Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate, and the necessity of Oral Traditions to preserve her native indigenous identity and culture

Joy Harjo performs with her band during her opening event as the U.S. Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress, September 19, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress

Joy Harjo, born 1951,  was named poet laureate by the Library of Congress, the first of its kind, for her achievements in poetry, storytelling, music and the power to reflect the oral traditions of her ancestry, the original native Americans, called American Indians.  -Unlike John Eliot’s stories about the Indian Americans, published in 1685, in which he claimed that he heard them directly from American Indians while working among them as a Puritan missionary.  The oral tradition, one of my favorite vehicles to preserve and enrich the indigenous cultures of the occupied, the oppressed and the uprooted, whether Palestinians, Armenians, Kurds, Africans or Native Americans,  is prevalent through her various literature readings and musical performances. -Especially the symbol of Horses that is recurrent in her poetry, imagery rightfully remembered by Hadidi, when he draws the connection between Mahmoud Darweesh’s and Joy Harjo’s Horses symbolism.  Her method of continuing oral tradition include story-telling, singing, in order to captivate the attention of her audiences, is overwhelming. While reading poetry, she claims that she “starts not even with an image but a sound”. As a poet, singer and playwright, she insisted on recapturing the memories of her past native Americans, refusing the current mainstream narrative that tried to suppress the right to write her indigenous history and culture, without falsifications of mainstream writers, whether nowadays or in past days, through Christian missionaries.