Marilou Awiakta ~ Cherokee

Published on January 20, 2012 by Carol

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Marilou Awiakta
Marilou Awiakta

Marilou Awiakta (born January 24, 1936, Knoxville, Tennessee) is an Eastern Band Cherokee author. She is renowned for writing several books that blend stories, essays and poetry. She graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1958 receiving a B.A. magna cum laude, in both English and French.She worked as a civilian liaison officer and translator for the U.S. Air Force at Laon-Couvron Air Base, France from 1964-1967.

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She worked in the Arts-In-Schools program in Memphis, Tennessee, and formed poetry workshops in the Women’s Prison. She was co-founder of the Far Away Cherokee Association which is now the Native American Intertribal Association. She lives in Memphis, with her husband, Paul Thompson. They have three children.


  • Jesse Hill Ford Award for Poetry, 1972
  • Person of Quality Award, National Organization for Women, 1983
  • United States Information Agency, Abiding Appalachia and Rising Fawn & The Fire Mystery chosen for Global Tour of American Writers, 1986
  • Woman of Vision Award, Memphis Women of Achievement, 1988
  • Distinguished Tennessee Writer Award, 1989
  • Outstanding Contributions to Appalachian Literature, Appalachian Writers’ Association, 1991
  • Audio version of Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom, with music by Joy Harjo, nominated for a Grammy Award, 1995
  • Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Albion College, Albion, Michigan, 1999
  • Award for Service to American Indian Peoples, American Indian Symposium, Northeastern University, Oklahoma, 1999
  • Award for Educational Service to Appalachia, Carson-Newman College, 1999
  • Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Award, Shepherd College, 2000
  • Excerpt from Selu engraved in the River Wall at Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall
  • Poem “Motheroot” from Abiding Appalachia selected to be inlaid in the walkway of Fine Arts Mall, UCLA Riverside


  • Abiding Appalachia: Where Mountain and Atom Meet. Memphis: Saint Luke’s Press, 1978. Rpt. Bell Buckle, TN: Iris Press, 1995. 71 pp. Now available from Pocahontas Press, Drawer F, Blacksburg, VA 24063-1020. Poetry that weaves together Cherokee history, the legend of Little Deer, memories of growing up in Oak Ridge (where the atom was split in the 1940s), and thoughts on family, society, and the land.
  • Rising Fawn and the Fire Mystery: A Child’s Christmas in Memphis, 1833. Memphis: Saint Luke’s Press, 1983.
  • Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1993. A blend of story, essay, and poetry. Cherokee legends and images from the double weave of Cherokee baskets point us toward preserving a nurturing relationship between humanity and Mother Earth, by instilling appreciation for the earth and applying Native American philosophies to modern problems.


Awiakta’s poetry is analysed at length in Our Fire Survives the Storm by Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation)

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