Ginny Knight didn't learn of her American Indian ancestry until she was an adult, but she embraced her heritage and used it to inspire her work as a poet and publisher.
She died of complications from chronic leukemia Jan. 14 in Minneapolis at 75.
When she was in her 20s, she found out that her great grandmother was Indian, she decided not to find out from what tribe or nation she hailed, but was "happy" to embrace all Indians' cultures, said her husband, Leon, of Brooklyn Center.
She spent a great deal of her life contemplating "what does it mean to be Indian," he said.
In 1980, Knight and her husband began the Guild Press of Robbinsdale. Among their publications is the annual Full Circle series of books of poetry.
"Our idea was that here were a lot of voices, especially minority people, whose voices were being ignored here in Minnesota," said her husband.
Poet George Clabon of Minneapolis said that Knight didn't simply publish poems, she helped poets, holding workshops and giving them direction. "Ginny was someone you could look up to" and get an honest appraisal of your work, said Clabon, a senior editor of the Guild Press. "She was a very gentle soul, but her words carried a lot of weight."
In the early 1960s Knight and her husband taught in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where they made fast friends with local black residents and the white authorities revoked their work permits because of those friendships. "She just had a presence about her that attracted people to her."
She and her husband funded scholarships at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where she was a Buffalo Elder. She was also a "dear friend" of the Eastern Shawnee tribe in Oklahoma where she held writing workshops and other forums, said tribal chief Glenna Wallace.
"She seemed to take everyone under her wing," said Wallace. "The Knights just embody Indian values, the spirituality of Native Americans."
Knight, a Phoenix, Ariz., native, graduated from San Jose State University in California. Trained in art and design, she worked in advertising production information technology at Larson Publications in Osseo. She turned to writing poetry around 1980, after helping her husband with his for some years.
Knight was told nearly 30 years ago that she had only about five years to live. Doctors at the University of Minnesota could not find a definitive reason for her longevity, said her husband. "I never ever met a person that was so complete within herself," said her husband. "She did not fear death. She embraced life."
In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughter, Neddie Cox of Baltimore.
A celebration is being planned for the spring.