Thoughtful Gifts

Over winter break, I thought a lot about gifts. This holiday season, like always, I was given an abundance of thoughtful, generous gifts by many, many loved ones. In between gatherings, visiting, and gift exchanges, I also took several hikes in the mountains of my beloved Yakama homeland.

I love winter hiking–the thoughtfulness I put into my layers of clothes, choosing my footwear, should I take one hiking pole or two? This thoughtfulness and care I show for myself prepares me to walk in prayer, each step of my hike a blessing for me…and the land.

Our homeland was created and gifted with deep thought and care by Tamanawilá and his helper, Spilyáy. In listening to an Elder tell a legend yesterday, I was reminded our beautiful mountain ranges were also created by Ocean Grandmother, who sought to protect her beloved granddaughters from gender violence. What thoughtfulness, care, and generosity we have…all around us…in the land.

Anytime we live with thoughtfulness and care, we honor our beloved relatives, all the people and beings who have done so much for us. In doing so, we also honor ourselves. We become part of the rich and blessed tradition of preparing the way, our way, full of thoughtfulness and care, for future generations.

Perhaps this is the greatest gift of all.

Photo: Winter hike on Yakama homeland. Credit: Michelle M. Jacob

Maybe you want to give the gift of writing in powerful community to yourself? The Winter 2023 Auntie Way Writing Retreat begins Friday, January 6.

Early Morning Light

It’s daybreak on my Yakama homeland. Aan (Sun) is preparing for another day of work, perhaps like me drinking a morning cup of coffee. Aan touches the eastern horizon with light and I feel lucky to witness the artistic transformation of the sky–from a cool blue to warm yellow, and now bits of orangish-pink. I see Tamanwilá (Creator) has painted a few clouds, perhaps to companion Aan in their early morning work. I hear the hum of humans driving on Highway 97, either south to Toppenish or north to Yakima. I pause to wish everyone a safe and blessed day as they travel and work on our reservation, or beyond.

In this early morning light I see the shapely silhouettes of apple trees’ leaves. This may be their favorite time of year–the comfortably warm days and deliciously cool nights that help them put the finishing touches on fruits they’ve grown all year, developing the sweet taste for which they are prized, and the coloring to delight consumers’ eyes in the marketplace.

Like us, these fruit trees draw strength and nourishment from my blessed Yakama homeland. Like us, they’ve made it through another year of challenges and opportunities. Like us, not everything they produce will be deemed perfect, or even valuable.

But they keep going.

They keep growing.

Aan and Chuush (Water) perhaps urge them on–maybe like the fall time enthusiastic fans at a cross country meet, “Go, go, go!” “You’re doing great!” “You’re almost to the finish line!” This image makes me smile, as I recall my nephew’s recent gritty and stellar performance at a cross country meet just downriver from here.

I pause and look up from my notebook.

I believe apple tree leaves are smiling back at me.

Photo: Apple tree leaves in early morning light on Yakama homeland. Credit: Michelle M. Jacob

The Auntie Way Writing Retreat Fall 2022 Session begins Friday, September 30. Learn more and register here.

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples

Today (August 9) is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. To honor this occasion, I was invited to write for the SAGE Perspectives blog. SAGE Journals are renowned for their high-impact and world-class research across many academic fields. I am hopeful that my blog published today, “4 Ways You Can Support Indigenous Self-Determination Today” will serve as an educational and inspirational way to invite more scholars, researchers, and members of the public to be stronger advocates and partners in strengthening Indigenous self-determination. I warmly invite you to read my special blog for today and share on social media if you would like to do so. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook. I’m wishing you a wonderful day of celebrating Indigenous Peoples and our beautiful cultures and homelands!

Credit: Digital Card from the United Nations


I recently returned from my first airplane trip in over two years. I attended the American Educational Research Association conference held on beautiful Kumeyaay homeland (San Diego). It was a blessing to return to this special place that nurtured me for so many years, including when I had the honor of attending a class at Kumeyaay Community College and learning Kumeyaay Ethnobotany from a wise and kind Elder, “Auntie” Jane Dumas, and her devoted apprentice Richard Bugbee. Their kind and generous way of teaching and enacting Indigenous pedagogy remains strong in my memory, and is a model I strive to uphold. 

