Museum Info

Monday – Saturday:
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Noon – 5 p.m.

500 W. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204

United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo shares her poetry during a reading at Eiteljorg March 5

By Brandi Crocker, manager of special events and artist engagement

Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo (Mvskoke / Creek Nation)
Image by Shawn Miller

This spring, the Indianapolis community will have a rare opportunity to experience a poetry reading from the poet laureate of the United States, when Joy Harjo (Mvskoke / Creek Nation) speaks at the Eiteljorg. The first Native American to serve as U.S. poet laureate and the second poet re-appointed to a third term, Harjo is an internationally renowned writer, performer and musician. The author of nine books of poetry, several plays, two children’s books, two memoirs and seven award-winning albums, she will lead a public program at the museum at 1 p.m. March 5.

As U.S. poet laureate, Harjo is the official poet of the Library of Congress, an honor recognizing her important impact on American culture and literature. Harjo’s most recent book, Poet Warrior, is a nationally acclaimed memoir, recounting the removal of her ancestors from their homelands, the hardships of her early life in Oklahoma, her pursuit of poetry and her artistic and cultural influences.

“Joy Harjo is a role model and icon for so many aspiring poets and young artists. Through her decades-long career and now though her poet laureateship, she has catapulted Indigenous voices and experiences into the literary mainstream,” said Alisa Nordholt-Dean, Eiteljorg vice president for public programs and Beeler Family director of education. “We are beyond thrilled to host Ms. Harjo for a reading at the museum — it is an incredible honor.”

Poet, author, musician

Born in Tulsa in 1951, Harjo left home at an early age to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., which at the time was still a Bureau of Indian Affairs school. In response to Native empowerment movements, she began writing poetry at the University of New Mexico. She went on to the University of Iowa to earn her MFA in creative writing. Harjo has taught at UCLA and several other universities in the subjects of English, American Indian studies and creative writing, all while performing music and poetry nationally and internationally.

Being named three times as U.S. poet laureate is the latest accomplishment in Harjo’s lively career as a poet, author and musician. She also has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship and other honors.

She is editor of Living Nations, Living Worlds: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, the companion anthology to her signature poet laureate project, which features a sampling of work by 47 Native Nations poets and a newly developed Library of Congress audio collection.

Role model and icon

In her role as a recording artist, Harjo performs on saxophone and flute, both solo and with her band. She has released seven CDs and received a Nammy award from the Native American Music Association for her music. As a culture bearer, she directs For Girls Becoming, an arts mentorship program for young Mvskoke women, and is a founding board member and chair of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

Joy Harjo’s presentation at 1 p.m. March 5 was originally part of the museum’s 2020-2021 theme, Honoring Women. Following this 45-minute program, there will be a question-and-answer session with the audience and a book signing. The event is included with regular museum admission for non-members, and members are just $5. Members can present their membership cards upon entrance for a copy of one of Joy Harjo’s books, with a limit of one book per membership household. Note: Tickets for this event are sold out. 

Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo (Mvskoke / Creek Nation)
Image by Karen Kuehn


1 p.m.
Allen Whitehill Clowes Sculpture Court

Sponsored by:

National Endowment for the Arts
Arts Midwest
Indiana Humanities
Purdue University Native American Educational and Cultural Center
Catherine Turner
Pat and Bob Anker
Ann W. King




Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the February issue of Storyteller magazine.