"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."