UNC’s Native American Student Services hosts first Native American U.S Poet Laureate

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    Students of NASS with Joy Harjo. Photo courtesy of Sydney Colby,

    Author, musician, and newly named U.S Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, was warmly welcomed to the University of Northern Colorado in celebration of her new book, An American Sunrise: Poems, published on August 13th. Harjo spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Native American Student Services in the Campus Commons. 

    Harjo was recently named the 23rd U.S poet laureate, however she is among only six other women, and is the first Native American poet to be awarded the title. NASS booked Harjo to speak at UNC before she was named U.S Poet Laureate, making her recent honor the cherry on top of her representation of NASS and her presence at UNC.

    Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She said she feels sadness for the invisibility cast on Native Peoples, and hope for her ability to create visibility in a way no one before her has had the means to, as she mentions the relationship to her native heritage. When asked what she plans to do with her laureateship, she said her focus is on healing and teaching, and she is planning on creating the first anthology of native poets. She said she wants to highlight indiginous poets. 

    Harjo spoke to the fact that “invisibility is the modern form of bias against Native Americans,” which is emphasized in her being the first of 23 Poet Laureates of Native heritage. 

    While Harjo talked a lot about creating visibility, she also spoke about what she referred to as “the beyond.” The beyond is both spiritual and addresses a connectedness of people to other people, the planet, animals, etc. Harjo wants to emphasize the connection between people and the land they touch and the others they interact with. 

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    “No human is separate from the land, earth, or sky,” Harjo said.

    Joy Harjo at the book signing table after the talk at the luncheon. Photo courtesy of Sydney Colby.

    The beyond is the emphasis of much of Harjo’s writing; both her poems and her memoir. She said that her memoir was about writing for a generation and not just about herself. 

    Joy Harjo was just that: a joy. She talked about her heritage and the human connection with such passion and heart. To have left feeling anything but inspired by her would be a difficult task.

    To learn more about the Native American Student Services and other future events, visit https://www.unco.edu/native-american-student-services/.

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