Red Ink Quinton Maldonado Barbara Robins
Tawa Ducheneaux
Cover artist Quinton Maldonado and Red Ink faculty advisor Dr. Barbara Robins look over Maldonado’s modern take on ledger art.

Red Ink: Exit The Magazine, Enter New Literary Journal

Christina Rose

In Kyle, South Dakota, a May 7 gathering of more than 50 students, elders, community members and staff met at Woksape Tipi Library, on the Oglala Lakota College campus, and celebrated Red Ink Magazine’s 25th anniversary, and the production of the last edition of the magazine.

The end of Red Ink Magazine is the beginning of “Red Ink, A Native American International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Humanities,” under the direction of Simon Ortiz, well-known poet and author of several books, and professor, Department of English, at Arizona State University. “We have been in the process of bringing Red Ink to Arizona State University-Tempe for the last three years,” Ortiz said.

Red Ink is the only Native publication in the country that features solely the writing of Native students. Published through the University of Arizona since 1990, Red Ink Magazine was asked by a new director of American Indian Studies to cease publication of the magazine, according to Sheila Rocha, managing editor of the final issue. For the last few years, Rocha and others attempted to continue the magazine through other departments, however, “everything was under a tight budget squeeze,” said Rocha, who has been involved with the publication since 2010. While working toward the completion of her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, Rocha took a position at Oglala Lakota College. She and Ortiz agreed Rocha would produce the last issue there.

Editor Sheila Rocha sits among Red Ink Magazine covers and assorted artwork from current and previous issues. (Tawa Ducheneaux)

With a staff of mostly Lakota students, Rocha and the students began the challenging process of putting the magazine together. “It was very tough, especially because of the distance and the difficulty of getting from one place to the other on Pine Ridge. The [students] didn’t have a lot of [publishing] experience, but they have the passion,” she said.

The students at OLC were charged with choosing submissions from student writers and artists. “This magazine really emphasizes Lakota creativity and artistry,” Rocha said.

The final edition features contributions of artists and writers from the Lakota nation including “Dancing With Words”—a young poets group, community members, and Red Ink’s exiting editorial board. Special literary guest is poet Tanaya Winder, nominated for Best New Poets 2014 Anthology, 2010 winner of the “A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize” in poetry, as well as a semi-finalist for the Kenyon Review/Earthworks Prize for Indigenous Poetry.

Ortiz describes the new publication as being more like a literary journal and less like Life Magazine. He said, “That is the last issue of that staff, that’s the work they did. We are using our own sources at ASU, a different format. If you look at other literary publications they are somewhat different.”

Many things will remain the same, but with a new staff in a new location, there are bound to be some changes. “I am sure the new board has a vision for what it will be like. It’s hard to say until we can see it,” Rocha said.

“The point of the publication is to get the words, the stories, and the art out to the public,” Ortiz explained. “The way we write and speak is knowledge, our own voice. Our knowledge is important to the nation as a whole, not just to indigenous people, not to Native Americans or Lakota or Acoma, but for the public at large.”

Oglala Lakota College student Alex Fire Thunder-Loeb performed during the May 7 event celebrating the final issue. (Tawa Ducheneaux)

Ortiz said they will make sure that indigenous aesthetics in the literary journal will continue. “Literature, including poetry, is very much a part of Native expression. It is how our own people think and feel and speak,” he said.

“Even though there may be some differences in the way we continue the publication, there will be a lot of agreement because we are working for the same reasons: for our land, our people, our culture, for humanity. That will always be the same.”

Red Ink Magazine featured the indigenous voices of new and upcoming artists and scholars. Previous editorial staff and contributors include Vine Deloria Jr., Leslie Marmon-Silko, Rigoberta Menchu, Simon Ortiz, Laura Tohe, N. Scott Momaday, Bunky Echo Hawk, Tanaya Winder, Joy Harjo, Gerald Cournoyer, John Trudell, Leo Killsback, Ryan Huna-Smith, Sherwin Bitsui, and a host of others.

Find out more about Red Ink Magazine on Facebook or purchase a copy of this and other issues online.

Red Ink has put out a call to Indigenous Peoples for writings, scholarly works, art works, and humanities essays. Submit items by June 1, 2015 to

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