For Immediate Release
Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) 2020 Commencement Keynote Address to be Delivered by United States Poet Laureate and IAIA Alumna Joy Harjo
Two-term United States Poet Laureate and IAIA AlumnaJoy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation) ’68 has been selected to give the Institute of American Indian Arts’ 2020 commencement address at 11:00 am on Saturday, August 22, 2020.
After consulting with New Mexico health authorities, faculty, staff, and students, IAIA has made the difficult decision to conduct a virtual graduation ceremony. As with other changes resulting from the pandemic, this one is especially disappointing for everyone at IAIA that have been looking forward to an in-person celebration in honor of the class of 2020’s achievements. However, the safety and health of the students and the IAIA community have remained the highest priority.
The ceremony will include recorded and live-streamed speeches from the class Valedictorian, MFA Creative Writing Program student speaker, Faculty of the Year, IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee), Board of Trustees Chair Loren Kieve (Cherokee), and Joy Harjo.
The program also will be comprised of a video montage announcing each graduating student in their cap and gowns or regalia as well as honor songs and footage of students, staff and faculty. In addition to participating in this virtual ceremony, graduates will have the option to take part in the 2021 graduation ceremony as well.
To stream the event on-line, please visit www.iaia.edu/commencement on the morning of commencement.
In addition to delivering the commencement address live from campus, Harjo will also be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree during the ceremony. Previous recipients of the IAIA Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree have included notable persons such as Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo), George Rivera (Pojoaque Pueblo), Dan Namingha (Hopi-Tewa), Kevin Red Star (Crow), Suzan Harjo(Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee), James Luna (Luiseño), N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), Tony Abeyta (Navajo), Dave Warren (Santa Clara Pueblo), David Bradley (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe), and Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi/Choctaw).
Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, is a member of the Mvskoke Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hickory Ground). Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she left home to attend high school at the innovative Institute of American Indian Arts. 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 University of California-Los Angeles, University of New Mexico, University of Arizona, Arizona State, University of Illinois, University of Colorado, University of Hawai’i, Institute of American Indian Arts, and University of Tennessee, while performing music and poetry nationally and internationally.
Harjo is the author of nine books of poetry, including her most recent, the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise (2019); Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015), which was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and named a Notable Book of the Year by the American Library Association; The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Award; and In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Her memoir, Crazy Brave, was awarded the PENUSA Literary Award in Creative Non Fiction and the American Book Award. She has also published two award-winning children’s books, The Good Luck Cat and For a Girl Becoming; a collaboration with photographer/ astronomer Stephen Strom; an anthology of North American Native women’s writing; several screenplays and collections of prose interviews; and three plays, including Wings of Night Sky,Wings of Morning Light,A Play, which she toured as a one-woman show and was recently published by Wesleyan Press. She is Executive Editor of the forthcoming anthology When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through – A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, to be released in 2020.
Harjo performs on saxophone and flutes — solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics Band, and previously with Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice. She/they have toured across the U.S. and in Europe, South America, India, Africa, and Canada. Harjo has produced five award-winning music albums including Winding Through the Milky Way, for which she was awarded a NAMMY for Best Female Artist of the year.
Harjo‘s awards for poetry include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, a PENUSA Literary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writers’ Award, a Rasmuson US Artist Fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
In addition to serving as 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.
IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin (Cherokee) commented “Congratulations
I applaud each and every one of them for remaining focused on achieving their academic goal of earning a postsecondary degree or certificate. It is also an incredible honor for IAIA and our 2020 graduating class for Joy to join us on this day of celebration to deliver the commencement address. Also, the awarding of an honorary doctorate will provide an opportunity for IAIA to acknowledge and express our admiration to one of our alumna for her outstanding contributions to IAIA, Native arts and cultures, New Mexico, and the nation”.