A Vermont poet is trying to change the way people perceive Abenaki culture, and making some big accomplishments along the way.

Dr. Joseph Bruchac has been writing poetry for over four decades, and has published close to 200 books, all about Abenaki culture. Now all that work paid off, as he just received a prestigious award from the Academy of American Poets.

Bruchac has always loved poetry. He’s a master artist with the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and writes to help share and teach about his culture.

Bruchac was just honored with the Poet Laureate Fellowship Award from the Academy of American Poets. But, he didn’t start learning about his Abenaki heritage until slightly later in his life.

“I was raised in a family that did not talk about our native ancestry, as is the case with many people,” says Bruchac.

He says he found elders to teach him about his heritage and made sure his children knew their heritage too.

“Often it was dangerous to be an indigenous person, and when I stood up and started identifying myself that way, some people thought I was really risking something, because the treatment of native people has not been good in the northeast,” he says.

Having published 180 books, with more in the works, Bruchac has left an impact on his readers from all over the world. One of his most recognizable titles is “Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children.”

Bruchac explains why poetry, and teaching through his work, is so important to him.

“I think it’s truer than often history is, and I think that poetry is really the language of the heart and the spirit, it’s something that cuts across racial and national boundaries,” says Bruchac.

By being recognized by the Academy of American Poets, Bruchac is going to help connect Saratoga Springs students to the native culture found in Upstate New York.

“Through literature, you often can understand your life more thoroughly than otherwise,” notes Bruchac.

Also a musician and a respected elder himself, Bruchac says, as a poet laureate, he’ll be able to bring poetry and indigenous history together to help teach a broader audience, especially young people.