2004 Lifetime Achievement Award
Native Writers' Circle of the Americas

Press Release - March 20, 2004

The late Dr. Lee Francis III (Laguna Pueblo) is the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award winner from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas. Dr. Francis, who lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico prior to his death on July 7, 2003, was a widely published poet, essayist, and anthologist. He is perhaps best known as the founder and director of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, an international organization dedicated to perpetuating Native American literature and assisting apprentice writers, generally from Native American communities and family background, in perfecting their craft as writers. Dr. Francis was born in Albuquerque in 1945. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from San Francisco State University and his Ph. D. from the Western Institute for Social Research, at the University of California at Berkeley. During a long teaching and administrative career, he held appointments at The American University (in Washington, D. C.), California State University at Long Beach, the University of California at Santa Barbara, San Francisco State University, and the University of New Mexico. Shortly before his passing, he was the coordinator of the Native American Studies program at the University of New Mexico. His publications include Native Time: A Historical Time Line of Native America, a survey of Native American history and cultures, (1996), and On the Good Red Interstate: Truck Stop Tellings and Other Poems (2002). His anthologies, Reclaiming the Vision-Past. Present and Future: Native Voices for the Eighth Generation (coedited with James Bruchac), and When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans, appeared in 1996 and 1999, respectively.

Of international prominence for the founding and directing of Wordcraft Circle, Dr. Francis is credited with assisting numerous emerging writers in developing their skills as writers and helping them to eventually become published. Wordcraft Circle, founded in 1992 during the Returning the Gift festival in Norman, Oklahoma, and based in Albuquerque, continues Dr. Francis's work through the direction of his son, Lee Francis IV. Tributes to Dr. Francis appear on the Wordcraft Circle web site, www.wordcraftcircle.org and other pages relating to contemporary Native American literature. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and his son, Lee; two sisters, Carol Lee Sanchez Allen and Paula Gunn Allen; and a brother, John, as well as numerous nieces and nephews and many other relatives.

Dr. Francis will be honored, along with the winners of the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas' First Book Award for Poetry (Christina M. Castro and Cathy Ruiz) and Prose (Kimberly G. Roppolo), and the Theresa Palmer Memorial Scholarship Award winner (given to an Oklahoma Native American graduating high school senior, to be announced), at a banquet at the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, Oklahoma, in October of 2004. Specific places and times for all accompanying events---book signings, readings, banquet, etc.---will be announced at a later date.

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