Laura Da'


Laura Da’, a member of the Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma Tribe, is a poet and public school teacher based in Newcastle, Washington. She is a lifelong native of the Pacific Northwest, and was raised in the Snoqualmie Valley in Western Washington. Da’ honed her craft as a poet at the Institute of American Indian Arts, the University of Washington, and Seattle University. In her writing, Da’ often explores the relationship between humans and the natural landscape we occupy and uses it as a device for addressing the traumatic impact of colonialism on her tribal nation’s existence on their native lands. She cites a 2008 trip to the Shawnee Tribe’s ancestral homeland in the Ohio Valley as a major catalyst for her understanding of her identity as a poet and the fractured inheritance of her displaced Indigenous heritage. Da’ worked as a public school teacher while she developed her first chapbook, The Tecumseh Motel (2014), and her first full-length poetry collection, Tributaries, which won an American Book Award upon its publication in 2016. She later completed residencies at the Richard Hugo House and Jack Straw in Seattle, Washington and Tin House in Portland, Oregon. She was also awarded a National Artist Fellowship in 2015 from the Native Arts & Culture Foundation. Her most recent poetry collection, Instruments of the True Measure (2018), examines the terrible irony of the precise calculus of surveying land being used as the underpinning for the senseless territorial conquest endured by the Shawnee people. It was awarded the Washington State Book Award. 


I am a citizen of two nations: Shawnee and American. I have one son who is a citizen of three. Before he was born, I learned that, like all infants, he would need to experience a change of heart at birth in order to survive. When a baby successfully breathes in through the lungs, the heart changes from parallel flow to serial flow and the shunt between the right and left atriums closes. Our new bodies obliterate old frontiers.


North America is mistakenly called nascent. The Shawnee nation is mistakenly called moribund. America established a mathematical beginning point in 1785 in what was then called the Northwest Territory. Before that, it was known in many languages as the eastern range of the Shawnee, Miami, and Huron homelands. I do not have the Shawnee words to describe this place; the notation that is available to me is 40º38’32.61” N 80º31’9.76” W.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Intersectionality & Culture

Poems of Place

Poetic Form

Racial Injustice

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a person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else