Peter Blue Cloud

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Peter Blue Cloud (Aroniawenrate) (1933 – 2011[1][better source needed]) was a Mohawk poet, and folklorist.

Early life[edit]

He was born June 10, 1933, of the Turtle Clan of the Mohawk Nation[2] on the Caughnawaga Reserve in Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada. He was previously associated with journal Akwesasne Notes and the journal Indian Magazine.[3]

His Christian name was Peter Williams but he went by Peter Blue Cloud. The name Aroniawenrate as a nickname has been translated in English as "Stepping across the Blue Sky" or "Climbing up toward the Blue Sky". Peter Blue Cloud had pen names of Coyote 2, Owl's Child, Turtle's Son, and Kaienwaktatsie.[2]

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 got educated in grammar school on the reserve and in Buffalo. He was raised speaking the Mohawk language and later in his life learned English and French.[2] He was a lifelong avid reader and began writing poems as a teenager.

At an early age, Blue Cloud got influenced by European and American traditions. His grandfather was a school teacher at Kahnawake, exposed to the art of storytelling through the plays of William Shakespeare and the tales of Haudenosaunee. These concepts were shown throughout his work.[2]

He became an ironworker in his teens, working in various cities in the American West.[4] In the late 1950s, he traveled to California, where he was employed as an ironworker in the Bay Area.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5] Overall the jobs he worked were jobs as a carpenter, logger, ironworker, and as a woodcarver.[2]


Peter Blue Cloud was very concerned about pantribal awareness and indigenous rights. His work stood as a symbol of Native Rights in opposition to European colonization. The corrupted colonizing power by the reclamation did not go unheard.[2]

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.[4] 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/New York) 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.

Lorna Wilkes-Ruebelmann is a freelance consultant in Sheridan, WY that reviewed Peter Blue Cloud's work. She said that the imagery of indigenous Americans and the language he uses, represents the past and the present simultaneously. His images are of quiet mountaintops and country trails that contrast with New York City's high steel construction and freeways.[6]


Blue Cloud died in Montreal[citation needed] on April 27, 2011.[1][better source needed] 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.[citation needed]




  • "Coyote, Coyote, Please Tell Me" poem [8]
  • "An Arrangement" poem [8]
  • "Coyote makes First People" poem [8]
  • "Sketches in Winter, With Crows" poem 1984 [7]
  • "Clans of Many Nations" selected poems 1969-1994 [7]
  • "Back then tomorrow" short story 1978 [7]
  • "Tomorrow" poem [2]
  • "Alcatraz Visions" poem [2]
  • "Thunderman" poem [2]
  • "First Brother" poem [2]
  • "Alcatraz" poem [2]
  • "White Corn Sister" play 1979 [2]
  • "Elderberry Flute Song; Contemporary Coyote Tales" 1982 [2]
  • "Other Side of Nowhere: Contemporary Coyote Tales" 1990 [2]
  • "Badger's Son", Haven Community [9]
  • Alcatraz is not an island, Wingbow Press, 1972
  • Turtle, bear and wolf, Akwesasne Notes, 1976
  • Back then tomorrow, Brunswick, ME : Blackberry Press, 1978
  • The paranoid foothills: a work of fiction, Blackberry, 1981
  • Clans of many nations : selected poems, 1969-1994. Fredonia, N.Y.: White Pine Press. 1995. ISBN 1-877727-47-4.
  • Crazy Horse Monument, 1995
  • Elderberry flute song : contemporary coyote tales. Buffalo, New York: White Pine Press. 1989. ISBN 0-934834-92-X.
  • The other side of nowhere : contemporary coyote tales. Fredonia, N.Y.: White Pine Press. 1990. ISBN 1-877727-00-8.
  • Sketches in winter, with crows. New York, NY: Strawberry Press. 1984. ISBN 0-936574-11-9.
  • White corn sister. New York: Strawberry Press. 1979. ISBN 978-0-936574-02-8.



  1. ^ a b "CENSORED NEWS: 'Aroniawenrate Peter Blue Cloud' Sometimes the magic arrives in the mail". 10 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Native Writer Peter Blue Cloud (Mohawk)". Native Jewelry Writing & Art. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  3. ^ ipl2. "Peter Blue Cloud on Native American Authors".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b Prospector, Submitted to (15 June 2012). "A tribute to Peter Blue Cloud". Retrieved 2019-08-13. {{cite web}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ a b c "Peter Blue Cloud - The Cry -". Warrior Poets. 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2019-08-13.
  6. ^ Wilkes-Rubelmann, Lorna (Summer 2003). "MEDIA reviews CLANS OF MANY NATIONS". Tribal College Journal. 14 (4): 51.
  7. ^ a b c d "Native American Authors". Special Collections created by iPl2. Drexel University. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  8. ^ a b c "Peter Blue Cloud: Tales and Poems of Coyote". Zocalo Poets. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Peter Blue Cloud".

External links[edit]