About Greg Sarris

Biography | Notable Facts | Achievements


Greg Sarris Biography


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about-greg-sarrisGreg Sarris was born and raised in Santa Rosa, California. After graduating from Santa Rosa High School in 1970, he attended Santa Rosa Junior College, which prepared him to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree at UCLA. Graduating from UCLA in 1977 summa cum laude, Greg then went on to complete his graduate studies at Stanford University, earning two Master’s degrees in record time.

While working as a teaching assistant and doctoral candidate at Stanford, Greg was awarded the prestigious Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching, which is an award that is generally only given to full professors. Once Greg attained his PhD in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford in 1989, he worked as a full professor of English at UCLA, teaching American and Native American Literature, and Creative Writing from 1989 until 2001.

From 2001 to 2005 Greg then went on to become the Fletcher Jones Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Loyola Marymount University. And from 2005 to present, Greg has held the Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair in Writing and Native American Studies at Sonoma State University.

Greg Sarris has published notable books, including; Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts (1993), a widely anthologized collection of essays; Grand Avenue (1994), Greg’s highly acclaimed and awarded collection of short stories that was adapted for an HBO Miniseries of the same name, co-executive produced by Robert Redford. One of the most recent books by Greg Sarris, Watermelon Nights (1999) was widely celebrated and received rave reviews. It was even adapted for a play by the Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts Department. Greg acted as editor (with Connie Jacobs and James Giles) on Teaching the Work of Louise Eldrich (2004), an approach to teaching world literature. Greg has also written plays for Pieces of the Quilt, Intersection Theatre, and the Mark Taper Forum.

Greg’s play “Mission Indians” opened at Intersection Theatre in San Francisco in February 2002. It went on to receive the 2003 Bay Area Theatre Critics Award for Best Script. He also co-produced, advised, and was featured in a sixteen part series on American literature for public television called, “American Passages”, which won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Documentary in 2003. Greg’s collection of children stories (soon to be published as How A Mountain Was Made) was performed in 2012 by the Word for Word Performing Arts Company at Z Space in San Francisco. He has also written two pilot scripts for Showtime and one for HBO. Greg regularly works with the Sundance Institute (reviewing and revising scripts) where he helped develop a summer writing lab for American Indians interested in film writing. He also sits on several boards including, the National Video Project, and Word for Word Theatre, where he is Honorary President.

Greg is currently serving his thirteenth term as Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, his tribe which was formerly known as the Federated Coast Miwok. Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris co-authored a bill, H.R. 5528, on behalf of his tribe, and on December 27th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed this bill, restoring the Federated Coast Miwok as a recognized American Indian Tribe.

Greg now lives and works in his beloved Sonoma County.

Greg Sarris Notable Facts


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  • Featured as writer (fiction and film) in every major newspaper and magazine in this country, including 27 cover stories.
  • Appeared as writer/Indian leader on over one hundred radio and television shows, including all the major morning talk shows.
  • E! Entertainment Television Channel’s one of twenty men selected as 1997’s World’s Most Eligible Bachelors (with George Clooney, etc.)
  • Advisor and Represented Scholar. American Passages; a sixteen-part television series on American Literature. Oregon Public Broadcasting/Annenberg Foundation.
  • Board of Directors, Survivors Project. 1999-current.
  • Advisor, PEN WEST. 1999-current.
  • Advisor, Independent Feature Project/West. 1999-current.
  • Advisor, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. Cultural Grant Program’s
  • Literary Arts Panel. 1998-1999.
  • Advisor, Sundance Institute. 1996-current.
  • Teacher, Sundance Writer’s Lab. Summer, 1998.
  • Board of Directors, The National Video Project. 1997-current.
  • Honorary President, Word for Word Theatre. 1996-current.
  • Chairman, The Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria. 1992- current.

Greg Sarris Achievements Awards & Honors


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  • Hugo Award for Best Documentary. American Passages. 2003.
  • Bay Area Theatre Critics Award for Best Script. Mission Indians. 2003.
  • Writer in Residence. Stanford University. January, 2003.
  • Writer in Residence. Syracuse University. October, 2002.
  • “Greg Sarris Week” A week of readings at Santa Rosa Junior College. October 11-18, 2002.
  • Governor’s Commendation (from Governor Gray Davis) for Service to American Indian Community. Los Angeles. November 2001.
  • California Indian Writer of the Year from the 15th Annual California Indian Conference. October, 2000.
  • Award for Outstanding Service from California Indian Legal Services. September 25, 1998.
  • Best Picture. Grand Avenue. London Native American Film Festival. July, 1998.
  • Best Screenplay Nomination. Grand Avenue. London Native American Film Festival. July, 1998.
  • Best Screenplay. Outstanding Achievement in Writing. Grand Avenue. First Americans in the Arts. 1997.
  • Best Picture. Grand Avenue. First Americans in the Arts. 1997.
  • Producer’s Award. Grand Avenue. First Americans in the Arts. 1997.
  • Emmy Nomination. Grand Avenue. Best Casting. 1997.
  • Cable-Ace Nomination. Grand Avenue. Best Editing. 1997.
  • California Independent Booksellers Award. Best Read. Fiction. Grand Avenue. 1997.
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award. Santa Rosa Junior College. 1997.
  • Greg Sarris Scholarship Fund (for Native American Students). Santa Rosa Junior College. 1997.
  • Writer in Residence. Dallas College. 1997.
  • Writer in Residence. Humboldt State University. 1997.
  • Adlai Stevenson Scholar in Residence. Stevenson College. UC Santa Cruz. 1997.
  • Best Story. Grand Avenue. American Indian Film Festival. 1996.
  • Best Picture. Grand Avenue. American Indian Film Festival. 1996.
  • Best Screenplay. Grand Avenue. Native American Film Exposition. 1996.
  • Best Picture (tie). Grand Avenue. Native American Film Exposition. 1996.
  • Humanitarian Award. Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. 1996.
  • Work of Literary Merit. Grand Avenue. Santa Rosa Junior College English Department. 1996.
  • Required reading for all English 1A courses. 1996.
  • Writer in Residence. PEN Programs. 1996.
  • Scholar in Residence. Greg Sarris Week. Santa Rosa Junior College. 1996.