The Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) Spoken Word Program was founded by Timothy P. McLaughlin in 2003 as a creative outlet for students interested in writing and performance. The Spoken Word Program empowers students to create original poetry – often centered in indigenous philosophies – and then perform that poetry for diverse audiences locally and internationally. In essence, the performance poetry of the young SFIS poets is a continuation of the ancient tradition of storytelling through a fresh, modern format.
Responses to the group’s work have been tremendous. They have performed throughout the US, and the Department of State twice organized an exchange for the group to present poetry in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The team has been featured in the New York Times, on the PBS News Hour, and in the HBO series about teen poetry. In 2008, McLaughlin and the SFIS Spoken Word Team were named one of the "Ten Who Made a Difference" by the Santa Fe New Mexican. And the team was selected by the city of Santa Fe to receive a 2011 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.
In 2010, the team released their first CD, Moccasins and Microphones: Modern Native Storytelling through Performance Poetry. The album documents the finest work of the program’s eight year history and addresses socio-political issues significant to Native peoples through an artistic lens, sharing the personal stories behind weighty topics. The poetry on the disc explores both the dark (historical injustices, environmental abuse, blood quantum) and the light (language preservation, reclamation of Native identity, profound traditional practices) to create an inclusive, artistic tapestry that is powerfully real.