An interactive online poetry project featuring Joy Harjo’s An American Sunrise, curated by Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson

Big Read Northeast Ohio selected An American Sunrise by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo as the 2021-2022 community reading program. Harjo is the first Native American poet laureate of the United States, and her poetry collection, An American Sunrise, illuminates Indigenous peoples’ fight for justice, sovereignty, and dignity.

The goal of Big Read Northeast Ohio is to center and celebrate the voices of Indigenous peoples and provide opportunities for community members throughout the region to examine our shared histories.


Get involved by contributing to our Big Read community poem or creating your own Emerge poem below.



Select a prompt and contribute your voice to a growing digital community poem.



Select a video and create a poem, then view the community’s responses. All videos courtesy of the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit, “Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness” and the Library of Congress digital archive.



Select a text and create an erasure poem, then view the community’s responses. All texts were curated by Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson.

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Poems were curated by Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson from U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s An American Sunrise.


A message from Big Read Northeast Ohio curator, Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson

As the curator for these selections, I focused on documents that illustrate the methods of Indian/Indigenous removal throughout American history. Many of these documents are widely known and taught in school, such as The Declaration of Independence, though what is often overlooked is what these documents really say about Indigenous people in the land of the free.  The selections accomplish two things. One is to draw attention to the intentional actions of removal of Indigenous individuals in the past who were thought to be an inferior people without regard to listening to or learning from them. The second is to illustrate that systems of removal still exist in American society (i.e. trafficking and the foster care system), set against the many movements of our Indigenous people who continue to grapple with reclaiming their identity, which was stolen, erased, and silenced over centuries. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) recognizes the rights of Indigenous peoples, though there is so much work left to do. Indigenous people persist in this heavy lifting of reclamation, working always for the generations who follow.

No matter the struggle, the People continue to move through genocidal ideological practices that are upheld by individuals and institutions in positions of social and political power as necessary to maintain a skewed understanding of American greatness in the collective imagination. I have spent many years telling these stories, educating myself and others, and have found that when people first encounter and begin to understand the wrought relationship between the United States government and Indigenous people, many experience grief or more deeply a Perpetration-induced Traumatic Stress (MacNair, 2001). And so I ask these questions: What do you do now that you know? What is your responsibility? This is where Indigenous and non-Native people need one other, and my hope is we will walk together to a place of healing.

Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson
September, 2021

About Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson

Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson, MFA, MA, is from the Ihanktonwan Nation (Yankton Sioux) in South Dakota. Her work has been published in The North Dakota Quarterly, The Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought, 10th Anniversary Retrospective, Common Threads for the Ohio Poetry Association, and Indigenous Peoples Student Project: Documenting Story Telling Through Photographs and Videos/Poems (located in Open Access Kent State, University Libraries) among others. She is an adjunct faculty with Kent State Geauga Burton Campus (on break this semester for full-time research with a national organization focused on Native American Boarding Schools). She is an adjunct faculty for NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community where she is also an editor for the Journal of NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community. She is in first year study for her Ph.D. with the University of Divinity in Australia.


For Educators

The Big Read Northeast Ohio is offering an interactive poetry experience for our local middle and high schools. During one class period, students will be engaged in a close study of poems from Joy Harjo’s An American Sunrise. Students will then use digital tools to compose original poems and creative reflections.

If you are a middle or high school classroom teacher and would like to participate in our Big Read Northeast Ohio programming, please contact Kristy Pytash or David Hassler.

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the lands of Kent State University were the previous homes of people who were removed from this area without their consent by the colonial practices of the United States government.

The great cultures known today as Woodland, Hopewell, and Whittlesey (2, 6)—proficient in agriculture and architecture—created a trade network that extended from Wyoming to the Florida Coast and Appalachia and up to the northern reaches of Lake Superior. (2) The societies that followed included people of the Shawnee, (3, 5) Seneca-Cayuga, (4,7) Delaware, (5,7)  Wyandots, (5, 7) Ottawa, (6) and Miami (7, 9) tribes. We honor their lives—both past and present—and strive to move beyond remembrance toward reflection and responsibility through honest accounts of the past and development of cultural knowledge and community. (8, 10)

3—Warren, Steven. 2009. The Shawnees and their Neighbors, 1795-1870. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

4—Braveman, Daan. 2004. The Legal Arguments in the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe Bingo Hall. Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce 31(1): Article 5.

5—Hurt, Douglas. 1996. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

6—Stothers, David and Patrick Tucker. 2006. The Fry Site: Archeological and Ethnohistorical Perspectives on the Maumee River Ottawa of Northwest Ohio. Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press, Inc.

7—Sleeper-Smith, Susan. 2018. Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest: Indian Women of the Ohio River Valley, 1690-1792. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

8—Mosley-Howard, Susan, Daryl Baldwin, George Ironstrack, Kate Rousmaniere, and Bobbi Burke. 2016. Niila Myaamia (I Am Miami): Identity and Retention of Miami Tribe College Students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice 17(4): 437-461.

9—Barry, Kate, and Melissa Rinehart. 2003. A Legacy of Forced Migration: The Removal of the Miami Tribe in 1846. International Journal of Populations Geography 9: 93-112.

Pronunciation Guide

Delaware [del-uh-wair]
Miami  [mahy-am-ee,  -am-uh]
Seneca-Cayuga [sen-i-kuh  key-yoo-guh]
Whittlesey  [hwit-l-see, wit-l-see]
Wyandots  [wahy-uhn-dot]

Hopewell  [hohp-wel, -wuhl]
Ottawa  [ot-uh-wuh]
Shawnee [shaw-nee]
Woodland  [wood-land]

Traveling Stanzas community arts projects bring poetry to people’s everyday lives through innovative methods and digital platforms.

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