Joseph Bruchac (born October 16, 1942) is a writer of books relating to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, with a particular focus on northeastern Native American and Anglo-American lives and folklore. He has published poetry, novels, and short stories. Bruchac is from Saratoga Springs, New York, and is of Abenaki, English, and Slovak ethnicity. Among his works are the novel Dawn Land (1993) and its sequel, Long River (1995), which feature a young Abenaki man before European contact.
Bruchac is best known for his work as a Native writer and storyteller, with more than 120 books and numerous awards to his credit. He began publishing in 1971 and has collaborated on eight books with his son Jim. In 1999, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.
Coauthor with Michael J. Caduto of the Keepers of the Earth series, Bruchac's poems, articles and stories have appeared in over 500 publications, from Akwesasne Notes and The American Poetry Review to National Geographic Magazine and Parabola. He has edited a number of anthologies of contemporary poetry and fiction, including Songs from this Earth on Turtle's Back, Breaking Silence (winner of an American Book Award) and Returning the Gift.
As one of the founders of the Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, he has helped numerous Native authors get their work published.
Bruchac lives in Porter Corners, a hamlet in the town of Greenfield, New York. Mr. Bruchac is also a performing storyteller and musician. He plays several Native instruments, including the hand drum, wooden flute, and the double wooden flute, which produces two notes at the same time. He performs with his sister, Marge Bruchac, and his sons, Jim and Jesse, as part of The Dawnland Singers.
He holds a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.A. in Literature and Creative Writing from Syracuse and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Union Institute of Ohio. His work as an educator includes eight years of directing a college program for Skidmore College inside a maximum security prison. With his late wife, Carol, he founded the Greenfield Review Literary Center and The Greenfield Review Press.
On January 22, 1970, Bruchac met Alex Haley and recommended that he read Harold Courlander's 1967 novel The African to get a better understanding of the "African experience." Bruchac even drove home three miles to fetch his own copy of the novel and give it to Haley, who promised to read it "on the plane." Haley later incorporated some passages from The African into his bestselling novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. After Haley settled a plagiarism lawsuit, Bruchac came forward with this information, explaining that he was "shocked to see someone having used someone else's work ... without giving proper credit."
Bruchac was a varsity heavyweight wrestler at Cornell University. For more than three decades, he has also been a devoted student of the martial arts. He holds the ranks of pengawal and pendekar in Pencak Silat, the martial art of Indonesia, and has studied various forms of T'ai chi, capoeira, kung fu wushu, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with numerous teachers. His two sons are also martial arts teachers.
His novel March Toward the Thunder features Native men who enlisted in the American Civil War; it is based on the experiences of his great-grandfather, Louis Bowman. Joseph Bruchac has also written Code talker: A Book About the Navajo Marines. Code talkers were used in World War II.
- The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story, pictures by Anna Vojtech, Dial Books, 1993 ISBN 0-8037-1331-2
- A Boy called Slow, illus. Rocco Baviera, Philomel Books, 1994
- The Earth Under Sky Bear's Foot, illus. Thomas Locker, Philomel Books, 1995 ISBN 0-399-22713-X
- The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale, Bruchac and Gayle Ross, paintings by Virginia A. Stroud, Dial Books, 1995
- Between Earth & Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places, illus. Thomas Locker, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1996
- Lasting Echoes: An Oral History of Native American People, San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997
- Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving, illus. Greg Shed, San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Company, 2000, ISBN 978-0-15-201817-7
- Crazy Horse's Vision, illus. S.D. Nelson, Lee & Loe Books, Inc, 2000 ISBN 1-880000-94-6
- Code Talker: A Book About the Navajo Marines, Dial Books, 2005 ISBN 0-8037-2921-9 — about the journey of Ned Begay, a Navajo man, during World War II
- Buffalo Song illus. Bill Farnsworth, Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2008 ISBN 978-1-58430-280-3
- Night Wings, HarperCollins Publishers, 2009, ISBN 978-0-06-112318-4
- Dragon Castle, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011, ISBN 978-0-8037-3376-3
- Wolf Mark, Lee & Low Books Inc., 2011, ISBN 978-1-60060-661-8
Awards and honors
In 1996, Joseph Bruchac was awarded the Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature by the New York Library Association. This recognizes "a New York State author who has demonstrated, through a body of work, a consistently superior quality which supports the curriculum and the educational goals of New York State School".
Other honors include a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for Poetry, the Cherokee Nation Prose Award, the Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children's Literature and both the 1998 Writer of the Year Award and the 1998 Storyteller of the Year Award from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. He received the annual NWCA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.