Native Bruins: Past, Present & Emerging – Greg Sarris

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center

Greg Sarris received his PhD in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University, where he was awarded the Walter Gore Award for excellence in teaching. He has published several books, including the widely anthologized collection of essays, Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts, and Grand Avenue, an award-winning collection of short stories, which he adapted for an HBO miniseries. His last novel, Watermelon Nights, received rave reviews and was adapted for a play. His play, entitled Mission Indians, received the 2003 Bay Area Theatre Critics Award for Best Script.

He coproduced, advised, and was featured in a sixteen-part series on American literature for Public Television called American Passages, which won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Documentary in 2003. He has written pilot scripts for Showtime and HBO, co-edited a book for MLA, Teaching the Work of Louise Erdrich (2004), “doctored” many scripts, and worked with the Sundance Institute, where he helped develop a summer writing lab for American Indians.

Greg is serving his fourteenth consecutive term as chairman of his tribe, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. He co-authored a bill on behalf of the tribe, H.R. 5528, which President Clinton signed in 2010, restoring his people as a recognized American Indian tribe. In 2010, Greg successfully regained a reservation for his people and in 2013, he raised money to build a tribal resort and casino. In addition to serving as chairman, he is president of the tribe’s Development Board, overseeing all of the tribe’s business interests.

Formerly a professor of English at UCLA, and then the Fletcher Jones Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Loyola Marymount University, Greg now holds the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair of Sonoma State University, where he teaches courses in creative writing and literature. His collection of children’s stories entitled How a Mountain Was Made (2017) was awarded a Bronze Medal from Independent Publisher Book Awards. Currently, he is finishing a novel and executive producing a documentary biopic on Joan Baez. He serves on several boards and advisory councils, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“I graduated from UCLA in 1977 with a major in English. I then went on to Stanford University where I received an MA in English and a PhD in Modern Thought and Literature. Regarding my time at UCLA, I found my experience at UCLA richly rewarding even as I often felt myself in an environment very different from what I knew in my rather small hometown of Santa Rosa, California. I was fortunate to have teachers and mentors such as Ken Lincoln and Carole Goldberg who were sensitive to my American Indian background and supported by endeavors to write and study American Indian literature.”