In 1951, Ray A. Young Bear was born in the Mesquakie (alternately, Meskwakie) Tribal Settlement near Tama, Iowa. He attended Pomona College between 1969 and 1971. He has also attended the University of Iowa, Grinnell College, Northern Iowa University and Iowa State University.
His books of poetry include The Rock Island Hiking Club (University of Iowa Press, 2001), The Invisible Musician (1990), Winter of the Salamander: The Keeper of Importance (1980), and Waiting to be Fed (1975).
Also the author of fiction and other prose works, his book Remnants of the First Earth (1998) received the Ruth Suckow Award as an outstanding work of fiction about Iowa. His work has also been published in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 1996 and The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature (1981).
Young Bear has received a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an honorary doctorate in letters from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. He has taught creative writing and Native American literature at The Institute of American Indian Art, Eastern Washington University, Mesquakie Indian Elementary School, the University of Iowa, and at Iowa State University. Young Bear and his wife co-founded the Woodland Song and Dance Troupe of Arts Midwest in 1983. Young Bear's group has performed traditional Mesquakie music in this country and the Netherlands. He currently lives in Iowa on the Mesquakie Tribal Settlement.