A Brief Biography

I was raised in the small Rocky Mountain mining town of Victor, Colorado, the third generation of my mom's family to come of age in the Cripple Creek-Victor gold camp. My maternal grandfather, Jess Fay, was a life-long miner, prospector, and get-rich-quick dreamer whose unstable childhood made him restless and contributed to a number of broken marriages and strained relationships, although he and Mom were reconciled when he died of silicosis he'd acquired from his years in uranium mining in New Mexico. Mom's paternal line claims Chickasaw ancestry from Indian Territory (pre-Oklahoma), though the records we've found thus far are conflicted on this claim. Her maternal family, the Schryvers, is mixed, but primarily of German Jewish heritage.

Through my dad's line I'm an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. His grandfather, Amos Spears, had his primary allotment just outside of Vera, Oklahoma, north of Tulsa, alongside those of one brother and his eldest son, with a second, much-smaller lot closer to Claremore. We're not sure when those were sold, but Amos moved the family to eastern Colorado in time to be listed on the 1920 US Census. After Dad's birth in Colorado Springs, he grew up on the prairie of eastern Colorado, in and around the town of Ordway. I was born just down the road from Ordway, in Rocky Ford (the "Cantaloupe Capital of the World"!), and we lived in Olney Springs before moving to Mom's home town when I was three. And there I grew up, and there my parents still live: Mom has been a restaurant owner, caterer, mayor of Victor, plant lab superintendent of one of the local mining companies, tour guide operator, and local author; Dad was a heavy-equipment operator for many years, ran the hoist at the Ajax Mine, and is now a summer caretaker for a fishing club at Victor's Bison Reservoir. They've been married for 47 years and continue to be my greatest inspirations.

I attended Cripple Creek-Victor RE-1 from Kindergarten through graduation (with one year of home schooling in between), and then in 1993 went to the University of Northern Colorado for my undergraduate degree--made possible by a number of local and university scholarships, for which I remain very grateful. I started my degree as a double major in visual arts and theatre, but ended up graduating with an English major and history minor. In 1997 I moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, for my MA in English (Native lit), and stayed for four more years to complete my Ph.D., which focused on Native American literature with a sub-specialty in Native history. I moved to Toronto in 2002 to take up a position in Aboriginal literature in the English Department (and affiliation in the Aboriginal Studies Program) at the University of Toronto, where I worked with amazing and much-respected students, colleagues, and community members for a decade.

My husband Kent and I met in 2005 and were married in 2008 at our home on the shores of Georgian Bay near Penetanguishene, Ontario. In 2009 I took Canadian citizenship. In 2012 I accepted a position as Chair of the First Nations Studies Program (now First Nations and Indigenous Studies, in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies) at the University of British Columbia, with a cross-appointment in English, and we made the cross-continental move to the West Coast, along with our dogs, Raven the Labradoodle and Bambam the English Bulldog. We now live in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam people, where I once again and very happily have mountains on my horizon.

Victor, Colorado