I’m really looking forward to learning much more from Dave – and disseminating his wisdom through Sharing Culture - and I hope we can develop some exciting collaborative projects. Anyway, here is Dave’s biography from his website, which I have modified slightly.
‘David Edward Walker was born in Lansing, Michigan, and spent much of his young adult life in and around the Detroit area working as a dishwasher, cab driver, coffee salesman, and clerk. He gradually overcame his own drug and emotional challenges, completing a doctorate in clinical psychology at University of Detroit in 1992.
As he began his professional practice, he simultaneously embarked on the shadowy life of a performing singer-songwriter using the stage name of ‘David Folks’, releasing two compact discs, Roadside Park and Refusing to View, garnering airplay on college radio shows across the U.S., touring, and sharing the stage with luminaries like Rodney Crowell, Richard Shindell, Richie Havens, Clive Gregson, and Pierce Pettis.
He also became a board member of DreamCatchers, a Detroit-area musicians’ project benefiting Native American causes, contributing two songs to music compilation discs, and performing at numerous regional concerts. David even traveled to Texas in 1997 to host a Detroit singer-songwriter’s circle on-stage for the 25th Anniversary Kerrville Folk Festival.
Handed his pay by childhood folk idol, Tom Paxton, who wrote the first song to ever move him to tears (“Ramblin’ Boy”), David had reached what seemed a career high and a soul-searching moment. He missed his wife and kids and was tired of the hype of the independent music business. He went home and quit performing altogether for five years.
David eventually accepted a position with the Indian Health Service as the sole professional psychologist serving the 14 Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. He relocated with his family to central Washington in 2000.
From the time he arrived on the reservation, David went through many spiritual changes, reconnecting with his own Cherokee heritage, and attending native ceremonies, sweatlodges, and meetings. He also fell in love with the Bahá’i faith.
In his professional work, David got along poorly with the Indian Health Service bureaucracy, and his misadventures had the odd effect of increasing his rapport and friendship with the Yakama Nation community.
Collaborating with community members, he helped design the first behavioral health program centered upon Yakama cultural values and virtues, Niix Ttáwaxt ('good growth to maturity’). As the new director of this program, he was able to leave Indian Health Service while continuing to work under contract with Yakama Nation. State funding problems led to the program’s demise after less than a year and the program closed in 2005.
By this time, David had become a scholar regarding a lesser-known perpetrator in the history of the cultural oppression of Native Americans - the American mental health movement.
He began seeing the fruits of this troubling professional history in his everyday practice - for example, in working with native youth and young adults who were convinced their lack of success in schools and other places derived from an underlying genetic intellectual inferiority, an internalized racism inherited from the biases of race psychologists and their research in American Indian boarding schools during the first half of the twentieth century.
Over several years, David tried to call professional attention to the relevance of these old racist psychology ideas to contemporary emotional and behavioral struggles among native youth he served.
He contributed a chapter critiquing use of the ADHD psychiatric label in Indian Country for the edited text, Critical New Perspectives on ADHD (Routledge, 2006), which won the 2006 National Association for Special Needs Academic Book Award (NASAN) in the United Kingdom.
His extended letter with Dr. Albert Galves to Division 29 of the American Psychological Association challenged numerous statements made about ADHD in a brochure published under a grant from Celltech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The letter was republished by the National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers, the American Mental Health Alliance, and PsychRights, the Project for Psychiatric Rights and updated and republished in 2012 for the journal, Ethical Human Psychology & Psychiatry.
More recently, his intense energy on this topic has culminated in another chapter contribution, this time tracing the entire legacy of race mental hygiene in Indian Country for an upcoming book on indigenous historical trauma, currently being edited by Joseph Stone, Robert T. Wise, and Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart for Syracuse University Press.
David always feared his own profession would ignore the responsibility of reflecting on its past academic racism and descendant current practices. Along the way, he’s worked with many survivors of violence and abuse. He’s also worked with people who did not survive. With heroic effort, some native youth clients were able to overcome the social, economic, and racist barriers they faced. Other youth clients became desperate, lost their ways, fell into drug abuse, and eventually took their own lives.
A caring and compassionate person, David has worked closely with some of the families who have lost youth and felt their pain personally. He became impatient for professional psychology to recognize its own past and current oppressive practices in the dilemmas these youth face.
And that is how Tessa’s Dance first came about. From the moment David began writing his first novel, he felt as though some force impelled him to stay up late hours watching the story unfold onto his laptop screen. The first draft was done in less than one month. Revision, however, took over a year to complete. David published Signal Peak - a sequel to Tessa’s Dance – in 2013.
At this point in his life, David Edward Walker is husband, father, writer, poet, singer, scholar, and psychologist. He’s comfortable with continuing to ‘become’ all those roles but has no illusions about ever fully arriving. He just hopes to do all he can in the time allotted him on this plane of existence: to love, serve, and avoid doing harm.'