November 23, 2009

Kegedonce Press publishes Natives

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm:  Our voices are marginalized

By Mark Anthony RoloFor nearly a decade Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm has remained fiercely committed to publishing the works of Indigenous poets and fiction writers.

As the founder and managing editor of Kegedonce Press, Kateri has to be an aggressive advocate for broadening the literary landscape in order to promote the work of her writers.

That is the way Kegedonce has had to do business from day one. Publishing has been a financial and cultural struggle for Kateri’s company to earn a decent share of the market because she believes the mainstream publishing industry continues to marginalize the voices of Indigenous writers as “fringe” or “niche.”
How she got started:In many ways the decision to create a small press that would be exclusively devoted to publishing Native writers of North America was based on the dismissive perceptions and practices by the industry. In 1993 Kateri, who is a mixed blood Anishnaabe, was inspired to invest in a publishing venture while attending an Indigenous arts conference in Ottawa, Canada.

As a poet and activist for Indigenous rights, Kateri found a diverse group of Native writers who were eager to tell their own stories, but feared rejection from mainstream publishers they believed would not understand or “get” their interior worlds. She also found many talented writers who gave up on submitting their work to mainstream publishers because they did not feel non-Native editors believed they could make a decent profit selling their work.

With a few thousand dollars in the bank, Kateri wanted to do more than publish books that would sit on shelves or coffee tables. Her decision to create Kegedonce was intensely fueled by the desire to support and build Indigenous communities by giving voice to an oppressed population.
The kind of work she favors:A strong sense of one’s cultural understanding that is either traditional, modern, urban or rural is the start of literary appeal for Kateri. “I’m also drawn to innovative works that kick at the boundaries of what Aboriginal or Indigenous literature and publishing are expected to be–that’s why we’ve published a number of firsts, such as the first Aboriginal fantasy trilogy and the Indigenous erotica anthology.”

One of only three publishers of Indigenous writing in North America, Kegedonce is the only publisher that makes poetry a high priority. Besides being a poet, Kateri believes that many young Native writers get into writing through poetry. Publishing can be considered daring given the number of mainstream publishers that have stopped printing the literary form.

The decision to publish work considered to be offbeat, surreal and loaded with plays of tribal mythology might be seem like a reason why it is very difficult to get support from potential funders.
Comment:  For information on another Native press, see Chickasaw Press Recognized. For more on Native literature in general, see The Best Indian Books.

Below:  Fight the power, Kateri!

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