february 12, 2003

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College Alumnus Keeps Native American Heritage Alive

Oklahoma City Community College alumnus LeAnne Howe is playing an important role in telling the stories of American Indians. This year she is writing the screenplay and appearing in a 90-minute PBS documentary titled, "Native Americans in the 21st Century, The Cherokees." The documentary, which will air nationally in November 2004, focuses on the Cherokees of North Carolina and the challenges they face such as continuing land struggles, gaming and diabetes.

In 2002, Aunt Lute Books, San Francisco, released Howe's first novel "Shell Shaker," which won an American Book Award. Spanning seven generations of one Choctaw family, "Shell Shaker" weaves the parallel stories of the historic assassination of a Choctaw warrior by his own people in 1738, and the 1990 murder of a Choctaw tribal leader set in the world of high stakes Indian gaming, giant peanuts and magical mud.

Born in Edmond, Howe was raised in Oklahoma City and is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She is an American Indian author, playwright, scholar and teacher. She has also published legal essays and written other film scripts for public television documentaries. She keeps busy teaching fiction workshops as well as Native American studies courses. She taught a fiction workshop at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and this semester she is the Louis B. Rubin writer-in-residence at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. This summer she is scheduled to be a mentor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minn., for emerging writers.

Although she has not lived in Oklahoma for several years, Howe maintains a house in Ada where her grandparents originally lived. She returns to see family and friends so often that she doesn't have a chance to miss Oklahoma.

"I come home an average of four times a year," Howe said. "My family is there, my two sons, their families and my two granddaughters."

She also has a very large extended family scattered throughout Oklahoma in McAlester, Durant, Pryor, Alosa Y, Stonewall and Holdenville. "Perhaps someday I will move back if my career allows."

Howe received her M.F.A., from Vermont College of Union Institute, but her collegiate education began at Oklahoma City Community College in the early 1970s, where she took an American history course, several psychology classes and a sociology class. In the spring of 2001 she returned to the college to give a lecture for the Native American Film Series. Howe lectured on the portrayal of Native Americans in Kevin Costner's "Dances with Wolves."

Howe has taught at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, and at Sinte Gleska University on Rosebud Reservation. While at Grinnell, Howe developed three courses, including "Native American Literature and Culture."

She has a wide range of career highlights and considers her trip to Japan in 1993 as part of the United Nations' celebration of "International Year For The World's Indigenous People" one of the high points. Howe has read and lectured at the American Center for Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan. In 1998, she was invited by the Romania government to lecture and read from her fiction for the Center for Complexity Studies in Bucharest, Romania. She spent two weeks traveling throughout the country and teaching Choctaw history.

Howe has been a recipient of writing fellowships at The MacDowell Colony, Ragdale Foundation and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In 1993, she was awarded an Iowa Artist-In-Residence's grant for "Indian Radio Days."

Howe's fiction appears in more than ten anthologies, including "Spider Woman's Granddaughters," "American Indian Literature, Revised Edition," "Earth Song, Sky Spirit: An Anthology of Native American Writers" and "Global Cultures: A Transnational Short Fiction Reader" just to name a few. "Indian Radio Days," a three-act play, has been produced throughout the Midwest and at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, Calif., and also at the National Museum of the American Indian, New York, N.Y.. Co-authored with the late Choctaw writer, Roxy Gordon, it was also published in the anthology"Seventh Generation: An Anthology of Native American Plays," published by Theatre Communications Group Inc., the national organization for the American Theatre.

Story Contact: Jessica Martinez-Brooks, (405) 682-7590