Storytelling, Storykeeping: The Importance of Culture-Based Writing
September 16 and 17, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
VBR 101B, SDSU Student Union, Brookings, SD
For More Information: Charles Woodard, SDSU English Dept.
(605) 688-4056 or (605) 692-5512

                                                            20TH ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE


VBR 101B, SDSU Student Union  

 Monday, September 16:

9:00     Introductory Remarks, Lowell Amiotte, SDSU Professor Emeritus and Co-Founder,

              Oak Lake Tribal Writers’ Retreat

9:10    “Why Write? A Tribal Perspective, ” Elizabeth Cook-Lynn   

10:00  Panel Response, Kim Blaeser, Joseph Marshall III, Laura Tohe, Roberta Hill

1:00     Welcome, SDSU President David Chicoine

1:10     “Storytelling, Story-keeping: Storytellers Making a Story Together,”   

               Joseph Marshall III, Kim Blaeser, LeAnne Howe   

2:00    “Seeing Red: Hollywood Depictions of American Indians,” 

               LeAnne Howe, Gordon Henry, Laura Tohe

7:30     Reception and Book-signing


Tuesday, September 17:

9:00    “Bridging Disciplines: The Humanities and the Social Sciences in American Indian

                 Studies,” Gordon Henry, Richard Meyers, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn

10:00   “Why Poetry? Some Tribal Perspectives,” 

                 Laura Tohe, Roberta Hill, Kim Blaeser, Gordon Henry

1:00       Welcome, Dean Dennis Papini, College of Arts and Sciences

1:05      “We Tell You Now,” Elizabeth Cook-Lynn and the Oak Lake Tribal Writers’  Society


2:00     “Healing the World: American Indian Truths,” Joseph Marshall III and Roberta Hill


About the presenters:

KIM BLAESER is a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  She is the author of Apprenticed to Justice (poems), Absentee Indians and Other Poems, Trailing You (poems),  and Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition, and the editor of Stories Migrating Home: A Collection of Anishinaabe Prose and Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Ojibwe Poetry.


ELIZABETH COOK-LYNN is a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and Professor Emerita of English and Native American Studies at Eastern Washington University.  Her books include New Indians, Old Wars, Anti-Indianism in Modern American: A Voice from Tatekeya’s Earth, Aurelia: A Crow Creek Trilogy (fiction), Why I Can’t read Wallace Stegner and Other Essays, The Power of Horses and Other Stories, and I Remember the Fallen Trees: New and Selected Poems.


GORDON HENRY is a member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota and Professor and Director of Creative Writing at Michigan State University.  He is the author of The Light People (a novel) and co-author of The Ojibway (a textbook), and he is also a widely-published poet.


ROBERTA HILL is a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and Professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her writings include three books of poetry, Star Quilt, Philadelphia Flowers and just-published Cicadas, New and Selected Poems.


LEANNE HOWE is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Professor of American Indian Studies and English and affiliated faculty in Theatre at the University of Illinois.  Her works include Shell Shaker (a novel), Evidence of Red (poetry and prose), Miko King: An Indian Baseball Story (a novel), and Choctalking On Other Realities (short stories), due out in October, 2013.


JOSEPH MARSHALL III is a member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe.  His books include The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage, The Long Knives Are Crying (a novel), The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn: A Lakota History, Walking With Grandfather: The Wisdom of Lakota Elders, The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History, The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living, and The Dance House: Stories from Rosebud.


RICHARD MEYERS is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and is Tribal Relations Director and Coordinator of the American Indian Studies Program at South Dakota State University.


LAURA TOHE is Dine’ and Professor of English at Arizona State University.  Her works include Code Talker Stories, No Parole Today (poetry and short stories), Making Friends With Water (poems) and Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio.


 Co-Sponsored by:  the SDSU English Department, the SDSU American Indian Studies Program, the SDSU Office of Diversity, the Brookings Reconciliation Council, USDA/NIFA Award # 2010-46100-21784 and South Dakota State University        


The US-Dakota War of 1862: Ethnic Strife or the Political Economy of War?

Ta-Oyate-Duta (His Red Nation) or Little Crow as he is more widely known, reluctant leader of the 1862 Dakota-US War

As Dakota people, 1862 may be our most important origin story today. Throughout Dakota country, we refer daily to 1862 whether at family gatherings, at community events, anywhere we gather and talk. It is always there even when we are silent.

