AUGUST 16, 1929


Born in Watertown, N.Y., his father was of Mohawk descent; his mother, part Seneca.  Developing an interest in Iroquois culture at an early age, Kenny is best known for two works.  His 1982 collection, Blackrobe: Isaac Jogues, centers on a Jesuit missionary and his 1646 death at the hands of the Mohawk.  Tekonwatonti: Molly Brant, in 1992, focuses on relations between Mohawks and English settlers.  In 1984, The Mama Poems earned an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.  In it, his mother and other relatives, living and dead, share a mystical relationship with nature.  Wild berries are key in many of his poems.  In The Steelworker, he touched on the contributions of Mohawk construction workers to the Manhattan skyline.  Kenny taught at Paul Smith’s College, the University of Victoria, the University of Oklahoma, and at North Country Community College, where he was poet in residence.  Kenny died on April 16, 2016, in Saranac Lake, N.Y. 

Source:  John Motyka, “Maurice Kenny, Who Explored His Mohawk Heritage in Poetry, Dies at 86,” New York Times, 4/26/2016.  Retrieved 7/10/2019,
Photo:  Photo of Maurice Kenny with Daniela Gioseffi used by permission Daniela Gioseffi from

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