I am Nimipu (Nez Perce) of Chief Joseph's band on my mom's side, enrolled at the Colville Confederated Tribal Reservation in Washington. My grandparents were Thomas and Alice Andrews. My uncle Frank Andrews teaches language lessons in Nespelem and he is active with the Nez Perce historical commemoration projects. My aunts, Iva Saxa and Inez Cleveland live in Seattle. I cherish the teachings I've received from my uncle and my aunties, including my aunties Tillie Red Elk Bob and Dawn Bierle, both of whom have passed on. I have lots of relatives in Nespelem, Seattle, Yakima, and thereabouts. I live in Woodland, California, with my husband Juan Avila, who follows the Yoeme (Yaqui ) traditions which come to him from his mother's side. My mom, Janice Andrews Hernandez lives in Woodland, with my oldest son Rudy, his wife Joanna and my grandkids. My youngest son, Tom, lives in Palo Alto with his wife Gabriela.
On my dad's side I am of Mexican descent. I grew up in Galveston, Texas, and I'm from the Hernandez family. My father (now in the spirit world) was Rodolfo Hernandez; there are many Hernandez's in Galveston, but people know our family by the fact that I have twin uncles. My paternal grandparents, Sabas and Inés Hernandez, immigrated from Piedras Negras, Coahuila, to Eagle Pass, Texas, then to Galveston, in the 1920's. On my dad's dad's side, we are originally from the area of San Luís Potosí. My grandparents taught me that I was "mexicana," the Texas-Mexican community taught me I was Tejana, my father taught me that I was American, and my mom taught me that, as an American Indian, I was one of the "first Americans." I was an activist in the Chicano movement, and I always identified as Nez Perce and Chicana, but honestly, I didn't grow up using the term "Chicana." It was a political choice for many of us to employ the term, which has its roots in the Nahuatl language ("mexica, meshicano, Chicano"). I don't identify with the term "Latina" but my work has appeared in collections that are called "Latina," and I participate in a wonderful group of writers and scholars known as the Latina Feminist Group.
My parents met after World War II, when my father, a Marine, was stationed on Bremerton Island, and my mom was working at the Boeing Aircraft Factory in Seattle. When my dad was on leave and visiting Seattle, he met my mom and began courting her. He eventually returned to Texas, sent for her, and they were married in Galveston. That's how a mountain woman of the Nez Perce people ended up in a Mexican community in Texas. All my life I've encountered persons who get frustrated with me because I don't hide or deny either aspect of my identity. My answer is simple: I have a mother and a father, I love them both, and I love both their peoples. At the same time, I recognize that my "Mexicaness" is really a "Mexican indigenousness." I am a Native woman of these Americas.
My B.A, M.A. and Ph.D. are all in English (from the University of Houston), but my work, my writing, and my teaching have always been in Native American Studies and Chicana/o Studies, although in the area of Chicana/o Studies my focus has primarily been on the indigenous aspects of Chicana/o culture and identity(ies). More specifically, my research interests include Native American women's literature, especially poetry and essay; Native American religious traditions (such as the Conchero dance tradition of Mexico); and Native American and indigenous/Chicana feminisms, womanisms, and spiritualities. I focus on issues of identity(formation), community(building), representation, and intellectual sovereignties, with a particular attention to the linkages between the fields of Native American Studies and "estudios indígenas" in Mexico, and Chicana/o Studies. One of my current research projects focuses on Escritores en Lenguas Indigenas, which is a movement of writers in indigenous languages in Mexico. Because I believe it's extremely important for Native writers from the Americas to be able to read each other, one of my current projects is an anthology of indigenous literature representing Native writers from the U.S. and Mexico (in translation). I am thankful that my life-long fluency in Spanish is allowing me to produce this project. On a personal and creative note, I am devoted to the recuperation of my own Nimipu family story(ies), and I look to my family members in Washington to guide me and teach me in my endeavors. I am a poet and cultural worker as well as a scholar.
I arrived at UC Davis after a stint at DQ University in the mid-80's (I lived on campus, as an instructor and board member). I won a tenure-track position in NAS in 1989, and received tenure there in 1995. I served as Chair of our Department from 1996-1998. During my term as chair, the department completed a successful proposal (approved in fall 1998) to establish an M.A. and Ph.D. program in Native American Studies. This is the first Native American Studies graduate program in the country with a hemispheric perspective. As of July1, 2002, I was promoted to Full Professor of Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis. For academic year 2003-2004, I am the Interim Director of the Carl N. Gorman Museum (which is a part of our NAS program). Since 2002-2003, I have been the Director of the Chicana/Latina Research Center on our campus (which also supports research projects of Native women faculty and graduate students). I am active in the academic senate side of shared governance on our campus.
I'm on the advisory board of Wicazo Sa Review, and a member of the board of directors of Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies. I'm currently a member of the National Caucus of the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. I participate when I can in the American Academy of Religions, the Society for the Study of Native American Religious Traditions, the Association for the Study of American Indian Literature, the American Studies Association, and the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies. I served as a consultant for the Smithsonian Institution to help envision and elaborate the inaugural exhibits for the opening of the new National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (scheduled for 2004). I am also a Ford Foundation Fellow. I am committed to helping to build the area of Native American Studies, and to strengthening the pipeline of Native scholars in our communities and across campuses in this country. In 1998, I was a Juror for the Premio Canto de America de Literatura en Lenguas Indígenas (a $20,000 prize co-sponsored by UNESCO, the Mexican government, and the Casa de Escritores en Lenguas Indígenas)
Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios received the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Award as one of the 10 Best Books od 2002.
This is an "official" site in that this page was constructed with the assistance and active collaboration of the poet and scholar, Inés Hernández-Ávila. The website "author" is Karen M. Strom.
© 2003 Inés Hernández-Ávila and Karen Strom.