Grantee: Luci Tapahonso
Native Citizenship: Diné (Navajo)
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Award: 2018 National Artist Fellowship
Web Site: LuciTapahonso.com
Luci Tapahonso (Diné [Navajo]) is the inaugural Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation and Professor Emerita of English Languages and Literature at the University of New Mexico.
Tapahonso, the middle child of eleven, is grateful to have been raised in a traditional, multi-generational Navajo household on a farm outside of Shiprock, New Mexico. Although belonging to a generation forbidden to speak Navajo in school, her mother tongue remains the undercurrent and the matrix through which everything in her life permeates.
Tapahonso has published eight books, including three children’s books. Her work is primarily in English, but it is enriched and interspersed with words and phrases in Navajo and honors the rich legacy of the Diné people. She epitomizes the Navajo value of “speaking well”. From her we learn that in Navajo culture, a person with this ability is thought to convey compassion, strength and good upbringing. In addition, a person who knows many stories, songs and prayers is considered wealthy.
Tapahonso received her M.A. in English from the University of New Mexico and played a key role in establishing the Indigenous Studies Graduate Studies Program at the University of Kansas.
We are taught to value language and to remember that the sacred begins at the tip of one’s tongue.
~ Luci Tapahonso
2013 interview of Lucy Tapahanso by New Mexico PBS, KNME-TV.