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Navajo Technical College announces Luci Tapahonso as the first Navajo Nation Poet Laureate

April 24, 2013

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Tina Deschenie, of the Navajo Nation Poet Laureate nomination committee, discusses how Luci Tapahonso was selected as the first Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation. Deschenie had studied under Tapahonso while at the University of New Mexico.

CROWNPOINT, NM – Navajo Technical College (NTC) President Dr. Elmer J. Guy announced the appointment of Luci Tapahonso as the Navajo Nation’s first Poet Laureate in a press conference on April 24, 2013 at NTC’s Hospitality Center.
Tapahonso will assume the position as Poet Laureate in a private banquet next month, and will be formally introduced to the public at NTC’s spring commencement on May 17th.
“A poet laureate is being honored by the Navajo Nation and Navajo Technical College in an effort to encourage other Navajo poets, writers, film makers, and artists to realize how important their work is to the continuance and growth of Navajo contemporary culture,” said Dr. Guy. “Luci represents the best of what it is to be Diné, honoring our traditions, while at the same time forming a contemporary voice that speaks beautifully to all people.”
Born in Shiprock, NM in 1953 to a family of 11 children, Tapahonso received both her bachelors and masters degrees from the University of New Mexico while majoring in English. Upon graduation, Tapahonso stayed at UNM where she served as an Assistant Professor of English and American Indian Studies. Following her time at UNM, Tapahonso also taught English at the University of Kansas and the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Tapahonso is the author of five books of poetry and stories and one children’s book. Some of her more notorious poetry collections include Saánii Dahataal (1993) and Blue Horses Rush In (1997). In 1999, she was named the Storyteller of the Year by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers, a year after being recognized with the Region Book Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association.
On the national level, Tapahonso serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian, a branch of the Smithsonian Institute, and has served as the Review Consultant for the Cultural Diversity Development Division of American College Testing.
Additional awards bestowed upon Tapahonso include the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas (2006), the New Mexico Eminent Scholar award by the New Mexico Commission of Higher Education (1989), and the Southwestern Association of Indian Affairs Literature Fellowship (1981).
NTC was selected to house the two-year term Poet Laureate program by the Office of the Navajo Nation Vice President because of the college’s development of academic programs in the fields of Arts and the Humanities. Next month, NTC will be submitting to the Higher Learning Commission a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and New Media, which according to Mr. Irvin Morris, Chair of NTC’s School of Arts and Humanities, will be the first of its kind on the Navajo Nation.
“In becoming a nation it’s important that we develop in all areas, including the arts,” stated Morris, who sits on the Poet Laureate nomination committee along with Tina Deschenie, ABD, of NTC, Miranda Haskie of Diné College, and Jennifer Denetdale of the University of New Mexico. “States and other nations honor their writers by giving them different kinds of recognition so it’s only fitting that we see ourselves as a nation and have a poet laureate. Who better to be that poet laureate than our most accomplished and recognized figure that happens to be Luci Tapahonso?”
For more information about Tapahonso or the Navajo Nation Poet Laureate program, contact Irvin Morris at imorris@navajotech.edu.