Tanaya Winder is an author, singer/songwriter, poet, motivational speaker and educator who comes from an intertribal lineage of Southern Ute, Pyramid Lake Paiute, Diné, and Duckwater Shoshone Nations where she is an enrolled citizen. Tanaya’s performances and talks emphasize the importance of “heartwork” – the life path one is meant to follow by using his/her/their gifts and passions. She blends storytelling, singing, and spoken word to teach about different expressions of love (self love, intimate love, social love, community love, and universal love). She is the Director of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Upward Bound program; during her 10 years there she has served hundreds of Indigenous youth. She also co-founded Sing Our Rivers Red‘s MMIW earring exhibit. Tanaya believes everyone has a gift they’ve been placed on this earth to share. Her specialties include youth & women empowerment, healing trauma through art, creative writing workshops, and mental wellness advocacy.
Here, she talks about light the color of golden corn, keeping her foods separate on her plate, and a potluck as final meal.
On her all-time favorite meal:
My all-time favorite meal would definitely be breakfast made by my grandma or mom. They both make delicious fried potatoes, eggs, and bacon or sausage. My grandma also makes homemade biscuits with this meal as well. When I was a child my mother would send us to spend each summer with her parents on the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation. Those days carry some of my favorite memories from growing up from swimming in the lake, to feeling safe and loved, to gardening with my grandma, and watching the cows and horses on my grandfather’s ranch. I remember my cousin, sister, and I would always see who could wake up first. Even then, I was competitive; I’d wake up, run down the hallway, and greet the smell of coffee and my grandma making breakfast.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
During these mornings, the light is a soothing gold, the color of my grandma’s corn growing in the garden. The light is waking up, too; slowly covering the hillside, the fields, and the garden before it pours in through the kitchen window. That’s where my grandma stands over the sink leaning to smell the fresh morning air. She’s waiting for her bread to finish baking so we can taste it warm from the oven. My grandpa is sitting on the kitchen table, reading his newspaper, and drinking coffee. Later, I’ll eat a warm biscuit with melted butter and my grandpa will tell me to read at least one article from the paper and tell him what I read. I’ll sit in the dining room with that light as I read words I hope to make sense of. I don’t know it then, but I’ll never get that light back quite how it was then, the innocence of it, the calmness of its backlighting.
On snacking while writing:
I usually drink a lot of water and coffee while I write. Sometimes I’ll snack on tortilla chips and salsa or popcorn. Although, usually when I write, I get lost in time and forget to eat.
On her go-to late-night snack:
My late go-to snack is either celery or carrots and peanut butter. I’m also very keen on KIND bars!
On her food quirks:
One quirk I’ve had since childhood is that I don’t really like my food to mix. Some people mix all of their food together on their plates, but I like to keep thing separate. Don’t mix my peas with my mashed potatoes, hehe. I used to like to finish one item before moving onto the next, but then I’d get too full to finish.
On her final meal request:
I’d never really thought about a final meal request. It’s a bit taboo to think like that. I try my best to just put positive thoughts out in the world, but I’ll answer where I am and who I am eating with for a favorite meal. I’d be at home (either mine or a relatives) eating potluck style where everyone brings their favorite dish. I’m with all of my family, my partner’s family, and all of my beloveds are sharing space, conversation, and nourishing food. We share stories, laughter, and love. I hope everyone gets to experience a meal like that.