What does dignity mean to people in the United States? Does that definition change depending on your political leaning, your gender, your ethnicity? To me, a Native woman, dignity means the chance to express my identity with pride, with security, to feel safe in doing so. So I found myself immediately attracted to this project when Pam suggested it.

It is necessary that we begin to define, for ourselves and as a Nation, that which makes us human, humane. When we begin to look at the art, the individual, the elemental, and the wild, perhaps we can begin to see each other and other living things and beings, as lives deserving of the same rights and privileges and protections and respect as any others.

I love that this issue of About Place is highlighting those often forgotten or marginalized ideas and beings equally deserving of honor and respect. One of my heroes, Wilma Mankiller, writes in Challenges Facing 21st Century Indigenous People that “Within many communities, the most respected are not those who’ve amassed great material wealth or achieved great personal success; the greatest respect is reserved for those who help other people, those who understand that their lives play themselves out within a set of reciprocal relationships.” I like to think this issue is about reciprocation, about showing how each artist is doing their part to help our larger community, and about issuing respect to people, places, and beings so deserving.

I am grateful to have worked so closely with two very fine and giving writers, Pam Uschuk and Maggie Miller, exemplary models of kindness and reciprocation. I hope that you enjoy this issue and are as moved by the submissions as we are.