My name is Tanaya Winder and I come from the Southern Ute, Pyramid Lake Paiute, and Duckwater Shoshone Nations. I am very proud of my heritage and where I come from. I am a performance poet and writer; for me, the writer path means studying life and trying to make sense of experiences through rendering them through words. Part of my driving questions are: why are we here? what is our purpose? what are we supposed to do with our existence (and time) here on earth? I write because I am searching for answers.
I was “destined” to be a writer. As a child, my two aunts used to take my sister, cousin, and me to the public library nearly every weekend. Six years old and I fell in love with books right then and there. I grabbed books like, Catcher in the Rye, A Moveable Feast, Great Gatsby, on and on and on. My aunt was encouraging and would even give us assignments – Find a book about this, find a theme around that, find what music was listened to during that era. I walked up and down the aisles getting lost among the books, the words. I ran my fingers across the titles until I found one that spoke to me and even if I was “too young” to understand the meaning of the words written inside, something inside of me recognized their power. The library was a magical place for me, a place where anything was possible, a place of escape.
Words never lost the power they held for me in my early years spent in libraries; if anything, from that young age on words became more powerful. For me, words have the power to uplift, invoke, and redeem. Writing helps me make sense of living. My experiences with loss and grieving have affected me quite strongly and those experiences often surface in my work. When people ask why I write about sad things I think, someone has to not be afraid to get their hands dirty in grief, loss, struggles, all the things society avoids talking about.
I hope that through my words others can learn something about themselves, about being grateful, thankful, needy, vulnerable, and all the things that make us human. I hope that through my own writing I can send others on their own journeys to re-member whatever it is they need to be able to embrace the totality of their pasts and presents to carry them into the direction they feel their paths pulling them. In this way, I write about love.
Part of the artist’s call is to turn past traumas on their heads, upside down, inside out, then put it back down as something changed, transformed, so that everyone else can see something beautiful or hopeful in it. But in order for that beauty or hope to come about someone had to dive head first into the muck, ugliness, stark darkness of the wreck. That is what we writers do – we recast wounds in unending light. We make re-membering revolutionary.
My mother raised my sister and I to believe we are capable of anything, to believe that we each have an incredible power to be gifts, blessings in someone’s life. When you have a gift you should give it away by sharing it and letting your light shine. This is how I try to live my life: be a blessing to someone every day and embrace all that I have been given to share it with others. For me, that means writing the awesome or awful, the beautiful and the not-so beautiful, but to always write from a place of love.