It’s Native Heritage Month! Celebrate by turning an ear to the voices of our native students across the country.
We’ve compiled thirteen autobiographical poems by some of TFA’s Native Hawaiian, Navajo, and Lakota students involved in our student voices initiative, the Poet Warriors Project. Enjoy the teaser excerpts, click to read the full poems on the Poet Warriors site, print and share these stories with your students, and if you’re interested in publishing your classes with the Poet Warriors Project, find out more here!
1. “I don’t act like a Navajo
But on the inside of me, there is a true blood of Dine girl” -Odessa Begay
2. “He is struggling to get loose
The starry black night being splashed
With the color orange yellow
Painted like a painted canvas.” -Te-Mya Running Hawk
3. “A little girl waking
up with her family on a ranch.
A pink house full with a stove
and wood. Cooking blue corn mush
with my light in their eyes” -Talia Garmendez
4. “Seen evolution
Through an old man’s eyes
Sometimes I feel that it’s disguise
No one notices
The tide rolling in” -Cloe Parks
5. “I remember my brother well” -Sheridan James
6. “The mesas are golden,
And the landscape is orange.
The sun sees our Navajo Nation reservation.” -Lain Johnson
7. “As I look at the bright beautiful sunset in the reservation,
I see the bright sun go down
I hear the chirping and the laughter of
Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and cousins.” -Michael Toldeo
8. “When she walks
And a Gary Stewart song is on,
It matches here.
When she was young,
She use to go to the Rez dances,
And used to dance with all
The cowboys” -Selvina Pletero
9. “When they came
They took our land.
They took aloha.
They took the queen.” -Shayla
10. “I remember
When I used to watch her weave
small rectangular Navajo rugs
When she laughed so hard that she cried” -Nathania Tom
11. “My dad believes I could do anything in my life
And get out of the reservation.” -Dallason Davis
12. “I don’t know any other place that I would like to be
I am not ashamed about where I come from” -Alec Lewis
13. “The Navajo Reservation, it has brown flat land
And in the distance, red mesas.
While I sit in the old tower I see a stampede of brown, white, and black
Horses.” -Taneika Ashley
Photos by Poet Warriors creator, Emily Southerton. Photography taken while collecting poems from Teach For America students in Kailua Kona, HI, the Navajo Nation in Crownpoint, NM, and on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, SD.