editor), Smithsonian Inst Press.
  • Coyote was here: essays on contemporary Native American literary and political mobilization, Bo Scholer (Editor), Aarhus, Denmark : Seklos.
  • Survival This Way: Interviews With American Indian Poets, Joseph Bruchac III (Editor), (Sun Tracks Books, No 15) University of Arizona Press
  • We, I, "Voice," and Voices: Reading Contemporary Native American Poetry, Janet McAdams, Studies in American Indian Literatures, 7(3), 7-16. Fall 1995.
  • Ray A. Young Bear: Tribal History & Personal Vision, Gretchen M. Bataille Studies in American Indian Literatures, 5, 17-20, Summer 1993.
  • The Reality of Dreamtime in Some Contemporary Native American Poetry, Anne Bromley, Greenfield Review, 11 (3 & 4), Winter/Spring 1984.
  • Memory and Dream in the Poetry of Ray A. Young Bear, Robert F. Gish, Minority Voices, 2, 21-29, 1978.
  • Mesquakie Singer: Listening to Ray A. Young Bear, Robert F. Gish, A: A Journal of Contemporary Literature, 4, 24-28, 1979.
  • On First Reading Young Bear's Winter of the Salamander, Robert F. Gish, Studies in American Indian Literatures, 6, 10-15, 1982.
  • Introduction, Richard Hugo, American Poetry Review, 2, 22, 1973.
  • To Be There, No Authority to Anything: Ontological Desire & Cultural and Poetic Authority in the Poetry of Ray A. Young Bear, Robert Dale Parker, Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture and Theory, 50, 89-115, 1994.
  • Outside the Arc of the poem: A Review of Ray Young Bear's Winter of the Salamander, James Ruppert, Studies in American Indian Literatures, , 6-10, Summer 1982.
  • Studies in American Indian Literatures Special Issue, 6, #3, 1982.
  • I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers, Brian Swann, Arnold Krupat, Brompton Books Corp.


  1. Search results = au:Ray Young Bear, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 2, 2015.

External links Edit

Audio / video