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Joy Harjo Becomes The First Native American U.S. Poet Laureate

"It's such an honoring for Native people in this country, when we've been so disappeared and disregarded," Harjo says. "And yet we're the root cultures, over 500-something tribes and I don't know how many at first contact. But it's quite an honor ... I bear that honor on behalf of the people and my ancestors. So that's really exciting for me."

A native and resident of Tulsa, Okla. — she is also the first Oklahoman to be named U.S. poet laureate — Harjo says the appointment is an opportunity to continue a role she has often assumed throughout her career: as an "ambassador" of poetry. The Library of Congress calls the position "the nation's official poet" and assigns a "modest minimum" of official duties in order to enable individual projects designed "to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry."

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