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Henry Real Bird

Former state poet laureate Henry Real Bird received the Cowboy

Poet of the Year Award on Thursday in Texas.

Henry Real Bird, former Montana poet laureate, has been named Cowboy Poet of the Year as part of the 16th annual Academy of Western Artists’ Will Roger Awards.

Real Bird, 63, received the award Thursday night at the Casa Manana Theater in Fort Worth, Texas.

“It was a big deal for me, to be from the river’s tip up in the mountains and then to come here, the birthplace of the American cowboy, to receive an award such as this,” Real Bird said from Fort Worth by phone on Friday morning.

He was accompanied to the ceremony by his wife, Alma.

The Academy of Western Artists is a nonprofit group which works to bring more visibility to contemporary Western artists who are working to improve their art, and to introduce new artisans who stretch the boundaries of their art to new levels.

Real Bird’s latest book, “Horse Tracks,” won the best poetry award in October as part of the High Plains Book Awards.

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He is the first indigenous person to win the Cowboy Poet award from the Academy of Western Artists, his daughter, Lucy Whiteman Runs Him said. Real Bird is a member of the Crow Tribe. He served as Montana poet laureate from 2009-2011.

Real Bird’s next stop will be the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev., where he will perform Wednesday through Saturday.

Real Bird also raises bucking horses on Yellow Leggings Creek in the Wolf Teeth Mountains.

Also at the ceremony, the Don King Memorial Saddlemaker award was given posthumously to Bill Gardner, of Sheridan, Wyo., for his work as a saddlemaker. Gardner died in July.

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