OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – Citizens joined Joy Harjo on the west side of the Mound Building at the MCN Complex for a dance party Friday evening August 26 in celebration of ending her third term as the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate this past April. She was the second person to be named a third term as such, the first Native American, and the first Oklahoman.
The MCN Cultural Center and Archives Program Manager Shavon Agee said the celebration was intended to be a replication of Harjo’s dance party that was in front of Congress on April 29.
A silent auction was on display for guests to bid on various items including artwork, jewelry to departmental donations of shirts and hats. The funds raised for the auction will benefit the Joy Harjo Scholarship through the MCN Scholarship Foundation.
As dusk started to cool the hot day, the sound of a saxophone could be heard from the parking lot of the Mound that was being played by Thomas Michael Taylor, an esteemed musician.
Taylor received the Louis Armstrong Award in music arts and was a part of the Union Jazz Ensemble.
Walking toward the jazzy music, tents were set up around what was made to be the dance floor. Vendors were selling handmade merchandise like jewelry, skirts and any other Native American made thing you could find.
Muscogee Artist Dana Tiger was selling her intrinsic artwork and celebrating her gal pal, Harjo.
Citizens were mingling, buying merch, laughing, and shaking hands with Harjo while enjoying the hor devoirs made by Rez-Served.
Rez-Served is Shannon James’ family business, although she is Cherokee she finds the traditional foods to be very similar. She was given a menu of grape dumplings, fry bread, and pork and hominy for the evenings taste.
The sun had completely fallen when a light appeared at the top of the dance floor where Principal Chief David Hill stood with Second Chief Dell Beaver to commend Harjo.
Over the last couple of years, Hill and Harjo have gotten to know one another due to their positions. Hill said that he is very proud of her and her accomplishments. “I’m proud that she represents Mvskoke women.”
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate someone like this,” Beaver said of the accomplished artist and writer.
Harjo credits her Muscogee lineage and the strength of ‘her people’ for her success.
“It’s quite a story and I think that all the hard parts have been useful,” Harjo said. “To be able to stand here with you in this circle of my people means more to me than any of the other kinds of honors.”
Beaver said Harjo is a pioneer for others like her, especially the youth of the Muscogee Nation.
“I am basically holding the door open for the younger people coming up,” Harjo said. “We all have a part and everybody’s part is important.”
Principal Chief and Second Chief gifted Harjo with a Pendleton blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders in traditional honor.
Harjo was at a loss for words at the gift and ceremony. All she could was ‘mvto’ while holding the blanket around her.
“A thousand mvto’s,” she said.
The floor was then turned over to DJ Werewolf, Michael Wesley. He started the night of with ‘Come and get your love’ by Redbone and the crowd joined Harjo to dance the evening away.
Harjo’s official induction ceremony into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame’s 95th Ceremony will be held on Nov. 17 where she will also be recognized as an Oklahoma Cultural Treasure. Along with a formal induction, the 2022 honorees will be recognized in November with the unveiling of a portrait at the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Their biographies, photos and videos will be accessible through interactive exhibits at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum.
Harjo has recently moved back to her hometown of Tvlse (Tulsa) to begin her six-year appointment as the first artist-in-residence at the Bob Dylan Center.