An American Sunrise

Joy Harjo

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

In the early 1800s, the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma. Two hundred years later, Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands and opens a dialogue with history. In An American Sunrise, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her people, and other indigenous families, essentially disappeared. From her memory of her mother’s death, to her beginnings in the native rights movement, to the fresh road with her beloved, Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories to create a space for renewed beginnings. Her poems sing of beauty and survival, illuminating a spirituality that connects her to her ancestors and thrums with the quiet anger of living in the ruins of injustice. A descendent of storytellers and “one of our finest—and most complicated—poets” (Los Angeles Review of Books), Joy Harjo continues her legacy with this latest powerful collection.

Photo by Paul Abdoo
The “Living Nations, Living Words” project features a sampling of work from 47 Native Nations poets through an interactive arcGIS Story Map
NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment
for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.
Voices of Alaska read selections from Joy Harjo’s An American Sunrise

This recording was used to create a contextual soundscape at an event at the Juneau Douglas City Museum. Visitors encountered Harjo’s poems exploring the lasting impacts of dispossession, assimilation and cultural erasure in the context of Harjo’s Muscogee Creek lineage while viewing images from the the Echoes of War: Unangax̂ Internment During WWII exhibit. Echoes of War tells “the story of the people of St. Paul and St. George (the Pribilof Islands) who experienced internment in Southeast Alaska at Funter Bay from June 1942 to May 1944, and their subsequent return home to the Pribilof Islands. Telling this story in the words of those who experienced it, we aim to highlight this event and shed light on a topic that is often excluded from history books and school curriculums around the country. Due to the pandemic, this exhibit will be on display through October 18th, 2021.

Stephanie Reynolds
Jared Olin
Jeffrey Brady
Jonas Lamb
MJ Grande
Riley Nye
Cheryl Silcox
Ernestine Hayes
Lily Pothier
Eric Johnson
Shawna McMahon
Anne Fuller
Mistee St. Clair
Debby Dahl Edwardson
Chemery Marte
Susan Derrera
Katie Bausler

Featuring openly licensed music by Ketsa, Lobo Loco, Monolog Rockstars, orakhal, The Mind Orchestra and The Island of Tranquil Exactitude from the Free Music Archive.


Kate Enge, Juneau Public Library