This #IndigenousPeoplesDay the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) celebrates our Indigenous students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members, as well as all of our Indigenous relatives around the world. We are #ManyNationsOneFamily. As such, today we kick off our Alumni Spotlight Series. IAIA’s mission “to empower creativity and leadership in Native Arts and cultures through higher education, life-long learning, and outreach,” is more than a statement—it is the on-going objective of all that we do. These alumni embody our core values, and help to further our mission from an Indigenous perspective.
Alumni Spotlight—Joy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation) ’68
Alumna, author, musician, and twenty-third Poet Laureate of the United States—and currently serving a second term—Joy Harjo, attended high school at IAIA. Harjo began writing poetry as a member of the University of New Mexico's Native student organization, the Kiva Club, in response to Native empowerment movements. She went on to earn her MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and teach English, Creative Writing, and American Indian Studies at various institutions across the country, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities during IAIA’s 2020 commencement ceremony.
Harjo is the author of nine books of poetry, a memoir, two children's books, an anthology of North American Native women's writing, several screenplays and collections of prose interviews, and three plays which she toured as a one-woman show. She also performs on saxophone and flutes—solo and with her band—and has toured across the U.S. and in Europe, South America, India, Africa, and Canada. Harjo has produced five award-winning music albums.
In addition to being an award winning U.S. Poet Laureate, Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship, directs For Girls Becoming, an arts mentorship program for young Mvskoke women, and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Photograph by Jason S. Ordaz, Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) ...