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Ernestine Hayes Named State Writer Laureate of Alaska


January 16, 2017
Monday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - Ernestine Hayes, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, has been named the 2016-2018 Alaska State Writer Laureate of Alaska by the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Alaska Humanities Forum. “Ernestine Hayes brings passion and intellect to everything she says and writes,” said Benjamin Brown, chair of the arts council.

jpg Ernestine Hayes Named State Writer Laureate of Alaska

Ernestine Hayes
Event Photo Courtesy
Village Books & Paper Dreams

Ernestine Hayes,
The Tao of Raven
Sun, 02/26/2017 - 4:00pm
Event address:
1200 11th St
Bellingham, WA 98225-7015

Hayes will be introduced as the Alaska State Writer Laureate at the Alaska Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities on January 26, 2017.

Hayes teaches English at the UAS Juneau Campus. She succeeds Dr. Frank Soos of Fairbanks in this honored position. Dr. Soos said, “Ernestine Hayes brings passion and intellect to everything she says and writes.” Benjamin Brown, chair of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, noted in a press release, “We are very excited to have Ernestine accede to the position of State Writer Laureate, given her tremendous literary talents and enthusiasm for encouraging all Alaskans to read, write, and enjoy the wonders of the literary arts.”

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield praised Hayes for her award. “Ernestine has a deep connection to her homeland and to the indigenous peoples of Southeast Alaska. Her writing illuminates a life of challenges and overcoming adversity. Ultimately her story is one of vision and hope. We are truly fortunate to have her on our faculty.”

Hayes is the author of two novels. Blonde Indian, published in 2006, was named a Native America Calling Book of the Month and received an American Book Award, as well as an Honoring Alaska Indigenous Literature Award. The book was a finalist for the 2007 Kiriyama Prize, and the 2007 PEN Nonfiction Award. In 2016, Blonde Indian was selected as the first book for the Alaska Reads project, a series of readings that connect Alaskans through the work of a living Alaskan writer. Her most recent work, published in October 2016, is The Tao of Raven: an Alaskan Native Memoir. Her work on the book was supported by an Artist in Residence award from the Rasmuson Foundation.

Hayes was born in Juneau, a member of the Kaagwaantaan clan. At the age of 15 she moved to California and returned to Alaska at the age of 40. After struggling through a period of homelessness, Hayes began her connection with the University of Alaska Southeast at the age of 50 when she enrolled as a student with a GED. She graduated magna cum laude at the age of 55 from UAS with a bachelor of liberal arts degree in 2001, and went on to earn her master of fine arts degree in creative writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2003. Hayes has been teaching English at UAS since 2004. She has been featured as a keynote during the popular Evening at Egan lecture series. Along with others at UAS, she has also been involved with Tlingit language revitalization.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on January 9, 2017, spoke on the United States Senate floor in recognition of Hayes who was recently named as the state’s 2017 Writer Laureate. Hayes is the first Alaskan to be recognized as part of Senator Sullivan’s new series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

Sullivan said the stories of Alaskans doing good work all across our state should be told, which is why he decided to start this new initiative recognizing one great Alaskan each week. Sullivan said, “I felt it was particularly appropriate for the kickoff to recognize a storyteller. Ernestine Hayes is a talented Tlingit writer, known for her works ‘Blonde Indian’ and ‘Tao of the Raven.’ It was an honor to recognize her on the Senate floor.”

The announcement of Hayes' selection as the 2016-2018 Alaska State Writer Laureate of Alaska was made in December 2016. She will be introduced as the Alaska State Writer Laureate at the Alaska Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities scheduled for Thursday, January 26, 2017.


On the Web:

All 2017 Awardees: Alaska Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities

The 2017 awards reception and ceremony will be held in Juneau on Thursday, January 26, 2017
To purchase tickets or learn more about event sponsorship



Statement submitted to the Congressional Record by U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan


Reporting & Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Alaska Humanities Forum

Office of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan

University of Alaska Southeast - Juneau Campus



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