Grace Dillon

American academic and author

Grace L. Dillon is an academic and author who is of Anishinaabe and European descent. She is a professor in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program, in the School of Gender, Race, and Nations at Portland State University. She edited Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction and coined the term Indigenous Futurisms.


  • The vibrancy of change permeates the air around all of our nations, human and more-than-human.
    • Afterword to New Suns 2: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl (2023)
  • May we treasure our kinship system, which connects us not always via direct blood relations but through our social relations and roles, filling each

of us with star wisdom, circling in this way back to our own Returning Home Star.

    • Afterword to New Suns 2 (2023)
  • Ultimately we want to share knowledge, not in a way that's stolen and appropriated and misused, but in a way that is a sharing and exchange of ideas that will actually help us get to a point where we don't have to worry about, you know, needing to head off to another planet in order to live.
  • Climate change is as much about humanity as it is about industry, and it is creative efforts that will ultimately move hearts and minds to address the problem.
  • I coined the term “Indigenous futurisms” in 2003 while editing Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. Much like Afrofuturism, Latinx futurism, and the like, Indigenous futurisms is a literary and artistic movement that expresses Native perspectives of the past, present, and future. These genres encompass the myriad communities too often overlooked within speculative and science fiction. Still, they can be limiting in their singularity.
  • As the Red Nation’s The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth puts it, over and over again, we have a choice to make: decolonization or extinction.
  • The myths about idealizing settlers and settler nations at the time of contact are a huge misunderstanding that are still promoted today.
  • In terms of the future, my Anishinaabemowin language has a word, kobade—a very small word, but in reality an extremely sophisticated concept. The idea is that everything that’s in the past and the future is also in the now, but it’s not as simplistic as that. It’s more like there exists a spiral of intergenerational connections, so that even if you are in the present you have spirit persons at your side; they can be ancient spirits, considered to be from the past or from the future. Kobade is the recognition of all persons, not just human persons, and of all the intergenerational connections that we have, which are never linear, but spiral. In my language some people may describe it as a chain, wherein we’re connected to each other, so that the future is always containing the past and the present; I don’t use the word “chain” because I work in Black Studies and it just feels heavy and inappropriate. I use the image of a spiral. This is very different from the former science fiction model, what was called “extrapolative fiction.” This word came directly from Robert A. Heinlein, who took the idea from mathematical equations, where you pull something out of the past or the present and draw this imagined plausible future from one dot to another. That’s an extremely linear concept, too simplistic to allow other forms of thinking. For example, we just don’t arbitrarily choose a certain point in the past when writing and developing characters; there can be all kinds of remnants of pasts, presents, and futures.
  • Everything is storytelling. Indigenous sciences are embedded in stories; this is how we share our Indigenous sciences.
  • The reason I’m interested in science fiction is that when I was little and we had firesides, sweats, and other ceremonies, we were telling stories about star peoples that came to earth in, basically, space canoes. For me, the concept of a spaceship was not unusual. And, of course, we are all star people. We are made of stardust, which is scientifically accurate. Everything is made of stardust.

Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction (2012)

  • As Basil Johnston (Anishinaabe) might remind us, w'daeb-a-wae, "a telling of the truth," casts our voices and words only as far as vocabulary and perception allow.
  • Walking the Clouds opens up sf to reveal Native presence. It suggests that Indigenous sf is not so new-just overlooked, although largely accompanied by an emerging movement-and advocates that Indigenous authors should write more of it.
  • What better terrain than the field of sf to "engage colonial power in the spirit of a struggle for survival," the warrior ethic that Taiaiake Alfred (Kanien'kehaka) urges Natives to embrace as "thinkers, teachers, writers, and artists"? What better mindscape from which to "look at traditions in a critical way, not trying to take them down, but to test them and to make sure they're still strong"?
  • Native slipstream thinking, which has been around for millennia, anticipated recent cutting-edge physics, ironically suggesting that Natives have had things right all along. The closest approximation in quantum mechanics is the concept of the "multiverse," which posits that reality consists of a number of simultaneously existing alternate worlds and/or parallel worlds. Interested readers will enjoy John Gribbin's In Search of the Multiverse: Parallel Worlds, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Frontiers of Reality (2010) and David Deutsch's seminal The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes and Its Implications (1998).
  • Methods that do not resemble western science are not de facto "primitive."
  • Recurring elements in alternative Native stories include the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, the Battle of Little Big Horn and Custer's demise (1876), the Ghost Dances after the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 (albeit many forms of Ghost Dances occurred historically prior to Wounded Knee), and the Oka uprisings of the 1990s at Kahnesatake. The Ghost Dance may be the most widespread image connected to Native Apocalypse
  • Walking the Clouds returns us to ourselves by encouraging Native writers to write about Native conditions in Native-centered worlds liberated by the imagination.
  • May you find balance too. Mino bimaatisiiwin!

Quotes about Grace Dillon

  • Indigenous Futurism is a growing movement in—but not limited to—Indian Country, where Native peoples dare to reimagine societal tropes, alternative histories and futures through the exploration of science fiction and its sub-genres. This comes in a variety of mediums consisting of comics, fine arts, literature, games and other forms of media. The concept was coined by Anishinaabe scholar Grace L. Dillon in her anthology of Indigenous writers from across the globe entitled “Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction.” In the book’s introduction, she writes, “All forms of Indigenous futurisms are narratives of biskaabiiyang, an Anishinaabemowin word connoting the process of ‘returning to ourselves,’ which involves discovering how personally one is affected by colonization, discarding the emotional and psychological baggage carried from its impact, and recovering ancestral traditions in order to adapt in our post-Native Apocalypse world.”
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