by JACE WEAVER
The Harry Ransom Center is proud to hold the papers of playwright and poet William S. Yellow Robe, Jr. A member of the Assiniboine Tribe, Yellow Robe was a lecturer at the University of Maine and the award-winning author of Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers, Wood Bones, and Better-n-Indins. He died in 2021 at the age of 61. The papers, a recent gift from Yellow Robe’s wife, Jeanne, include drafts, rehearsal scripts, letters, photographs, publicity material, critical reviews, digital files, notebooks and more. We are grateful to Jeanne Domek Yellow Robe and Deborah Murad at DGCM, who is managing the licensing of Yellow Robe’s work.
The following tribute to William Yellow Robe is written by his friend Jace Weaver, founding director of the Institute of Native American Studies at the University of Georgia. Dr. Weaver edited and introduced an anthology of Yellow Robe’s plays, Restless Spirits, with SUNY Press in 2020.
Sometimes you meet someone and you know immediately you’ve met a friend for life. Though I had known Bill Yellow Robe’s work for two decades, we had never met until I went on Facebook about six years ago. I ran across Bill, and we instantly bonded as we improvised a scene in the comments to one of his posts in real time. Bill was trying to bring twenty-four cans of SPAM onto an airliner. I was a TSA agent explaining to him that he couldn’t because the gelatin around the pink meat qualified as liquid.
Shortly after that random encounter, I invited him to come and read from his work at the University of Georgia. He was gentle and genuine, and he was one of the funniest people I’d ever met. Within a day, we hatched the plan for the book that became Restless Spirits, the third anthology of his plays, which I edited.