Kumeyaay lands are far from my home. It takes four flights total for me to travel there and return. 

On my last flight segment back, I felt my spirit sing as I began to see the sites I think of as home: snow covered mountains reaching up from the continent and touching the sky; a seemingly endless sea of evergreen trees, strong roots holding them in place; pristine mountain lakes lovingly carrying water for all of us to use and enjoy later in the year—maybe your thirst will be quenched with this water; maybe your child, niece, or nephew will learn to swim in this water; or maybe in this water you’ll catch a fish who is willing to help fill your stomach and renew your spirit. 

I love to travel. 

And I love to return home. 

I’m wishing you well in all the places you find yourself today. 

Photo credit: “Mt. Adams from Mt. Rainier” by mikeyskatie is marked withCC BY-SA 2.0.

Do you have memories or ideas you’d like to engage with creative writing? Learn how and enjoy community and support in the Creative Writing Class I’m teaching in May 2022! We’re meeting for live sessions via Zoom every Wednesday in May at 12-12:50pm pacific time. Registration includes year round access to our online platform so you can continue to grow as a writer! Learn more and register here.

Free event on Tuesday, May 3 at 3pm Pacific! I’ll be speaking about The Auntie Way with the Deschutes Public Library via Zoom. Learn more and get the free link to register here.

Creative Writing Is a Gift

I think writing is magical. In one moment we face a blank screen or page, and our minds begin to work, play, gather, or remember. And then we catch some of those thoughts, holding on to them long enough to put on the page.

Something even more magical than writing in isolation is when writers gather together–to support, learn from, and encourage one another. At such gatherings, sometimes writers have the courage to share how their writing is going, or maybe they will describe a problem they are facing. Such bravery is a gift, both to themselves and to the group. We all have so many shared joys and challenges as writers–naming them and working through them together is transformational.

I’m getting ready for another such wonderful gathering. Here is why I look forward to writing in community:

I predict there will be lots of beautiful ideas, sharing, and inspiration to come out of this fabulous gathering of writers. 

How much inspiration? 

A lot. 

Like a field of dandelions gone to seed and a lovely, refreshing breeze comes in–poof! Our ideas float and fly, a magical storm of inspiration. Anything is possible with the seeds of our ideas. 

Our precious sharing through words will take root and grow. Beings large and small who depend on the tender greens of our writing will be nourished and sustained. 

Munch, munch, munch.

They devour our delicious words. They, too, are part of our web, our energy, our community. Maybe they’ll be inspired to write stories that fill our hearts, or challenge us, or lift us up. 

Oh look! 

We’re all flying now, like the delicate puffs of dandelions gone to seed. 

Where will we go next? Anything is possible with a pen full of ink, head and heart full of ideas, the willingness to try, and the courage to share. 

Credit: “Dandelion Seed” by Bird Eye is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Maybe you want to join our fabulous collective? We’re meeting again each Wednesday in May. Registration information is here.

What the World Needs

What the world needs is love–powerful, fierce, quiet, flowing, generous, abundant love. 

Love you can swim in. 

Like Nch’i Wána (Columbia River). 

She gathers up gifts and returns them one hundred fold. 

She nourishes us. 

She and her tributary sisters have carved the landscape we know best. 

She sustains us. 

What the world needs is love. 

Love that brings cool refreshing relief on a hot summer day. 

Love that can withstand ice, hail, snow. 

Love that inspires confidence and trust so even when your edges freeze you know the strength and power of love will still flow all around you, helping you thaw when needed.

Photo: Nch’i Wána. Credit: Michelle M. Jacob

The Auntie Way Writing Retreat Spring 2022 sessions begin Friday, April 1 at 10am-12pm Pacific time. There are only a few seats left–join this fabulous group of scholars who have a love for learning, writing, and community. Registration includes year-round membership in our online network to support your ongoing growth as a writer.

What We Want for You

Where do strength and creativity come from? Where do vast stores of energy arise from? Where do quick smiles and joyous laughter originate?

