Marilou Awiakta

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Marilou Awiakta
Born (1936-01-24) January 24, 1936 (age 82)
Occupation Poet, author
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Tennessee B.A. magna cum laude, in English and French, 1958
Children Three children

Marilou Awiakta (born January 24, 1936, Knoxville, Tennessee) is a poet whose perspective fuses her Cherokee, Scots-Irish, and Appalachian heritage with experiences of growing up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on the atomic frontier. [1] She is internationally known for her poetry and cultural essays.

Biography and career[edit]

Marilou Awiakta is the seventh generation of her family to grow up in Appalachia, mostly in East Tennessee. Since 1730, her family has lived in the mountainous area of the state.[2]

Awiakta graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1958 receiving a B.A. magna cum laude, in both English and French.[3] She worked as a civilian liaison officer and translator for the U.S. Air Force at Laon-Couvron Air Base, France from 1964-1967 where her husband, Dr. Paul Thompson, was based.

She lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where she has worked in the Arts-In-Schools program 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. [4][5] She has conducted many programs and writers' workshops nationwide, including Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Alaska, Massachusetts, Kentucky, New York, and California.

In July 2014, editors in France featured her work in


  • 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 [6]
  • 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 [7]
  • 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, UC Riverside


  • Abiding Appalachia: Where Mountain and Atom Meet. Memphis: Saint Luke's Press, 1978. Rpt. Bell Buckle, TN: Iris Press, 1995. 71 pp. Rpt. 2006 Pocahontas Press, 65 pp. $14.95 illustrated with Afterword by Parks Lanier, Jr. Now available from Aleex Thompson Conner, Marketing Dimensions, 1528 Britling Drive, Knoxville, TN 37922, telephone 865-691-6083. 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).


  1. ^[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Kelley, Saundra Gerrell (2011). Southern Appalachian Storytellers: Interviews with Sixteen Keepers of the Oral Tradition. Jefferson: McFarland Publishing. p. 33.
  3. ^ Notable Alumni: Marilou Awiakta (1958) | Torchbearer Archived 2010-06-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Marilou Awiakta: Cherokee/Appalachian Poet and Essayist Archived 2010-06-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Marilou Awiakta (Marilou Thompson) (b. 1936)
  6. ^[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2010-02-22.

See also[edit]