Native American Poet Lyla June Johnston to Perform at Highlands November 14


Lyla June Johnston

Las Vegas, N.M. –  New Mexico Highlands University presents internationally known Native American performance poet and musician Lyla June Johnston Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. in the Student Center Ballroom, 800 National Ave.

Johnston is an anthropologist of Navajo (Diné) and Cheyenne (Tsétsêhéstâhese) lineage. Her presentation is titled, “Regeneration: Transforming Pain and Trauma into Power and Hope.” It is free and open to the public.

“Lyla June Johnston’s message is poignant for our students of all disciplines,” said Tracy Rae Clark, a Highlands sociology graduate student and teaching assistant. “She has a gift of encouraging and inspiring young people to find strength in their life stories, and to use that as fuel to transform our communities into places of power and purpose.”

Johnston was raised in Taos, New Mexico and is the co-founder of The Taos Peace and Reconciliation Council, which works to heal intergenerational trauma and ethnic division in Northern New Mexico.

Her most recent book, titled Lifting Hearts Off the Ground: Declaring Indigenous Rights in Poetry, is a poetic rendition of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Johnston is the founder of the Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration of children that has occurred in 13 countries around the world. She is also the lead organizer of the Black Hill Unity Concert. Johnston is a fellow with the Original Caretakers Initiative at the Center for Earth Ethics.

The Highlands First-Year Experience Learning Communities and the university’s Facundo Valdez School of Social Work are the primary sponsors for Johnston’s performance at Highlands.

Learning communities are linked courses that allow students to explore a theme from multiple perspectives while also forming meaningful relationships with their peers, fostering a sense of belonging that promotes student success.

“During the semester, each learning community participates in at least one field experience that connects to the curriculum,” said Casey Applegate-Aguilar, director, Academic Enrichment and Retention. “Bringing Lyla June Johnston to perform at Highlands is the selected field experience for the fall 2017 Social Workers Learning Community.”

Clark is co-teaching the Social Workers Learning Community along with Eric Romero, a languages and culture professor who chairs the Highlands Diversity Council and the Native American Hispano Cultural Studies Program.

The learning community connects Clark’s Introduction to Social Work class with Romero’s Introduction to Native American Hispano Cultural Studies class.

Every fall semester, all-first time freshman at Highlands participate in learning communities that also include an integrated seminar focused on the transition to college.

Other Highlands sponsors for Johnston’s performance include The People’s Center for Indigenous Knowledge, Native American Hispano Cultural Studies Program, Native American Center, and Native American Club.