a senior Navajo student in California, has been recognized for her
Hueston has been named one of the five National Student Poets
for 2017. (courtesy photo)
To say Navajo student Kinsale Hueston, 17, is an aspiring writer
would be to miss the point. The senior at St. Margaret's Episcopal
School in California is by any definition an accomplished poet who
has just been named one of five National Student Poets for 2017,
the nation's highest honor for young poets.
Student Poets Program is a project of the President's Committee
on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the Institute
of Museum and Library Services and the Alliance for Young Artists
& Writers, which administers the Scholastic
Art & Writing Awards.
The Navajo student will go to Washington, D.C., at the end of
August for the official award ceremony at the Library of Congress.
The weekend will include a private workshop with the 21st US Poet
Felipe Herrera. Awardees will travel to communities, libraries
and museums as literary ambassadors over the next year, and receive
a $5,000 academic award.
"I'm so grateful for this opportunity I can't even put it into
words," Hueston told ICMN. "I never imagined I could be on this
track doing what I lovedI really love writing and being an
activist and sharing my work and my poetry and sharing my identity.
I just find it incredible."
Hueston was born and raised in southern California. "My mom
grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Navajo Mountain, Utah. When
I was growing up we would take a lot of trips out to the reservation.
I would always love coming out and talking to my family, my cousins,
and a lot of what I wrote in my early poetry was about being home
on the reservation," she said.
But, the Navajo student explained, "as I grew older I had trouble
staying connected to my culture while I was in California. Poetry
was my way of reconnecting with my roots and my Native American
Hueston talked about how poetry and being Navajo
are inextricably connected for her. "I seek to contemporize Native
culture with my poetry. A lot of Navajo culture is about tradition
and I focus my poetry on important things in Navajo culture, especially
the maternal childhood figures in my life like my grandmother and
my aunts and my mother. Navajo have a matrilineal
society so that plays a lot into my poetry.
"Also I am activist, so I talk about social justice issues.
I write about violence against Native women, the loss of Native
languages, racial prejudice and other social justice issues
that affect my culture. It's amazing that now I can speak about
these issues on a national scale and continue to do what I love,
thanks to the National Student Poets Program," she said.
school senior Kinsale Hueston is an activist as well as a
poet. (courtesy photo)
Hueston is president of her school's Native American Culture
Club, and in April, her family hosted a group of students at Navajo
Mountain. "With the guidance of my mother, who was extremely helpful
in educating my classmates about Navajo culture and customs, we
organized a service trip for 11 kids out to the reservation over
spring break. We worked at the high school and we helped out around
the community wherever we could, especially helping elders take
out all the trash that had accumulated over the years because there's
no formal trash system out here. The students who went on the trip
made really profound connections with the people here," Hueston
Hueston has an older sister, Tara, who is a veterinarian, an
older brother, Ryan, who is an artist, and a younger sister, Shea,
who also attends St. Margaret's. Her father, John Hueston, was a
U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles before he became the lead prosecutor
in the Enron case that resulted in the conviction of Kenneth Lay
and Jeffrey Skilling for manipulating stock prices in the late 1990s.
"That case kind of launched his career and he's become such an incredible
speaker and father and role model," the Navajo student said.
and her family at Navajo Mountain: Tara Hueston (30), Shea
Hueston (15), Ryan Hueston (25), Kinsale Hueston (17), Mabelle
Hueston and John Hueston. (courtesy photo)
Her mother, Mabelle Hueston, grew up on the Navajo Reservation,
attended boarding school and then went to Dartmouth
College, followed by a stint at the Harvard
Graduate School of Education where she earned her master's in
teaching. "She teaches Native American history at Cal State Long
Beach," said her daughter. "She's an amazing mentor and role model
to me. I've always admired her for how hard working she was and
how hard she worked to get where she is now."
While she finishes up her high school career and decides which
college she wants to attend, this Navajo student said she intends
to make the most of her year as a National Student Poet. "I dream
that I can encourage young writers to continue writing and be a
role model for young Native American writers who perhaps went through
the same identity crisis I went through when I was feeling very
disconnected from my culture."
Some of Hueston's poems can be read on the Art
and Writing website.