Peter Blue Cloud

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Peter Blue Cloud (Aroniawenrate) (born 1935 - 2011) was a Mohawk poet, and folklorist.

Early life[edit]

He was born on the Caughnawaga Reserve in Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada and died in Montreal on April 27, 2011. He was previously associated with journal Akwesasne Notes and the journal Indian Magazine.[1]

Blue Cloud was born in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory (Quebec), where he attended school and was raised in the Mohawk language. The family moved to Buffalo, NY, for a while before returning to Kahnawake. He was a lifelong avid reader and began writing poems as a teenager.

He became an ironworker in his teens, working in various cities in the East. In the late 1950s, he traveled to California, where he was employed as an ironworker in the Bay Area. After quitting the iron, he worked as a logger with the Haida people in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, as a ranch hand in the vicinity of Susanville, California, and doing archaeological field work with the Paiute people of Pyramid Lake, Nevada. He lived for some time at the Maidu Bear Dance grounds near Janesville, Ca, where he absorbed the stories and teachings of Maidu elders, and where some of his first creations as a carver and sculptor emerged.


Moving back to the Bay Area, he discovered the Beat poetry and folk music scenes, and the social and political upheaval of the 60's. There he continued to develop his talents as a poet, sculptor, carver and painter, collaborated with other Native artists and writers, and participated in art exhibitions.

While an artist in many genres, Blue Cloud is most known for his writing. He published several books of poetry and his poems appear in numerous anthologies and journals. He won the American Book Award for Back Then Tomorrow in 1981. He was noted for combining Native American mythology with contemporary issues, most especially the character of Coyote, the trickster who figured prominently in his stories and poems.

In the city or country, Blue Cloud loved to walk, was a keen observer of events both natural and political, and incorporated them into his writings. As it did for so many Native people, the occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 sparked his interest in the fight for the rights of Native Americans. He lived on the island for a while, and supported the occupation and similar events in California and the Northwest by chronicling them in various publications.

Blue Cloud moved to the Sierra Nevada foothills near Nevada City for several years in the 1970s-'80's, where he continued to write, carve and paint, while also working as a carpenter. There he met guitarist Rex Richardson, and toured across the U.S. in 1979 with Richardson, who set his poems to music. Several recordings were released as a result of the collaboration.

Blue Cloud returned to the East Coast to work for the national Native journal Akwesasne Notes (Mohawk territory, Akwesasne/NewYork) as a writer/editor first in 1975-76, and again from 1983-1985. He returned to Kahnawake in 1986, where he briefly published his own newspaper, the Kariwakoroks, before writing a column for The Eastern Door Newspaper from 1992 to 2006.


Blue Cloud was cremated immediately after his death as per his wishes and his ashes will be spread in Modoc country in Northern California where the Modoc warriors fought and died.





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