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Born in Juneau, Alaska, Ernestine Hayes is a member of the Wolf House of the Kaagwaantaan clan of the Lingit. She is assistant professor of English at the University of Alaska Southeast and is the recipient of the Explorations 2002 Alaska Native Writer's Award. She has won recognition in Native oratory and storytelling. Her writing has appeared in Travelers Tales Alaska, The Anchorage Press, Rasmuson Foundation grantees' stories, and the Juneau Empire opinion column "Edge of the Village". Her current projects include a collection of linked short stories, a study of Raven tales, and a comprehensive history of the Tlingit. She is the grandmother of four children.
Blonde Indian was a winner of the 2006 American Book Award as well as a finalist for the PEN USA nonfiction and Kiriyama prizes.