Certainly, “traditional” creation stories that set out values for living, narrate our common history, cohere us as a people with a common moral framework, and tie us to a sacred landbase are important. But the tragic events and narrative of 1862 are for many of us arguably more crucial today. We Dakota people got to where we are in the early 21st century because of what has been known in mainstream historiography as “the Dakota Conflict of 1862.” A full-blown war from the perspective of Dakota historians and community members, 1862 re-circumscribed present-day Dakota geography, political economy, family relations, governance, and identity. It was the moment when our ancestors’ dispossession from our ancestral lands—from the life-giving rivers in what is today southern Minnesota—was crystallized. Pushing back violently against the greed of traders and violation of treaties, starvation, forced marches, prison camps, and a mass execution ensued for Dakota people. This marked a bloody re-mapping of Dakota life.

And when I say that 1862 figures prominently in how we understand what it is to be Dakota, I need to emphasize that we Dakota do not acquire our understanding of who we are in relation to 1862 by reading the necessarily narrow works of mainstream historians. The various Dakota communities throughout the upper Midwest and parts of Canada since 1862 have lived a history largely untreated in the scholarly literature. My understanding of this event came only later from published histories. My foundational knowledge came from narratives handed down from my late great-grandfather, Felix Heminger. His great-grandfather was Ta-oyate-duta, the reluctant 1862 leader. Today, my mother, my aunts and uncles, and many other extended family members on both the Flandreau and Lake Traverse Reservations in South Dakota and in Minnesota Dakota communities continue to keep the stories. More recently, Dakota historian Waziyatawin Angela Wilson and her relative Wahpetunwin Carolynn Schommer published what I would call a Dakota standpoint treatment of this history: Remember This! Dakota Decolonization and the Eli Taylor Narratives (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). When I tell my daughter and others about 1862, it is Dakota thinkers that I cite first, both published and traditional community historians. I keep in mind that non-Dakota historians’ accounts of this event are not unimportant. They are crucial, but they tell stories that leave much out and which take for granted the inevitability of the U.S., and of Minnesota. They conflate the land with those polities. We Dakota do not make such a conflation.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the war and the hanging of the 38 Dakota warriors (they are simply “the 38” to us) in Mankato, the day after Christmas 1862. The Minneapolis Star Tribune is doing a 6 part series (today is day 3) on the 1862 War. The Tribune’s very description of this series as being about “war” and not “conflict” reflects how our Dakota standpoints seem to be changing dominant terminology and concepts. But only so much. The series is also tagged as being about the “darkest chapter in Minnesota’s past.” For Dakota people fighting to defend their land and peoples, the new state of Minnesota could be seen as an invader in the same way that greedy traders and government bureaucrats who peddled soon-to-be violated treaties were seen as intruders. The State of Minnesota like the United States is not forever, was not inevitable, is not synonymous with the land. These are relatively new sets of institutions, laws, and cultural practices that “settled,” “invaded,” “colonized” (which is your term of preference?) a place in which the institutions, laws, and cultural practices of other peoples were already established.

I’ve only watched Part I of the Star Tribune series thus far, and I am not sure what I think yet. I see the first video as portraying the war too much as the result of ethnic strife that happened equally on both sides, a sort of narrative in which the liberal multi-culturalism we supposedly enjoy today had not yet emerged. I worry that such a telling leaves the door open for the politically and intellectually limp conclusion that our embrace of multi-culturalism can save the day. But I will watch the entire series with the hope that a serious accounting is taken of the violation of treaties, and the theft and plunder of an already settled, and not empty land.

At our annual Oak Lake Writers’ Society retreat week before last, fellow member Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate citizen, poet, and artist) called for 1862 to be analyzed from a perspective of the political economy of war. Dakota and European descendents, she reminded us, were already heavily entangled through marriage and family at the time of the War. It wasn’t about Indians and whites who were friendly to one another and those who were hostile, but people were already family. Family helps family. That would explain why there were many complicated relations between whites and Indians “on the ground” during those violent days. Gabrielle’s point is not that there was no racism as we term it today, but that a too-strong lens of ethnic or racial strife blocks our ability to see who was really gaining from the 1862 War. For example, what were the interests of the big capitalists in the Twin Cities? What did they gain? Gabrielle ties the politics of the 1862 War to the political economy of war more broadly. She makes 1862 highly relevant to our analyses today of the perpetual wars that the U.S. wages all over the world as it attempts to grow (or stop the collapse of) its empire with corporations at the heart of that.

