About the TallMountain Circle

Mary TallMountain was a woman of generous spirit who helped and encouraged many colleagues and struggling writers of all ages and backgrounds. She wished to carry on that spirit of generosity after her death. According to TallMountain's will, the proceeds from her published works will go to benefit low-income writers, particularly Native Americans and writers living in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. The TallMountain Circle was formed to carry out these goals. The TallMountain Circle publishes, promotes and distributes the literary works of Mary TallMountain. Each year the Advisory Board selects TallMountain Awards for Creative Writing and Community Service.

For the last eight years of her life, Mary TallMountain had a close association with the Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center (TREC), a community-based nonprofit spiritual and cultural center in her San Francisco neighborhood. She was a poet in residence there in 1991-92 and participated in many of TREC's workshops and performances year after year. The TallMountain Circle was established as a project of TREC in the year preceding TallMountain's death in 1994.

The copyright for Mary's published work is held by the Tall Mountain Circle at the direction of her literary trustee Kitty Costello. For permissions to reprint Mary's work you can contact  P.O. Box 423115, San Francisco, CA, 94142. 

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About Mary TallMountain

Some Information
Mary TallMountainHer spirit and her ability to connect the different worlds of her experience teach us much about how to live our lives properly."
Barry Lopez

"Her poetry is a permanent testament to the rich tapestry of experience that was her life."
Bill Moyers

Mary TallMountain was a Native Alaskan writer and elder who lived for many years in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. She is remembered for her generous encouragement of aspiring writers of all ages, from inner-city San Francisco to remote villages in Alaska where she taught poetry to children in her later years.

She was born in 1918 in Nulato, a village along the Yukon River in Alaska, to a Koyukon/Athabaskan mother and a Scots/Irish father. When her mother became terminally ill, Mary was adopted by a non-Native couple and taken away from her village. Traumatized first by losing her family and homeland, then by the harshness of mainstream American culture, she felt like an angry outsider for many years. Writing was a way of going home, of reclaiming her ancestry, her family and her homeland, and a way of claiming her own proud native voice. Her stories and poems portray life along the Yukon River and her removal from that land. Her work also captures tender images of street life in inner city San Francisco.

For more than 20 years, TallMountain was active in the Native American literature renaissance. Her poems and stories have been published in dozens of anthologies and periodicals nationwide, including The Language of Life, The Harpers Anthology of Twentieth Century Native American Poetry, The Alaska Quarterly, and Animals Agenda.She read for audiences throughout California and Alaska, and her work is used in teaching Native American Studies at many colleges and universities throughout the United States. In 1989, TallMountain was interviewed by Bill Moyers and read for his PBS poetry series called The Power of the Word. Her work has been collected in book form inThe Light on the Tent Wall, (UCLA Press, 1990) and A Quick Brush of Wings (Freedom Voices, 1991), as well as the posthumous collection Listen To the Night(Freedom Voices, 1995). For many years she wrote a column called "Meditations for Wayfarers" in the Franciscan publication The Way. The Rasmussen Library at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks houses an archival collection of TallMountain's published and unpublished works.