Joy Harjo on receiving an NEA Literature Fellowship

So I started writing when I was a student
at the University of New Mexice and the writing was – really came. It was because there was a need to write. I had no plans to be a writer, especially
a poet. I was an active part of the, native rights
activity. The need arose in me to use words as a witness. It surprised me. It’s like the spirit of poetry came to me
and said “Okay, you’re coming with me.” And I couldn’t say no. I got my first NEA fellowship in 1978. It was perfect timing. Because of that first fellowship, that first
National Endowment fellowship in 1978, I wrote She Had Some Horses which has become my signature. It’s the book that that put me into the world. What followed on that was In Mad Love and
War and other books. With all writers, with all artists, with all
humans, we all carry ancestors, we carry stories, we carry their songs. I think that’s what DNA, the DNA spiral really
is. A spiral carrying these songs and these poems
and these words and these images from our peoples. Like eagle that Sunday morning over Salt River
circled in blue sky, in wind, swept our hearts clean with sacred wings. We see you, see ourselves and know that we
must take the utmost care and kindness in all things. Breathe in, knowing we are made of all this
and breathe knowing we are truly blessed because we were born and die soon within a true circle
of motion like eagle rounding out the morning inside us. We pray that it will be done in beauty, in

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