I am praying for a Dakota graduate student to come along and write that dissertation.

—–Kim TallBear


(Postscript: On August 18, the day Ta-oyate-duta declared war, Oak Lake Writers’ Society members will submit pieces of writing to this Web site for an on-line treatment of that event or contemporary manifestations of that history. Keep an eye out for forthcoming posts.)

“Survival Horror and Other Colonial Fantasies: American Indians, Video Games, and Popular Genres”: A Conversation with Jodi Byrd

Craig Howe and Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan

On the third day of the Oak Lake 2012 retreat, University of Illinois Associate Professor of American Indian Studies, Jodi Byrd (Chickasaw) led a fascinating session by this name. We got down to analytical business pretty quickly and discussed how the zombie/demon/monster narrative, along with Christianity, is a founding myth of the United States. Our tribal writers, most of whom work with more traditional genres (and I don’t necessarily mean “traditional” in the tribal sense here), nonetheless were very lively participants in Jodi’s session.

She explained the links between such narratives, both in film and in (video) gaming and how Indians get designated as monsters. Alternately Indians get erased and the landscape gets represented as empty in many such works. These are ways in which they resonate with more traditional forms, including captivity narratives and westerns, for example. She noted that a surprising number of video games have Indian motifs of both violence and erasure. She cited a game called Prey that features the “agnosia” she spoke of yesterday—a term she borrows from neurological science, a form of blindness in which one’s eyes can see but one cannot comprehend what one sees. In this game a Cherokee named Domasi “Tommy” Tawodi traverses a treacherous landscape to defend the land from invaders from space, aliens. As Jodi points out, “the use of ‘prey’ is a double entendre of savage Indians on the one hand, and the fact that the invading aliens have upended the food chain and surpassed humans at the top.” Jodi argues that it is incomprehensible that the character Tommy could be defending the land from invaders from Europe, from colonialists. I asked what demographic creates games. Jodi responded that the majority of game developers are white and Asian males. Again, agnosia: Colonial violence and history—even what one sees before one’s eyes—cannot be comprehended. Overall, I think our writers found this a useful analytical intervention. Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan noted a slightly different—perhaps related problem. In mainstream classrooms Indian students “analyze in silence” the dominant narratives we’re fed, for example, of Indians as consorting with faeries (i.e. in Peter Pan) and therefore as not real, or Indians as absent from a landscape in which historically there was tremendous encounter and violence (e.g. Little House on the Prairie).

A lively discussion ensued around Jodi’s intellectual challenge in this area: If popular  genre—science fiction, fantasy, and horror—are part of how settler colonialism processes its history and its role in this place, what then are the implications for us as Native writers taking up this genre? And what are the implications for how we take this up? Jodi asks, “Are we stuck with realism [and I presume she meant, the decolonial work we do here in the material realm], or can we also decolonize imagination?” We’re really skilled in American Indian Studies (AIS), she notes, at talking about the western and its role in the colonial narrative, but now we have all of these newer forms that now have more popular influence than that form. And Native writers are taking them up. She argues that all vampire and zombie stories are essentially captivity stories—that essentially the captive gets infected or contaminated and transformed. She also notes that the zombie narrative when it emerged with George Romero in the late 1960s was—lit critics have argued—a critique of whiteness. The zombies, pale and (un)dead, represented the advancing infection of whiteness. But she argues that the zombie narrative has flipped to where whiteness takes control of it in the 21st century. The zombie becomes invader, terrorist, the infectious agent that must be controlled, contained, and wiped out. The zombie’s subjectivity has flipped since its first emergence in the popular U.S. American imagination from a critique of whiteness to now being subjected to the nationalist authority of whiteness.  I am no longer slightly embarrassed that I love zombie films. There is apparently so much in them for an intellectual to love.

