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Just Launched: “Living Nations, Living Words” Guide for Educators

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This post is by Kaleena Black of the Library of Congress.

The Professional Learning and Outreach Initiatives team at the Library of Congress, in collaboration with the Library’s Literary Initiatives Office and an advisory group of educators (members of the National Council on the Social Studies, the National Council for Teachers of English, and the National Indian Education Association), has just launched a guide to support teachers in the use of the “Living Nations, Living Words” project. We invite you to explore it with your students!Cover Page of Living Nations Living Words Teachers Guide with Joy Harjo's picture on the cover

“Living Nations, Living Words” is the signature project of the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, and in an introductory statement about it, Harjo wrote, “As the first Native U.S. Poet Laureate, I decided that my signature project should introduce the country to the many Native poets who live in these lands.” The project encompasses an ArcGIS story map and an online poetry collection that includes the work of 47 contemporary Native poets. These poets also contributed recordings of themselves reciting their work, as well as some personal commentary and context about the poems they selected for the project. The featured poetry reflects a series of themes and touchpoints, including place, displacement, acknowledgment, resistance, persistence, and visibility.

The supporting educator guide contains a variety of resources for educators as they navigate the “Living Nations, Living Words” project, and suggests ways to incorporate its materials in the classroom with upper middle and high school students. As the Poet Laureate shares in a video message included in the educator guide, “I kept educators in mind while creating [the “Living Nations, Living Words”] project, and I hope you find it useful and inspiring for your work.”

To that end, the guide includes Harjo’s own definitions and explanations of the themes addressed through the project; interdisciplinary, classroom activity ideas – developed with the advisory group – that use both the story map and poetry collection as points of entry; and additional resources that teachers can use for further learning and research.

We encourage you to explore the “Living Nations, Living Words” project, and supplement your study with this new educator resource guide. The project and the guide will also be discussed in the forthcoming “Sources and Strategies” feature of the November issue of Social Education, published by the National Council on the Social Studies. Please share any feedback and let us know the ways you use these resources with students!


  1. While the “Living Nations, Living Words” is designed for younger folks (I am 79 y.o.) I have found that this material is especially suitable for staffs of long term care facilities across the nation whose residents and staff may learn and grow from such endeavor.

    It has materially helped me in my association with the IHS at Toppenish and at the joint IHS hospital and nursing facility associated with the hospital. I learned a tremendous amount from listening at the tribal colleges and to the elders.

    God bless these folks’ patience and interest in communicating a reality that was not part of my education as a youth, college student or post-graduate member of my white, old-school past.

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