Library to Honor Oklahoma Screenwriter and Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo

   Sterlin Harjo, Seminole/Muscogee (Creek), will receive the Tulsa Library Trust’s “Festival of Words Writers Award” March 2, 10:30 a.m. at Central Library, Fourth Street and Denver Avenue.  His award presentation will be followed by a day of educational American Indian family events from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

   Before his award, a free showing of Harjo’s movie “Barking Water” is scheduled for Feb. 28, 7 p.m., University of Tulsa, Lorton Performance Center, Recital Hall, 550 S. Gary Place.  This movie screening is free and open to the public.

Second Floor, tiled area

  • Demonstration/Social Stomp Dance, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.  Sam Proctor, Tallahassee Ceremonial Ground, and friends provide a glimpse into the Mvskoke culture.  Audience participation is encouraged.
  • Swing and Sway the Powwow Way! 1:30-2:30 p.m.  Coordinated by Junior Pratt, this group of intertribal dancers performs a variety of traditional American Indian dances.  Audience participation is encouraged.

Children’s Library, Second Floor

  • Pawnee Oral Tradition Comes to Life! 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.  Junior Pratt and his friend “Tiki” bring the oral tradition to life with Pawnee stories, songs and fun.
  • Storytelling by MAHENWAHDOSE, 12:30-1:30 p.m.  Featuring Will Hill and Jehnean Washington, this American Indian performance company combines the tradition of storytelling with language, traditional flute, drum and comedy.

Plaza Room, Second Floor

  • Natives in Comics: How to Create Comic-Book Art, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and How to Create Comic-Book Stories, 12:30-1:30 p.m.  Join Native American comic-book creators Arigon Starr, Roy Boney, Michael Sheyahshe and Lee Francis IV.
  • Conversations with Joy Harjo, 1:30-2:30 p.m.  Enjoy the music and writing of award-winning poet, musician and author Joy Harjo.

Computer Training Room, Second Floor

  • Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s “Native News Today,” 11:30-12:30 p.m.  Join Gerald Wofford and discover what it takes to produce this weekly television show.
  • Lights, Camera, Gaffer? 12:30-1:30 p.m.  Join Rodney Autaubo and learn about the process that takes place behind the scenes to successfully support any performance.
  • Making Your Book a Reality! 1:30-2:30 p.m.  Chickasaw Nation artist and illustrator Dustin Mater will explain how to create a book using online resources.

Third Floor

  • American Indian Cultural Demonstrations, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.  Children’s crafting area; Cherokee baskets by Barbara McDaniel; Cornhusk dolls by Betty Frogg; Sculpture and art by Lisan Tiger Blair and Dana Tiger; American Indian recipe exchange by Melba Williams; Cherokee feather capes by Lisa Rutherford; and Art by Dustin Mater.

   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) and 2011, LeAnne Howe, (Choctaw).

   Harjo, born in Holdenville, Oklahoma, and now living in Tulsa, studied painting and film/video studies at the University of Oklahoma.  While attending OU, a professor suggested he attend a program by Bird Runningwater, an OU graduate who had come to speak on behalf of the Sundance Institute.  On the encouragement from Runningwater, Harjo submitted a script to Sundance.  After another submission, in 2004, Harjo was selected as one of the Sundance Institute’s first five Annenberg Film Fellows, a multi-year program launched to provide filmmakers with financial support and full involvement in Sundance’s professional workshops. 

   His short film, “Goodnight, Irene,” premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and was cited for Special Jury Recognition at the Aspen Shortsfest.

   In 2006 he was selected as one of the inaugural recipients, as well as the first Native American recipient, of the United States Artists Fellowship.  He also was selected for a 2006 Media Arts Fellowship from Renew Media.  In the same year, he won the Creative Promise Award from Tribeca All Access for his script “Before the Beast Returns.”

   Harjo’s first feature film, “Four Sheets to the Wind,” premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.  This film was a product of his selection as one of the Sundance Institute’s first five Annenberg Film Fellows.

   “Barking Water,” Harjo’s 2008 dramatic feature film, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was the only American film to play in the Venice Days section of the 2009 Venice Film Festival.  He is one of seven indigenous filmmakers who participated in the Embargo Collective, a project started in 2008 by imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival.  Harjo’s addition to the project, “Cepanvkuce Tutcenen/Three Little Boys,” premiered at imagine/NATIVE in 2009, and was selected for screening in the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival and the 2011 Native American Film + Video Festival.

   Harjo served as a jury member for the Sundance Film Festival in 2010.  In 2009 he was an advisor for the Sundance Institute Ford Foundation Film Fellowship.  In 2008 he was a member of the faculty for the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute.

   Currently, Harjo is a producer/director for This Land Press, an Oklahoma multi-media news organization.  At This Land Press, he highlights the stories that inspire him.

   “Sterlin Harjo is an example of an Oklahoma-born American Indian who has become a successful screenwriter and director connecting the traditional ways and thoughts with scenes in the 21st century,” said Teresa Runnels, TCCL’s American Resource Center coordinator.  “Early in his career he has made an impact in the filmmaking world.  His success serves as an inspiration to all young artists, especially emerging Native American artists, who seek to become an author or filmmaker.”

   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, Cherokee Builders Inc., Seminole Nation, Dr. Frank and Mary Shaw, Tulsa World, Tulsa City-County Library Staff Association, the University of Tulsa, and Visions and Voices Digital Content Creations.

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

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