Our regular co-mentor Elizabeth Cook-Lynn seemed less convinced, or perhaps she was just playing devil’s advocate when she asked “Why is it that Native writers are taking all of this up? And what are the implications?” Jodi added, that we should think about whether taking up these new forms is “a mark of assimilation, or does it help decolonize the imagination?” My fellow Oak Lakers are much more erudite fiction readers than I am. I read mostly academic writing and hardly ever fiction. Yet it seems to me that taking up science fiction, fantasy, and horror, given their pervasive influence in popular culture, is not fundamentally different from how our forebears first took up the novel, the short story, and the poem, or from how my fellow indigenous academics and I take up academic forms of writing. Jodi cited a Canadian Anishinaabeg writer, Drew Hayden Taylor, who entangles in a young adult gothic novel form the vampire story with a story of European/indigenous contact and the Anishinaabeg Windigo story.  She argues that to take up this genre is to take control of it in a way that centers indigenous experience and knowledges.

Finally, I need to acknowledge the excellent catering and hospitality extended to us by the good people at Irene’s  by Julie Cafe on Main Street in Hendricks, Minnesota. They cater our meals during the Oak Lake retreat week and allow us to use their cafe in the afternoons after closing when the heat gets to be too much out at the lodge. Their food is delicious!

the view from downtown Hendricks, Minnesota


Our caterers in Hendricks, Minnesota

Bolstering public intellectualism as tribal writers

It is not news to most in academia that a wave of anti-intellectualism has pervaded the American public discourse for well over the last decade.

This is as troublesome to tribal scholars, academics and writers as it is to many others elsewhere in the American intellectual landscape, however, as we discussed during this year’s Oak Lake Writers’ Retreat, perhaps we take it a bit more seriously.

Since a good deal of the Oak Lake Writers’ Society’s mission is “to reaffirm our peoples’ political statuses,” we cannot allow ourselves as tribal citizens to be swept away in this tide of American anti-intellectualism that obscures and masks the facts, issues and problems of our time and that of a history that, as Elden Lawrence shared with us this year, we may not be responsible for, but are most assuredly, responsible to.

Several retreat participants had recently heard of an American scholar’s call for the reinstitution of the ‘public intellectual,’ as an antidote to this destructive force. [If any of our Oak Laker’s remember the person’s name and the media outlet that was referenced, please share in the comments.]

The public intellectual seems to have a shifting definition according to what has been written about it in the last couple of years, but overall it indicates a person of some higher (undergrad) or advanced (ph.d) education, a person of research, a person who applies themselves to the issues of their communities, and often writes materials that are accessible to the general public in which they see themselves a part of.

Since I can let you google this idea to your heart’s content, let me describe how this might shape up for a young member of the Oak Lake Writers’ Society, by sharing how I was deeply challenged and inspired by this idea.

As I write this early on Thursday morning of the retreat, I am actually soon heading my vehicle westward to home. Balancing the needs of my young family as I start a new position on Monday as editor of a weekly newspaper in the midst of Indian Country, I will be heading home with plenty of driving time to further consider this idea of the tribal public intellectual.

While the Oak Lake Writers’ Society is gifted with amazing academics from various disciplines, many of us are simply writers, journalists, poets and storytellers telling, caring and shaping narratives based in critical thinking and tribal knowledges.

I think for me, I always sought the way of learning and ‘well-roundedness’ in college. Add to that my desire for motherhood and other civic duty, and I think that we can begin to see a person aspiring to the most simple level of the public intellectual.

Even though citizenship by definition is an introduced colonial idea, it is still a form workeable and understandable to the average tribal member. Coming from the Oceti Sakowin Oyate, where relationships and defense of the people was well understood, we seek to continue that heritage.

For the Oceti Sakowin Oyate, commonly called the Sioux Nation, we must have those public intellectuals that can drive, stimulate and address the conversations needed for a robust, educated, thoughtful and active tribal citizenry.

While most of us express our citizenship as members of federally-recognized tribes scattered onto reservations across our original lands and lands that still should be ours according to treaty, those of us willing to begin these conversations in our communities, whether rez or off-rez, should begin aspiring to this idea of tribal public intellectual.

I am blessed with mentors who are academics, some who work elsewhere in the country, doing important research and work that better informs the lives of those of us back home. We need these people to continue to focus on their disciplines, and we need to show them a place to come home to, as well, when they weary of the American agnosia regarding tribal peoples–whether they return to us from California or the cities in our treaty lands filled with people who think they won the ‘Indian Wars.’

Then we can send them back out, the intellectual warriors that they are.

Some of our academics do return home, but in an effort to continue their work, must keep their nose to the grindstone of research and theory.

How then, given these very real realities of tribal academicians do we educate the average tribal citizen in those things most necessarily for self-governance, protection of our natural resources, etc., things certainly not taught in our high schools?

