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Explore Native American Heritage

Spotlight on Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is serving her second term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States.

Check out her work at the SJR State Library -

Poet Warrior: A Memoir

A Map to the Next World: Poetry and Tales

Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry

Visit the page for Joy Harjo for interviews, readings, and more.

Spotlight: Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina


Obituary, New York Times, April 12, 2013

Online exhibit from the National Women's History Museum

Ballerina Maria Tallchief performs for President John F. Kennedy with video

Spotlight: Navajo Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers

Navajo is an unwritten language and is considered unintelligible to anyone except other Navajo speakers, so it was identified by the Marine Corp as a potential tool for secure military communications. "Code Talkers were communications specialists. Their job was to send coded messages about troop movements, enemy positions, and other critical information on the battlefield. Some Code Talkers translated messages into their Native languages and relayed them to another tribal member. Others developed special codes within their languages that they used in combat to send important messages." SOURCE During World War II, "tests in the Pacific under combat conditions proved that classified messages could be translated into Navajo, transmitted, received, and translated back into English quicker than messages which were encoded, transmitted, and decoded employing conventional cryptographic facilities and techniques." SOURCE

"Semper Fidelis, Code Talkers This article from the National Archives describes how the Code Talkers came to be.

Navajo Code Talkers: A Guide to First-Person Narratives in the Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress.

Native Words, Native Warriors  An exhibition from the National Museum of the American Indian.


Spotlight: The Trail of Tears

Trail of Tears downloaded from PBS LearningMedia, Rights to use this asset do not expire. Asset Copyright: © 2009 WGBH Educational Foundation. All Rights Reserved. Adapted from American Experience: "We Shall Remain: Trail of Tears". Third party materials courtesy of Aperture Media Group, Corbis, National Anthropological Archives of the Smithsonian Institutions, Library of Congress, and University of Tennessee Libraries.

In this video segment adapted from American Experience: "We Shall Remain," reenactments help tell the story of how the Cherokee people were forced from their lands in the southeast. The U.S. government initially promised the Cherokee and other Native American tribes that if they could assimilate into European Americans lifestyles, they would be considered equals. But a new movement in the late 1820s, supported by President Andrew Jackson, promoted removal of Native Americans from the eastern U.S. The Indian Removal Act, passed in 1830, called for the tribes to leave peacefully. Feeling that removal from their own lands was not an option, the vast majority of people stayed. When the deadline to leave passed, federal troops and state militia forcefully assembled the Cherokee people, letting them take nothing but the clothes on their backs, and made them march an 850-mile trek to new lands. Many died on this march, known as the Trail of Tears, which lasted through one of the hardest winters the region had ever experienced.

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