Art by Raphael Lopez


A poem reminds us to think about our roots in the world

By Joy Harjo
From the March/April 2020 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will read a challenging poem and discuss its meaning and what the poet might want readers to think about.


Interpreting Text

This poem urges you to appreciate your connection to everything around you. Look for this as you read.


Remember the sky that you were born under,

know each of the star’s stories.

Remember the moon, know who she is.

Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the

strongest point of time. Remember sundown

and the giving away to night.

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled

to give you form and breath. You are evidence of

her life, and her mother’s, and hers.

Remember your father. He is your life, also.

Remember the earth whose skin you are:

red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth

brown earth, we are earth.

Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their

tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,

listen to them. They are alive poems.

Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the

origin of this universe.

Remember you are all people and all people

are you.

Remember you are this universe and this

universe is you.

Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.

Remember language comes from this.

Remember the dance language is, that life is.


This poem was originally published in the March/April 2020 issue.

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Activities (1)
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
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Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
Can't-Miss Teaching Extras

In her poem, Harjo reminds us to appreciate and take care of our planet. Talk to your students about climate change by showing them this video from the EPA. Then, teach them how they can help protect our home by sharing these 10 Tips for Helping to Fight Against Global Warming.

Learn more about the natural world and those who inhabit it in this introduction to ecosystems from NASA Climate Kids.

More About the Story


Interpreting text, vocabulary, fluency, author’s purpose, connecting texts

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning

The poem encourages readers to recognize our connections to other people and things.


The poem is free verse. It has 12stanzas and no rhyme scheme. 


The language is mainly simple but includes metaphors and personification.

Knowledge Demands 

Some understanding of the way Native American cultures respect and honor nature will help students appreciate this poem.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

About the Poet

Poet and musician Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951 and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. In 2019, she became the U.S. Poet Laureate, a position appointed by the Librarian of Congress to promote the reading and writing of poetry. As the first Native American in this role, she aims to bring attention to the poetry of indigenous people.

1. Preparing to Read (10 minutes)

  • Ask students to look at the title of the poem. In pairs, have them discuss the reasons we try to remember things. What do they think is important to remember?
  • Come back together as a class and have students share their thoughts. Discuss: How is remembering a way of showing appreciation for something or someone?
  • Invite a student to read aloud the Up Close box.

2. Reading the Poem (5 minutes)

Play our audio version or a video of Joy Harjo reading the poem, available at

3. Discussing the Poem (10 minutes)

Discuss the following questions:

  • Look at what the poem says to remember. What do the things mentioned have in common? Why do you think the poet chose these to mention? (author’s purpose) The poem mentions the sun, the moon, earth, plants, trees, animals, the wind, and so on. All of these are part of nature. The poet probably chose them to encourage readers to appreciate the natural world and see themselves as part of it.
  • Look at the line “Remember you are all people and all people are you.” What do you think this means? (interpreting text) Answers will vary. Students might suggest that the poet wants us to see what we have in common with each other.

4. Skill Building (30 minutes)

Connect this poem with our fiction story, “There Were Giants.” See the fiction lesson on page T5 and the Poetry Kit for ideas.