Wendy Rose was born in 1948 in Oakland, California, growing up in the white community of San Francisco. While Rose is part Hopi and Miwok, she grew up far from the traditions of her Native American identity. This lack of engagement with her Native American ancestry has influenced her poetry, and her own search for her identity.
Dropping out of high school, Rose joined the American Indian Movement to help protest the occupation of Alcatraz. Eventually, Rose jumped around from college to college, enrolling in Cabrillo and Contra Costa before ending up at University of California, Berkeley in 1976 where she graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology. She then went on to get an M.A. from the same institution in 1978, later enrolling in a doctoral program and receiving a Ph.D. in Anthropology.
Rose’s career has taken her in many directions: poet, anthropologist, teacher, painter, editor, and researcher. During her graduate degrees, Rose published five volumes of poetry including Lost Copper (1980) which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
In 1985, Rose released her The Halfbreed Chronicles and Other Poems collection. In an interview with Laura Coltelli, she talked about this idea of “halfbreed.” As Rose explains, “In The Halfbreed Chronicles I come to term with that halfbreedness I was talking about earlier. Halfbreed is not just a biological thing. It’s not just a matter of having one parent from one race and the other parent from another race, or culture, or religion, or anything of that nature. But rather it’s a condition of history, a condition of context, a condition of circumstance. It’s a political fact.”
Rose also continues to do work as an anthropologist. In the same interview she explains herself as a spy in her department, and not in way to “hurt anthropologists. But the fact is that the only academic department at Berkeley that would deal with my dissertation, which involves Indian literature, is the anthropology department…in fact the English department told me that American Indian literature was not part of American literature and therefore did not fit into their department.” You can read her entire interview here.
These roadblocks have not dissuaded Rose from pursuing her passion for writing and her exploration of Native American issues. These issues are at the forefront of much of Rose’s work, including her exploration of colonialism, “halfbreeds,” whiteshamanism (or “For the White poems who would be Indian,” a term created by Cherokee critic Geary Hobson), tensions between the past and the inevitability of change, and the plight of reservations and urban Indians.
Rose will continue to use her writing to explore and expand on her Native American identity, and draw attention to their issues from a personal, anthropological and authorial point of view.