On Wednesday’s NewsHour: Poet Natalie Diaz

BY Mary Jo Brooks  June 20, 2012 at 12:49 PM EST


Natalie Diaz grew up on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation on the border of California, Arizona and Nevada. She left the reservation to play basketball for Old Dominion University in Virginia and later for professional leagues in Asia and Europe.

While she was in college, she also began to write poetry. Her first collection of poems, “When My Brother Was an Aztec,” has just been published. Many of Diaz’s poems deal with the harsh realities of reservation life: poverty, teen pregnancy and meth-amphetamine drug addiction.

Two years ago, Diaz felt a calling to return to the reservation to help preserve the Mojave language, which is rapidly being lost. A profile of Diaz and her language preservation work will air on Wednesday’s NewsHour, and we’ll post that video here later this evening.

Above, the 33-year-old writer reads two poems from her book: “Reservation Mary” and “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Reservation.” Here is an extended interview with Jeffrey Brown:


Eighty-five year old Hubert McCord is one of only four tribal elders who is fluent in the Mojave language. He is also one of the tribe’s last “bird singers.” For the past year-and-a-half, he has been working with Diaz to record Mojave stories and songs. Here is a video of McCord singing as he took several of the tribe’s teenagers on a three-hour trip through the canyons of the Colorado River.