Joy Harjo is known for her use of American Indian mythology in her work and for her heritage as a member of the Muskogee Creek Nation. She has earned many honors and awards, including the American Indian Distinguished Achievement Award (1990), the William Carlos Williams Award (1991), the Josephine Miles Award (1991), the American Book Award for In Mad Love and War (1991), Oklahoma Book Awards for The Woman Who Fell from the Sky and How We Became Human (1995 and 2003, respectively), the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (1997), the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award (1997), the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center (2003), and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. She was named Writer of the Year in Poetry by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers (2003-2004) for How We Became Human. She has received National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1978, 1992), a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Green Mountain College (1993), a Witter Brynner Poetry Fellowship (1994), and a United States Artists Rasumson Fellowship (2008). Benedectine College conferred an honorary doctorate on her in 1992.
Besides being a talented poet, Harjo plays the saxophone and performs her poetry along with her band. In 1997, her album Letters from the End of the Century won the Musical Artists of the Year award from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.