I’m working on a long footnote for a review essay due soon, and thought I would put this out there–a brief history of Native-led small presses in the U.S. I am most interested in small presses run by and for Native people, with an emphasis on literary books. Any corrections, additions, and other suggestions would be most welcome.
Some newspapers (most famously The Cherokee Phoenix and Awkesasne Notes) have been around for much longer; but most Native-run book publishers have faced insurmountable challenges in achieving long-term sustainability. Aside from the Greenfield Review Press (Joseph Bruchac), other Native book publishing efforts that arose in the late 1960s and 1970s have since fallen by the wayside, including Rupert Costo’s Indian Historian Press and Maurice Kenny’s Strawberry Press. Since the early 2000s there has been an effusion of indigenous small presses, including renegade planets publishing (MariJo Moore); Mammoth Publications (Denise Low and Tom Weso); Wigawassi Press (Louise and Heid Erdrich); and Blue Hand Books (Trace DeMeyer). Most of these have been dependent on the financing and labor of one or two devoted individuals. In Canada, Aboriginal presses like Theytus and Kegedonce have at least had some access to government funding (Chunn), although this has eroded in recent years (Milz). Tribal museums and historic offices have long issued their own books and newsletters for tribal use or local sale. The Chickasaw Press, established in 2005, has emerged as a successful example of this.
Update Aug. 20: my always-generous colleagues on the ASAIL mailing list have sent me many helpful additions. The Malki Museum Press was founded in 1965 and is still publishing today, with a focus on California Indians, although their focus is more scholarly than literary. Leslie Silko had a press of her own, Flood Plain Press, but in the Preface to the second edition of Yellow Woman, she explained that she did not want to take responsibility for publishing the work of other writers. Jose Barreiro ran Akwe:Kon Press for a time at Cornell, but as far as I can tell, it published mainly the journal Akwe:Kon and the occasional collection of political essays, like Indian Roots of American Democracy.