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Live! Fundraising Week Episode: Montana Poet Laureate Chris La Tray on Poetry, Public Radio, and “Becoming Little Shell”

This week on The right questionMontana Poet Laureate Chris La Tray joins host Lauren Korn in Studio A for a live episode celebrating Pledge Week (and National Poetry Month!) Chris will be back in the studio with Lauren this summer for further conversations about The Journey Home: A Landless Indian (published August 20, 2024 by Milkweed Editions).

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About the book:

“I am determined to discover the culture of my people. I am determined to learn as much of the language as I can. I have always loved this country, and I have always loved the Indians. The more I study it, the more I associate with my Indian relatives, the more it blossoms in my heart. The more it blossoms in my spirit.”

Chris La Tray grew up in Montana and always felt Native American. Although his father vehemently denied any connection, he found Native Americans attractive and often recalled his grandmother's constant mention of their Chippewa ancestry. When La Tray attended his grandfather's funeral as a young man, he was finally surrounded by relatives who were obviously Native American. “Who were they?” he wondered, and “Why was I never allowed to meet them?”

Combining meticulous research and compelling conversations with authors, activists, elders and historians, La Tray takes a journey into his family's past, uncovering a larger story of the complicated history of Indigenous communities — and the devastating effects of colonialism that continue to reverberate today through generations to come. And when he realizes his true identity, he eventually seeks induction into the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, joining their 158-year-long struggle for federal recognition.

Both personally and historically, Become Little Shell is a testament to the power of storytelling, family and heritage, and finding home. Filled with openness, heart, wisdom, and an unwavering love for place and its people, Chris La Tray's remarkable journey is both insightful and redemptive.

About Chris:

Chris La Tray is a Métis storyteller, a descendant of the Pembina band from the mighty Red River of the North, and an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. His third book, Become Little Shellwill be published by Milkweed Editions in Niibin in summer 2024. His first book, One-sentence diary: short poems and essays from around the worldwon the 2018 Montana Book Award and a 2019 High Plains Book Award. His book of haiku and haibun poems, Originating from a travel bagwas published in 2021 by Foothills Publishing. Chris writes the weekly newsletter An Irritable Métis and lives near Frenchtown, Montana. He is the Montana Poet Laureate for 2023-2025.

Lauren Korn recommends:

The Journey Home: A Landless Indian (formerly with subtitles Returning to the landless Indians of MontanaMilkweed Editions) and One-sentence diary: short poems and essays from around the world, (Riverfeet Press) by Chris La Tray

Carry: A memoir of survival on stolen land by Toni Jensen (Ballantine Books)

Bitterroot: A Salish family's memories of transracial adoption by Susan Devan Harness (University of Nebraska Press)

A story of my short body by Billy-Ray Belcourt (Two Dollar Radio)

Heartberries by Terese Marie Mailhot (Counterpoint LLC)

Aligning the Spirit of the Glacier: Essays on Solitude and Landscape by Sarah Capdeville (University of New Mexico Press)

The right questionThe 2023-2024 season is supported by a cooperative of four independent bookstores that promote lifelong learning through storytelling and conversation: Elk River Books in Livingston, Montana; Bookstore Chapter One in Hamilton, Montana; Montana Book Co. in Helena, Montana; and Non-fiction and fiction in Missoula, Montana.

Additional funds for The right question comes from Humanities Montana; members of Montana Public Radio; and of the Greater Montana Foundation– Promote communication about issues, trends and values ​​that are important to Montanans.

The right question Logo and brand (2022) were designed by Molly Russell. You can find more of her work at iamthemollruss.com and on Instagram @iamthemollrussOur music was written and recorded by John Floridis.

The right question is a production of Montana Public Radio.

Anna Harden

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