Montana Poet Laureate 2009 – 2011

Henry Real Bird

photo of Henry Real Bird

Henry “Hank” Real Bird is a rancher and educator who raises bucking horses on Yellow Leggins Creek in the Wolf Teeth mountains of Montana. He was born and raised on the Crow Indian reservation in the tradition of the Crow by his grandparents, and has punched cows and worked in rodeos. Henry began writing poetry in 1969 after an extended stay in the hospital. He still speaks Crow as his primary language and feels this has helped in writing his poetry.

He holds a master’s degree in general education from MSU Billings and has taught school from kindergarten to college levels. He currently teaches K, 4th and 6th grades at Northern Cheyenne Tribal School and is also the director for Crow Tribe Head Start and the Seven Hills Healing Center, and was Interim President, Little Big Horn College, 2001-02.

Henry began working with the YMCA Writer’s Voice in 1992 as a visiting poet and has since shared his work and the Crow language with thousands of students and teachers across Montana. As an instructor he infuses a love of language and an appreciation of landscape into the minds of his audience and students.

In 1996 Real Bird won the Western Heritage Award for the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. In 2002, he and Stephanie Davis performed her song, “Why the Cowboy Sings” at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Arts Festival. He also performs annually at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Hank has had six anthologies, five poetry collections and twelve children’s books published, along with many other articles, tapes and CDs.

According to Hal Canon, founding director of the Western Folklife Center, Real Bird’s work is in the “greatest tradition of the beat poets. His work is an interesting melding of cowboy, horsemanship and Crow culture. There is no difference between his poetry and everyday life.”

front cover of Horse Tracks

Poetry Collections:

  • Horse Tracks
  • Where Shadows Are Born
  • Beyond Reflection
  • Reflections and Shadow
  • Best of Hank Real Bird


  • Cowboy Poetry, 1989, Gibbs Smith
  • Buckaroo, Visions & Voices of the American Cowboy, 1993, Simon Schuster
  • Maverick Western Verse, 1994, Gibbs Smith
  • Cowboy Love Poetry, 1994, Angel City Press
  • Between Earth & Sky: Poets of the Cowboy West, 1994, WW Norton & Co
  • Ten Years Gathering: Montana Poems & Stories, 1995, Ranch Country Publishing

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