Gordon Henry Jr. is an Anishinabe and an enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota. His father was in the U.S. Navy, and Henry grew up on military bases. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin, Parkside; an MA in English and creative writing from Michigan State University; and a PhD from the University of North Dakota. He is the author of the poetry chapbook Outside White Earth (1986) and the book-length collection The Failure of Certain Charms (2007).
Henry uses prose autobiography and free verse in The Failure of Certain Charms to create what Heid Erdrich identified on the Salt Publishing website as a “dreamscape charmed by powerful songs.” Henry's poems have been included in the anthologies Songs from This Earth on Turtle’s Back: Contemporary American Indian Poetry (1983) and Returning the Gift: Poetry and Prose from the First Native American Writers (1994).
The Light People (1994), a novel, won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Gordon has also co-authored the textbook The Ojibway (2004).
Henry held a Fulbright Lectureship in Spain in 1994. He is a professor of English at Michigan State University and editor of the American Indian Studies Series at Michigan State University Press.