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Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

Mace & Crown

Seven Influential Native Americans to Know This Native American Heritage Month
Joy Harjo, 23rd poet laureate of the United States and the first Native American to be appointed poet laureate. Image via

Native American people have strongly celebrated their culture, community, and origin in this country, but it was only until November 1990 that Native American Heritage Month was officially signed into law. One way to educate yourself is by immersing yourself within the arts created by Native Americans. 


Listed below are seven influential Native Americans who create music, literature, and movies. The list barely scratches the surface and does not do justice to the quantity of Native American works and artists out there. I encourage you to continue exploring works of Native Americans past this list. 


Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Nation, is a poet, playwright, author, and musician. She was the first Native American to be a poet laureate and is the 23rd poet laureate of the United States. 


Sterlin Harjo is a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and has Muscogee heritage. He is a writer and a director, creating Native American stories such as “Reservation Dogs” and “Four Sheets to the Wind.” Many of his movies can be found on streaming services, such as Amazon Prime and Hulu. 


Navarro Scott Momaday is from the Kiowan Tribe. He is a poet, editor, and Pulitzer Prize winning author of his debut novel, “House Made of Dawn.”


Sherman Alexie is a member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians. He is a poet and author of short story collections and novels. He is most well known for his best seller and banned book, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”


Kelly Jackson is an internationally touring Native American musician. She won the best Americana Album of the Year in 2012 for her debut album, “Spirit of a Woman,” at the Native American Music Awards. 


Brother and sister Jeneda and Clayson Benally formed the band Sihasin in 2012. Together, they incorporate their Navajo Nation heritage, political views,  and musical influences such as folk, rock, Navajo rhythm into their music. 


It has since been thirty years of recognition for Indigenous people, and it is very important for all people, even if they are not descendants of Native Americans, to educate themselves and respect and acknowledge the group.

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About the Contributor
Reagan Williams
Reagan Williams, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor
Reagan Williams is the Arts and Entertainment assistant for the Mace and Crown. She is double majoring in Creative Writing and World Cultural Studies with a minor in Japanese. Reagan is passionate about traveling, literature, and cinema. She is excited to write and review the artistic events around ODU and Norfolk.

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