Debra Magpie Earling

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Debra Magpie Earling
Born (1957-08-03) August 3, 1957 (age 61)
Spokane, Washington
OccupationNovelist, short story writer, University of Montana English professor
Alma materUniversity of Washington ; MA in English, MFA in Fiction Writing, Cornell University

Debra Cecille Magpie Earling (born August 3, 1957 Spokane, Washington) is a Native American novelist, and short story writer.[1] She is a member of the Bitterroot Salish (tribe).[2] She is the author of Perma Red and The Lost Journals of Sacajewea, which was on display at the Missoula Museum of Art in late 2011.[3] Her work has also appeared in Ploughshares, the Northeast Indian Quarterly, and many anthologies.

Education and Career[edit]

She is a graduate of the University of Washington, and holds both an MA in English and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Cornell University.[4]

Earling is currently a faculty member in the English Department at the University of Montana at Missoula.[5][6] In 2016, she became the first Native American director of the University of Montana's creative writing program[7]. She teaches Fiction and Native American Studies.


Perma Red[edit]

Earling's first novel, Perma Red, takes place on the Flathead Indian Reservation in the 1940s. Louise White Elk, a determined and beautiful young woman, dreams of escaping and belonging. She comes of age as she is pursued by three dangerous men who will do anything to possess her--police officer Charlie Kicking Woman, the charismatic Baptiste, and Harvey Stoner, who owns nearly everything around him.

This novel won a Spur Award and Medicine Pipe Bearer Award for best first novel from the Western Writers Association, a WILLA Literary Award and the American Book Award [8]. Perma Red touches on the still prevalent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women in Montana and throughout the West. A team of indigenous and women filmmakers are adapting Perma Red for TV[9]. “Native women need to tell their own stories. Now is the time for those stories to rise. Perma Red is only the beginning," Earling is stated as saying on the fundraising page for the adaption[10].

The Lost Journals of Sacajewea[edit]

This work first began as a project during the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition and is the result of a five year collaboration between Debra Magpie Earling and artist Peter Koch[11]. The writings are done by Earling, as Koch compiled the historical photographs. The writings, along with the photographs, hope to illustrate native women’s longstanding struggle and desire for freedom through Sacajewea[12].


  • William Kittredge, Annick Smith, eds. (1991). The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology. University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-96974-9.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Craig Lesley, Katheryn Stavrakis, eds. (1991). Talking Leaves: Contemporary Native American Short Stories. Delta. ISBN 978-0-385-31272-1.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Kim Barnes, Mary Clearman Blew, eds. (2001). Circle of Women: Anthology of Western Women Writers. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3367-6.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Sue Thomas, ed. (1994). Wild women: contemporary short stories by women celebrating women. Overlook Press. ISBN 978-0-87951-514-0.
  • Caroline Patterson, ed. (2006). "Bad Ways". Montana Women Writers: A Geography of the Heart. Farcountry Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-56037-405-3. Retrieved 2015-01-05.
  • Allen Morris Jones, William Kittredge, eds. (2004). "Real Indians". The Best of Montana's Short Fiction. Globe Pequot. p. 127. ISBN 978-1-59228-269-2. Retrieved 2015-01-05.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Alvin M. Josephy, ed. (2007). "What We See". Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes. Random House, Inc. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-4000-7749-6. Retrieved 2015-01-05.



Debra Magpie Earling's debut novel Perma Red was well reviewed in January Magazine.[16]


  1. ^ Kay Juricek; Kelly J. Morgan (1997). Contemporary Native American Authors: A Biographical Dictionary. Fulcrum Pub. ISBN 978-1-55591-917-7.
  2. ^ "Debra Magpie Earling". Native American Authors. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  3. ^ "The Lost Journals of Sacajawea: Debra Magpie Earling with Photo-Interventions by Peter Rutledge Koch" (PDF). Missoula Art Museum. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  4. ^ "Debra Earling". Cornell Writers. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  5. ^ "Debra Magpie Earling". The University of Montana Creative Writing Program. Archived from the original on February 28, 2012. Retrieved 2014-11-04.
  6. ^ "Debra Earling". The University of Montana - Department of English - People - Faculty. Archived from the original on 2010-11-09. Retrieved 2014-11-04.
  7. ^ Szpaller, Keila. "Debra Magpie Earling honored as new head of UM creative writing". Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  8. ^ Books, Elk River. "An Evening with Debra Magpie Earling". Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  9. ^ Walsh, Cory. "Native, women filmmakers raising funds to adapt novel 'Perma Red' on indigenous women". Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  10. ^ "Perma Red: A TV Series Led by Indigenous People". Indiegogo. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  11. ^ "The Lost Journals of Sacajewea". Booklyn.
  12. ^ "Dark Matter: Women Witnessing - Issue #3, December 2015". Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  13. ^ "UM News". Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  14. ^ "Debra Magpie Earling". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2014-11-04.
  15. ^ "Debra Earling". NEA. Retrieved 2014-11-04.
  16. ^ "Review | Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling | "Stepping Forward", January Magazine, David Abrams". Retrieved 2015-01-05.

External links[edit]