Paula Gunn Allen 1939 – 2008

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Paula Gunn Allen, an American Indian scholar, poet, and founding figure in the Women’s Spirituality movement, passed away on May 29th after a long illness. She is perhaps best known for her book “The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions”, which argued that women’s central role in Native culture and spirituality was removed or downplayed by European settlers and colonizers. Paula Gunn Allen’s work went on to inspire a new generation of feminist explorations within American Indian communities and beyond.


Paula Gunn Allen

“I have noticed that as soon as you have soldiers the story is called history. Before their arrival it is called myth, folktale, legend, fairy tale, oral poetry, ethnography. After the soldiers arrive, it is called history.”Paula Gunn Allen

Online tributes to Paula Gunn Allen have appeared at Women’s Space, Medusa Coils, and T. Thorn Coyle’s blog.

“I just found out that Paula Gunn Allen died a few days ago, on May 29th. A respected academic and poet, active in anti-nuclear and anti-war movements, she was an important voice in Native American and Lesbian literature and known as one of the founders of the Women’s Spirituality movement. Needless to say, Gunn Allen was important to me during my formation as a feminist, Pagan, queer, poet and writer.”

You can also read tributes from her son Suleiman Allen and others at a specially created guestbook. In addition, an online memorial site for Paula Gunn Allen has also been created. Her family and friends are asking that donations be made towards the establishment of a scholarship in Paula’s name in lieu of flowers. A public memorial is being scheduled for mid-July.

“We have for all too long loathed the shade–shadows, night, the darkness of the Moon. We have found the shadows so repugnant, the darkness so repulsive, that we have given the Goddess only three parts — maiden, mother and crone — thoroughly repressing the fourth, that of mystery…Chaos, the Grandmother of all that is, now comes among us, just as we discover that she is the source of all order and that she is infinitely generative, infinitely fecund. It is as the old ones have told: the name of the Female Principle is “Thought,” and she is more fundamental and varied than time and space….”Paula Gunn Allen, from her introduction to Gossips, Gorgons & Crones, The Fates of the Earth, by Jane Caputi, 1993.

May she rest in the arms of her gods, and be reunited with her ancestors.