Born in the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, poet Simon Ortiz loved learning to read as a small child. After the sixth grade, Ortiz was sent to St. Catherine's boarding school in Santa Fe, where the nuns tried to convert the students to Catholicism. Although he loved to write, he had never heard of a Native American writer, so Ortiz learned a trade, woodworking and sheet metal work.
After high school he worked briefly as a laborer in the uranium business, but left to go to college in 1962 on a BIA grant and his savings. He left college to join the Army but returned to school after fulfilling his military obligation. However, after a brief time at college, he left again.
Finally, Ortiz decided to give school one last try and in 1969 he completed a master of fine arts degree at the University of Iowa. The National Endowment for the Arts bestowed a journalism award on him. He began writing poetry in the 1970s and his first book of poetry, Going for the Rain
was published in 1976.
By the 1990s Ortiz had published fourteen books and had received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gift Festival of Native Writers. He has served as lieutenant governor of the Acoma Pueblo and is a faculty member at the University of Toronto.