Chelsea T. Hicks


GRANTEE:  Chelsea T. Hicks
NATIVE HERITAGE:  Osage/Wazhazhe
LOCATION:  San Francisco, CA (2021) & Tulsa, OK (2022)
AWARD:  2021 LIFT – Early Career Support for Native Artists
DISCIPLINE:  Fiction/Poetry Writing
SOCIAL MEDIA:  Instagram

Chelsea T. Hicks is a fiction writer and songwriter living in the Bay Area in California where she earned an MA at UC Davis and an MFA at the Institute of American Indian Arts in creative writing. She began studying Wazhazhe ie for her iko, or “grandmother,” and will return to Oklahoma as a Tulsa Artist Fellow in 2022 to offer creative writing workshops for writers using Indigenous languages. Hicks studies Wazhazhe ie with mentors of her tribal district, Waxakaoli^. She belongs to the Tsizho Washtake, through her father Brian Hicks, and in Wazhazhe ie she is Xhuedoi^ or “Looking to the Eagle.” Centering language study in her writing has allowed her to address trends of healing and cultural revitalization for modern day Natives in her writing.

Hicks multi-genre writing work includes short stories, poems, essays, and novels. Ancestral stories and veneration are recurrent themes in her writing, as well as generational trauma and the methods by which generations heal and also fail to heal. She has also lead the band, Museums, in San Francisco, and studies traditional Wazhazhe craft practices as a method of grounding and support for her writing work. Her first book is a collection of short stories incorporating poems in Wahzhazhe ie, forthcoming in 2022 from Unnamed Press in Los Angeles. Hicks’ writing has also been published in McSweeney’s, Indian Country Today, Yellow Medicine Review, the Rumpus, the Believer, the LA Review of Books, the Paris Review, and elsewhere.


For her LIFT project, Hicks will be creating a poetry collection in translation, including Wahzhazhe ie (the Osage language) with both its orthography and latinized characters, in addition to English. At this time, the practice of publishing poetry entirely in an Indigenous language is not widely supported in the United States, where indigenous poets usually write solely in English or include select phrases of their indigenous heritage language in English writing. The work will be published by Unnamed Books of Los Angeles and there will be an accompanying book tour. It will also be available as teaching curriculum for Daposka Ahnkodapi, the Osage Nation immersion school, and Indigenous language creative writing workshops.


Nika zhutse ie waleze kaxe ma^zha^ thekaha dada^ eko^ thi^ke akxai. E ma^thi ido^theha the a^ko^thape i^doi theha a^kathe pida^. Native language writing, there’s nothing like that here on earth. As we go along, we want these languages to endure.

—Chelsea T. Hicks (Osage/Wazhazhe)