Tulsa Library to honor Laura Tohe with Festival of Words Writers Award

Photo courtesy: Tulsa Library

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Presentation on March 2, 10:30 a.m. at Hardesty Regional Library’s Connor’s Cove followed by day of family programs

News Release

Tulsa Library

Laura Tohe (Diné, Tsénahabiłnii, Sleepy Rock People clan, and born for the Tódich’inii, Bitter Water clan) will receive the Tulsa Library Trust’s “Festival of Words Writers Award” March 2, 10:30 a.m., at Hardesty Regional Library’s Connor’s Cove, 8316 E. 93rd St.  Her award presentation will be followed by a book signing and a day of educational American Indian family events from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The award, presented every other year, consists of a $5,000 honorarium and an engraved crystal.  Previous winners include: 2001, Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek); 2003, Vine DeLoria Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux); 2005, Leslie Marmon-Silko (Laguna Pueblo); 2007, Carter Revard (Osage); 2011, LeAnne Howe (Choctaw); 2013, Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Muscogee Creek); 2015, Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki); and 2017, Tim Tingle (Choctaw).

Tohe has written the books Code Talker Stories, Making Friends with Water, No Parole Today, and Tseyi’: Deep in the Rock, Reflections on Canyon de Chelly. She co-edited the poetry anthology Sister Nations: Native American Women Writers on Community.

In 2015 she was honored as the Navajo Nation Poet Laureate for 2015-2019, a title given to her in celebration and recognition of her work as a poet and writer.

As a librettist, Tohe was commissioned by The Phoenix Symphony to write the libretto forEnemy Slayer, A Navajo Oratorio, premiering in 2008 as part of the symphony’s 60thanniversary. Her current project is a libretto on healing, Nahasdzáán in the Glittering World, with performances scheduled for spring 2019 in France.

Tohe is Professor Emerita with Exemplar Distinction from Arizona State University and had faculty affiliations with American Indian Studies, the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and Honors College. She also is an Arizona Speaks presenter for the Arizona Humanities that awarded her the 2006 Dan Schilling Public Scholar award.

Tohe explains why writing and storytelling came naturally to her:

“I was raised by my extended family on the Navajo homeland among storytellers who influenced my early writings. My mother used to tell my brothers and me stories in the car on the way ‘to town’ to get supplies. My first short story publication came from her stories about a brother and sister who were transformed into prairie dogs. It stayed with me for many years and then one day my assignment was to begin a story with ‘once upon a time’ and that story came out. After being away at school, I always visited my grandmother first, who after clearing away the breakfast dishes and while the coffee was still hot, caught me up on all our family goings on. She was the National Enquirer magazine of our family telling interesting stories, some joyous and some not so savory from the past and present. I didn’t grow up watching television, but my family’s stories entertained and brought us together at the kitchen table and when we worked on the in-progress jigsaw puzzle under the dining room tablecloth. Such were some of the early influences in my desire to become a writer at 12 years old and for which I am deeply grateful.”

Family events during the Festival of Words include:

Native Culture Make and Take

11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., First Floor

Participants will get to take the projects home that they make.

  • Cherokee Pottery by Crystal Hanna#
  • Pony Bead Keychains by Stella Foster
  • Cherokee Basket weaving by Choogie Kingfisher


  • Quilt and ribbon shirts by Lynnette White and Nancy Boyette
  • Tear Dresses by Tonia Weavel

11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Frossard Auditorium

Native Patchwork by Native Amer-I-Can

Children’s Crafts

11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Children’s Area, 1st floor

Pawnee Tales Puppet Show

12:00–12:30 p.m., Children’s Area

Join students from the Pawnee Language Students-Pawnee Public Schools for a puppet show, songs and a whole lot of fun.

Otoe Singers

12:45–1:30 p.m., Children’s Area

Once only found on old cylinder recordings, these proud people are breathing new life into their traditional songs. Come and listen to the beautiful songs of the Otoe people while learning the history and meaning of the songs. 

Traditional American Indian Dance Exhibition: Swing and Sway the Powwow Way!

1:45–2:30 p.m., Children’s Area

Coordinated by Junior Pratt, this group of intertribal dancers performs a variety of traditional American Indian dances. Audience participation is encouraged.

The Poison Puzzler Escape Room!

30 minute sessions, Maple Meeting Room The puzzle-loving villain who calls himself The Puzzler plans to poison the city’s water supply! Your team is in charge of searching The Puzzler’s lair for an antidote! Your team can be up to five people.

  • 11:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
  • 12:15–12:45 p.m.
  • 1–1:30 p.m.
  • 1:45–2:15 p.m.

5th Annual Preserving Our Tribal Languages Forum

11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Pecan Meeting Room

The Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission and the American Indian Resource Center will showcase the rich culture of native languages while focusing on native youth and children. All tribes invited to participate.

Sponsors for the American Indian Festival of Words include the Tulsa Library Trust, Tulsa City-County Library’s American Indian Resource Center, The Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation, Dr. Frank and Mary Shaw, Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs, and Tulsa Indian Community Foundation.

For more information on library programming, call the AskUs Hotline, 918-549-7323, or visit the library’s website, www.tulsalibrary.org.


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