Celebrate Native American Heritage with Poet Laureate Joy Harjo  

New Resources from the Library of Congress 

The Library of Congress will mark Native American Heritage Month with a pair of programs featuring U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and the launch of a new guide to help educators incorporate Harjo’s signature project as a resource in classrooms across the country. 

Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Discuss Poetry.

To mark the start of Native American Heritage Month in November, Harjo — the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate — joins the first Native American cabinet secretary for a conversation led by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. The event will premiere Monday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. ET on the Library’s YouTube channel. More details are available here. 

Harjo and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland are longtime friends, and they first met when Haaland enrolled in Harjo’s poetry class at the University of New Mexico. Harjo also featured a poem by the secretary in the 1997 anthology she co-edited, “Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America.” In the event, each will read a poem of the other’s and discuss the ways poetry and civic engagement have connected throughout their careers. 

To provide a resource for educators and students across the country, the Library today releases a new resource to complement the Harjo’s signature project, “Living Nations, Living Words.” This guide was developed with a committee of educator advisers, including members of the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Indian Education Association. The educator guide is available here and is a free resource for teachers and school districts.  

“Living Nations, Living Words” is Harjo’s signature project as U.S. Poet Laureate. With an emphasis on poetry, and sharing and elevating the voices of living Native poets, the project consists of two main components: a story map and a poetry collection. Together, they present works by 47 Native poets that explore the themes of place and displacement, as well as the “touchpoints” of persistence, resistance, acknowledgment and visibility. 

The Living Nations, Living Words Educator Guide includes a video introduction by Harjo, a glossary of the themes and touchpoints explored in the project, a list of multidisciplinary activity ideas and ways to approach both the story map and the poetry collection, as well as selected resources for further research. Both the story map and poetry collection offer robust points of entry for the social studies and language arts classroom. 

“The Library of Congress is committed to creating useful classroom resources that reflect effective and current classroom practices,” said Lee Ann Potter, the director of the Library’s Professional Learning and Outreach Initiatives Office. “One of the ways we do this is by working with educators. We selected the advisory committee members because of their expertise and knowledge in their fields. Thanks to their input, this guide will be a helpful tool for exploring ‘Living Nations, Living Words.’ We hope that it inspires further reflection and learning, sparks creativity, and ultimately, deepens students’ appreciation of Native poetry.” 

As the Poet Laureate writes in her introduction to the project, “We understand poetry to be a living language — whether it is in our tribal languages, or in English, or another language … Poetry is a tool to uncover the miraculous in the ordinary.” This project represents a celebration of the dynamic, impactful and meaningful medium of Native poetry.  

Educators who advised on the resource guide for teachers include: Melissa Alter Smith of Charlotte, North Carolina; Alfredo Celedón Luján of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Mark Finchum of Jefferson County, Tennessee; Joel Garza of Addison, Texas; Stephanie Hartman of Denver, Colorado; Heather Kliever of Eugene, Oregon; Samantha Majhor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kyle Vaughn of Little Rock, Arkansas; Francis Vigil of Rio Rancho, New Mexico; and Carol Carney Warren of Tempe, Arizona. 

Harjo will also return to the Miami Book Fair for the third time as laureate, in an event presented in partnership with the Library of Congress. Rob Casper, the head of Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress, will join Harjo to discuss her three terms as laureate, the challenges of doing so during the pandemic, and her new memoir “Poet Warrior.” This event will be livestreamed from the Miami Book Fair at this link on Monday, Nov. 15 at 12 p.m. ET. 

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