For me, these gifts come from my strong and unwavering sense of home.

They come from a loving and unbreakable connection with all lands and waters that feed and are fed by N’chi Wána (Columbia River).

They come from the pride and love of knowing that:

I’ve listened.

I’ve observed.

I’ve lovingly, gently, and persistently gathered up beautiful teachings from wisdom carriers, human and more than human alike.

Yes, I’m filled with fault and can make mistakes at a dizzying pace.

But those don’t pull me under.

Rather, I am confident in my buoyancy.

I float on generations and generations of love, care, and a fierce commitment to do our best and be our best.

Like the towel my uncle uses on his makeshift fillet table to soak up the blood of sacred silvery skinned salmon pulled from the precious waters to which we belong–like that towel, I too soak up the generous offerings all around me.

We all bleed at one time or another. Yes, we want you to survive. You need to know when you’re bleeding, and when you’re the towel. Beyond these basics, you need to know why you are there, where you are going, and for what purpose?

Clarity on these questions are key to shifting from merely surviving to thriving.

That’s what we want for you. Who’s the we? Me. Your beloved relations. All your ancestors, past and future. We all sit lovingly, loyally, waiting with hope and anticipation on the edge of the hard bleacher seat of life, some of us yelling, some of us holding our breath, all of us believing in you as you step up to the three-point line and take the shot a mere half second before the end of the game buzzer sounds. In our community, your team is always tied when you take this shot. So no matter what the outcome of that round ball flying toward the metal hoop, you’re always a winner, or headed to overtime. Either way, we’ll cheer for you. Don’t you hear it in our voices? The pride, love, and hope we have for you–not just in this game on a wooden floor, but in your life.

You can learn so many things inside the gym on my reservation.

I love learning, especially if I can eat popcorn while doing so.

Look at all those young people–on the court, on the bench, in the stands–they all matter equally. They are our future.

Do they know it? Do they sense it? Their power and strength? Their sovereignty.

I hope they see it. I hope they understand.

They wear that power, strength, and sovereignty like a great pair of shoes that never slide when you need traction. Shoes that help you feel strong and energetic, and in which you can leap as high as you like.

These sovereignty shoes are real. They’re crafted with the love, care, and teachings of our people.

Maybe the young ones will ask me about my sovereignty shoes. If they do, I might tell them:

I have such a love and care for my people and our teachings. I have such a clear understanding of how I’m sovereign. Not because of an old document that says so in an archive in DC. Not because of an old laminated ID card in my wallet I got at the agency when I was a little girl.

I’m sovereign because of the long and proud history of our people.

For thousands and thousands of years, Since Time Immemorial as our Elders say, our people have been crafting the most beautiful, supportive, comfortable sovereignty shoes.

We can do anything and be anything in our sovereignty shoes.

In fact, they’re so powerful we don’t even need to wear them.

When it comes to the love, care, and strength of our sovereignty:

We just are.

Yakama Moccasins & Leggings made by Zelda Winnier. Photo credit: Michelle M. Jacob

What stories do you want to share with the world? Creative Writing Class begins Thursday, February 3. Join us!

Beautiful Reflection

Sometimes when I look outside it feels like I am gazing into a mirror. The greyscale landscape, frost clinging to every surface, the muted tones of sky blanket above us–they seem to reflect exactly how I feel.

Freezing fog is a companion and messenger, reminding us:

slow down,

think carefully,

move with intention.

At first glance, some might say it’s a bleak winter morning.

Yet, I sense another lesson emerging from Mother Nature’s classroom:

Frost is like a delicate icing, sky has an almost endless variation of cool tones, freezing fog is a beautiful contradiction–liquid and solid seemingly at the same time.

There is a rich complexity in this simplicity I see.

What a beautiful reflection and gift from Mother Nature’s classroom.

Credit: “frozen meadow – _MG_7145” by sean dreilinger is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

How will you move with intention in 2022? Maybe you want to join the Marathon-ing The Auntie Way course–begins Monday, January 17; attend live on Mondays or watch the recordings and complete the course at your own pace. More info and register here.

