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Indian Country Today

Renowned poet, environmental activist and educator Barney Furman Bush, Shawnee and Cayuga, of Herod, Illinois, died September 18, 2021.

Bush taught English literature and writing at tribal schools and colleges across the nation including the Rough Rock High School on the Navajo Reservation, the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in Europe. His poetry garnered a fellowship with the National Endowment of the Arts and a contract with NATO Records in Paris, France, that produced several spoken word CDs: “A Sense of Journey,” “Left for Dead,” and “Remake of the American Dream” Volumes I and II.

Bush’s work has been featured in several anthologies including “Songs from This Earth on Turtle's Back: Contemporary American Indian Poetry,” “Harper’s Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry,” and “The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature.” He was the first Indigenous poet to be honored with a membership in the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music in Paris.

By Barney Furman Bush
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Barney Furman Bush, Pojoaque, NM, 1998-99. (Photo by Tamar Kathleen Tomson).

Bush participated in several environmental panels across the nation and advocated against fracking and the destruction of ancestral Shawnee homelands. He was instrumental in establishing the Institute of the Southern Plains near Hammon, Oklahoma, for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.

Barney Furman Bush was born in Harrisburg, Illinois, on August 27, 1944 to Ruth Evangeline (Vinyard) Bush and Ownly Furman Bush. His maternal grandparents were Clydeand Etta (Tyer) Vinyard and his paternal grandparents were Robert and Hattie (Reynolds) Bush.

He is survived by his son, Phil Bush and wife, Vivian; granddaughter, Haleigh; grandson, William; brothers, John and wife, Deborah; Fred Bush and Ellen Lambert; and many nieces and nephews.

Bush was an in-law to the Navajo people (Kinyaa'áanii, Ta'neeszahnii, Naaneesht' ézhiTáchii'nii, and To'aheedliinii) and had many students and friends across the Navajo Nation. He was well loved by the Diné and other tribal nations in North and South America. Please visit and for updates and more information.

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