Preservation Virginia Blog


Native American Poets you Should be Celebrating During National Poetry Month

Native American poetry is steeped in oral tradition, which
is the legacy of passing down cultural stories from older generations to
younger generations through speech. In fact, within Native American culture, poems
are often referred to as “songs” because they were traditionally sung not
written. Historically, Native American poetry has focused on many themes,
including reverence of spirituality, oral tradition and seeking balance in
life, that are unique to the Native culture but still have a universal appeal.

The influence of Native American poetry reaches throughout
the Americas and many authors have made significant contributions to the genre,


Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Ojibwa Tribe
Born in 1800 in what is today Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Jane Johnston
Schoolcraft is known for setting several precedents in the world of poetry.
She’s the first known poet to write in a Native American language – Ojibwa, the
first indigenous woman to publish literary works in the United States and
Canada and the first known American Indian to write out traditional Native
American stories. During her 2008 induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of
Fame, it was noted that, “as a poet, essayist, storyteller and translator, she
was dedicated to preserving her people’s cultural contributions by committing
them to the written word.”


Emily Pauline Johnson, Mohawk Tribe  

The daughter of a Mohawk chief and English mother, Emily Pauline Johnson
began her journey as a poet in 1884 to support her family after her father’s
death. After a successful poetry reading for the Young Men’s Liberal Club of
Toronto in 1892, she began a series of performances across Canada where she
developed a dual onstage persona. During the first half of her performance she
wore the costume of Native princess and for the second half, an English
drawing-room gown. Johnson would go on to release three collections of poetry
and fiction and ultimately attain international recognition after 17 years of

And the list goes on! Head over to the Poetry
for a curated selection of Native American poets and articles
that explore the Native American experience.

 is a private,
non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in
1889 that is dedicated to preserving, promoting and serving as an advocate for
Virginia’s cultural and architectural history.