Breaking Dams

I’ve been thinking about our beautiful Coyote Stories. I recently received a copy of our beloved book, Anakú Iwachá, in the mail. It is a gorgeous cultural treasure filled with our traditional stories and stunning artwork. These are stories our Elders have engaged, preserved, and generously shared about teachings and places important to us, Since Time Immemorial. They are perhaps our most precious, beloved curriculum. Our stories have served as a backbone to our Yakama education system long, long, long before settler colonialism and its odd way of doing schooling arrived.

One particular story I’ve been thinking about is Spilyáy Breaks the Dam. In the story, Spilyáy (Legendary Coyote) is clever and generous, probably traits shared by many of our favorite teachers, and he breaks the dam to help care for and feed the people. In doing so, he helps our beloved salmon to continue on their sacred journey in life. While definitely heroic, Spilyáy is also often humbled in our stories, and in this particular story he models for us the importance of listening and seeking help when needed.

As we move into 2022, it is the perfect time to reflect on lessons Spilyáy teaches us in our beloved stories. Maybe we can be deeply inspired by the legendary teacher.

What dam will you break?

What courageous actions will you take to care for yourself and those you love?

I’m wishing you well in your heroic and humble journey!

Photo credit: “Taking a Break” by USFWS Mountain Prairie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Join inspiring and brilliant writers breaking through their own dams in The Auntie Way Writing Retreat! Winter 2022 sessions begin Friday, January 7, 2022 at 10am-12pm Pacific time (1-3pm Eastern). Register today and gain year-round membership to the Anahuy Mentoring Mighty Network with free access to bonus writing retreats, co-working sessions, and additional supportive workshops!

Lost and Found: A Good Story

In Tuxámshish Dr. Virginia Beavert’s book, The Gift of Knowledge / Ttnúwit Átawish Nch’inch’imamí: Reflections on Sahaptin Ways, she tells the story of when she was a very young girl, not yet two years old, when she got lost in the mountains. She was with a young girl she’d been playing with in the mountains while their families hunted deer and picked huckleberries. She shares that her friend, Maggie Jim, knew the berries and plants in the forest that would sustain them, and that Maggie had her power to protect them. After two weeks, the two young girls were found, and Virginia notes they were happy, healthy, and safe. Virginia shares her mother’s recollection of the day they were reunited: Virginia’s moccasins were “practically worn out and I had berry juice all over my face and dress.” This quote and a beautiful photo of Virginia and her mother from that day is on p. 16 of her book.

Virginia recently celebrated her 100th birthday. She has many wonderful stories to share from her amazing life spanning ten decades. I chose this story to share with you today because it contains lessons that I believe are so relevant for our times–when so many people are feeling busy or hectic.

Something I love about this story is that it’s clear Virginia and Maggie knew and fully trusted their environment had everything they needed to survive and thrive. They fully trusted that they were whole, safe, and protected. Being lost in the mountains for two weeks didn’t shake their faith that they were well, and could be trusting in their environment and themselves.

I love turning these lessons over in my mind. I love carrying these important teachings Virginia learned as a young girl on our beloved Yakama homeland–lessons which she has generously shared with all of us through her writing.

I love seeing the hope and possibilities of educational systems that reclaim these important teachings as central to all we do. Doing so helps me ask questions that fill my heart and restore my faith.

How would the experiences of students and faculty be transformed if we enjoyed systems that nurture a complete sense of trust that everything we need to thrive is already present in our environment?

What if our education systems also nurtured within us an unshakable trust and belief that we are whole beings who are good and well?

In this busy time as 2021 wraps up, I wish you a season (and a lifetime) of experiences that nurture, support, and reflect back to you all the goodness you are and share.

Photo: Michelle’s moccasins from when she was a young girl. Credit: Michelle M. Jacob

Do you want a kind, supportive, and productive writing community? Write Your Journal Article Moccasin Camp (not a bootcamp) two-week course with Dr. Michelle Jacob begins Monday, December 13, 2021. Special! Register by December 10, 2021 for Winter 2022 The Auntie Way Writing Retreat (sessions begin January 7) and receive FREE access to my Moccasin Camp course! Learn more and register here.