UM Welcomes First Native American Creative Writing Director

September 06, 2016

MISSOULA – The University of Montana Creative Writing Program will celebrate Bitterroot Salish tribal member, author and Professor Debra Magpie Earling as the first Native American director since its founding in 1920, on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

The Honoring Ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. at the Payne Family Native American Center with prayers, drumming and a gift-giving ceremony. The event also will feature presentations by Bill Kittredge, a previous creative writing director, and Sherwin Bitsui, a visiting professor in poetry.

Earling, who teaches fiction at UM, has earned a Guggenheim Fellowship, and her novel “Perma Red” won the Western Writers Association Spur Award, WWA’s Medicine Pipe Bearer Award for Best First Novel, a WILLA Literary Award and the American Book Award. She is the great-granddaughter of Paul Charlo, the last federally recognized chief of the Bitterroot Salish.

“Missoula is a storied community and the stories of the long-ago Salish who occupied this particular place remain here,” Earling said. “This is Indian country and Bitterroot Salish traditional land. I am honored to be the first Native American director of one of the oldest writing programs in the country and privileged to welcome a new generation of storytellers.”

For more information call Karin Schalm, UM Creative Writing Program coordinator at 406-243-5267 or email

Contact: Karin Schalm, Creative Writing Program coordinator, 406-243-5267,