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NEA Big Read

Schedule of Programs

Programming related to the NEA Big Read will take place from September 2020 through April 2021. This schedule will be updated regularly as programs are planned. All information listed is subject to change.


A Peek Into the American Indian Way of Life Through Their History and Oral Traditions

Presented by Kim McIver Sigafus
Nov. 9, 2020, at 6:30 p.m., virtual program
Livestreamed from the Doudna Fine Arts Center! Click here to watch!

Free and open to the public

This presentation will invite people into the world of the American Indian to discover what it once was to be Native, and what it means to be Native now. An Ojibwa, Kim will be dressed in her traditional Native regalia, and will present on Native culture through oral traditions, language, and history. She will discuss Native encampment life and will drum and sing an Ojibwa lullaby. There will be a Q&A at the end of the presentation.

About the Presenter:

Kim Sigafus wearing a bright red garmet decorated with sequins and ribbon.

Kim Sigafus is an internationally published award-winning Ojibwa author and speaker. Her family is from White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. Kim’s Ojibwa name, Bekaadiziikwe, means “Quiet Woman.”

In her Native regalia, Kim has presented Native American programs at venues across the Midwest. The genres she writes include romance, children’s picture books and plays, as well as Native American fiction and non-fiction. When she’s not working, she makes dream catchers and Talking Feathers, and drums and sings.

She resides in Freeport, Illinois with husband Andy and their two dogs, Animosh and Miika.

Illinois Humanities Council Logo

This program was funded by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Road Scholar Speakers Bureau, a program that provides organizations statewide with affordable, entertaining, and thought-provoking humanities events for their communities.


Book discussion

Dec. 1, 2020, 4-5:30 p.m.
EIU Buzzard Hall Room 1180

Limited to 10; pre-registration required
Instructor: Marita Metzke
Free and open to the public

The Academy of Lifelong Learning's Literary Divas book club will discuss "An American Sunrise," by Joy Harjo, on Dec. 1.

The academy is an outreach program that caters to adults who like to learn.

For more information, contact the Academy of Lifelong Learning at 217-581-5114 or email


NEA Big Read: A Conversation with Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo

Jan. 30, 2021, 1-2 p.m.
Virtual presentation via Microsoft Teams
To participate, click here

Part of the Lions in Winter festival sponsored by the EIU Department of English
Co-sponsored by Broward County Library, Broward Public Library Foundation, Inc., and Florida Center for the Book.

Free and open to the public


Join Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation and current U.S. poet laureate, in a virtual conversation, as she reads works from her latest book An American Sunrise: Poems and has a moderated Q+A discussion.

In 2019, Harjo was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to
hold the position. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is an logointernationally known award-winning poet,
writer, performer, and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation.

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.


Past programming

Book discussion, Sept. 28, 2020, private event

The Well Red Book Club discussed "An American Sunrise."


Virtual book discussion, Sept. 16, 2020, 5-7 p.m., via Zoom

The Tarble Arts Center Community Reads, a book club hosted online every third Wednesday of the month, discussed "An American Sunrise," by Joy Harjo.


Keynote address, Sept. 15, 2020, 6:30 p.m., via Microsoft Teams

From Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie to Harjo’s American Sunrise:  Words Matter, presented by Dr. Debbie Reese

A recording of this virtual program is now available! Watch it now at This recording will be available for public vieweing until  Oct. 21.

Joy Harjo writes that in 1830 with “the American soldiers at our backs,” her people left their homelands for Indian Territory. Thirty-nine years later, Charles Ingalls took his family — including his two-year-old daughter, Laura — from their cabin in Wisconsin to Indian Territory. In her lecture, Dr. Debbie Reese talks about the works of these two women and ask that we consider how their words shape what readers know about the place called America and the people that call it home. 


Book discussion, Sept. 2, 2020, 5 p.m., via Zoom

The Coles County LifeSpan Center hosted a virtual book club using the Zoom meeting app on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 5 p.m. This is a new book club for the center, and the first book they chose to discuss was "An American Sunrise," by Joy Harjo.


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