Duane Niatum (McGinniss) is a Native American poet, author and playwright from the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe in the northern Olympic Peninsula of the state of Washington. Niatum's work draws inspiration from all aspects of life ranging from nature, art, Native American history and humans rights. Niatum is often cited as belonging to the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln has termed the Native American Renaissance.
Born in 1938 in Seattle, Washington to a Klallam (Salish) mother and Italian-American father, Niatum struggled with his mixed Indigenous and Italian heritage which would trouble him for years. After his parents' divorce when Niatum was four years old, Niatum's Klallam grandfather became his surrogate father, which would leave a lasting impression as he would pass on the Klallam tribe's oral tradition which would later become intertwined into his writing.
At the age of 17, Niatum enlisted in the United States Navy, which sent him to Japan. After his military service, Niatum studied with the poets Theodore Roethke and Elizabeth Bishop at the University of Washington, where he earned his B.A. in English. He went on to earn an M.A. at Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, where he studied American culture. His dissertation focused on the life and art of the Aleut sculptor John Hoover.