I truly believe that the answer can be found in the application of tribal writers and journalists to a life of the public intellectual. We need people who can digest the work of our academics in useful and applicable ways that encourage and inform our civilian lives and citizenship responsibilities.

So much understanding in tribal communities is an intuitiveness based in oral traditions and our relationship to place, while definining us as tribal people, must be built on if we are to engage those civic fields of battle that will protect the land, feed our children, preserve our cultures, re-engage our languages, care for our elders and our sick and defend our ceremonies and spiritual knowledge.

We are not unaccomplished peoples. If anything, many of us tribal members suffer as much from the lie of American exceptionalism as do many other Americans. Our best and brightest are encouraged to go away to college and then when they try to come home, they are not supported with jobs, vocations or even at times, simple acceptance.

Those families pushing their children to ‘succeed,’ are often as caught up in the idea of education as the ‘ticket’ to ‘making it’ financially. We might encourage them to serve the people in some way, but rarely is that way validated and shaped for all those who do not go away to college–children growing up, having children of their own, struggling with substandard living and wages and other issues.

If we do not support our young, educated tribal members, I am convinced we also do not support our young tribal members who do not leave their communities.

So, as an average person who has a knack for ideas and explaining ideas, mostly through writing, I am compelled by this idea of the public intectual. As a tribal member, mother, writer, journalist, newspaper editor, homemaker, etc., and overall generalist, I am very much interested in seeing more and more of our tribal academics’ works getting to tribal people via newspapers and other media, as well as critiques and reviews and other items that further challenge, shape and condition the tribal public discourse.

While much of media is talking heads and sheer ignorant stupidities on the part of the American public, my sincerest hope is that within even the next 10 years the same will not be said about communities of the Oceti Sakowin Oyate. That we can immediately begin bringing a greater depth to tribal newspapers and all newspapers in our treaty lands.

Recent protests and actions against large corporate expansions on our reservations have been met with brave protests by people, but more must be done. Bravery can take us only so far, but armed with the research, knowledge and statistics of our own tribal academics, we can begin to truly make some headway.

I am not a public intellectual, but I aspire to be.

In some ways, it is a great relief. I no longer have to feel guilty for not getting further in my education, for ‘failing’ to leave our treaty lands for success elsewhere, applying myself to academia, foregoing journalism for tenure, or worrying myself on how to juggle success and motherhood and family life.

I know that I am not alone in this…our ambitiousness as tribal people can be as much of a downfall in accomplishing meaningful community and family building work as too little ambition.

I am heading home today, to my sons’ reservation, a couple hundred miles north of where I am enrolled. It’s all treaty lands, it is all part of the Oceti Sakowin Oyate, and while there’s a great deal of work to be done and questions to be asked, I am inspired and content to begin that work.

I truly hope more will join me. Mitakuye Oyasin.

2012 Retreat Sessions on Indigenous Methodologies & Writers’ Block

LtoR: members Deanna Stands, Karen Pratt, and Tasi Livermont; mentor Jodi Byrd

The Oak Lake Writers’ Society (OLWS) is holding our annual retreat again this late July and early August out at South Dakota State University’s Oak Lake Field Station near White, South Dakota. We come together for five days of conversation, writing time, and a Thursday evening reading that draws folks from Brookings, home of South Dakota State University, who are interested in Native American literature and the humanities.

Our writers’ group is a mix of academics from state universities and tribal colleges, high school teachers, teachers working with youth in the criminal “justice” system, retirees, students, and activists—all members of Oceti Sakowin peoples, in English, the “Sioux Nation.” Our conversations range far and wide. We encourage and challenge one another. Some of us have more expertise dealing with the hierarchies and challenges of higher education, some of us more expertise dealing with the rigors of tribal politics, some of us more expertise in areas of traditional cultural production. But we are all “tribal voices” (to emphasize Cook-Lynn’s notion that it is necessary for such voices  to engage key narratives and issues) within our broader cultural group. This is perhaps the chief thing I appreciate about this group in which I think it is safe to say we each feel challenged and nurtured: our diversity, our different life and professional choices, and our general tolerance for one another alongside our commitment to promoting Oceti Sakowin standpoints on history; contemporary tribal life; social justice and environmental issues; local, regional, and world events.

Today we had two great conversations. Our mentor this year, University of Illinois American Indian Studies (AIS) Associate Professor Jodi Byrd (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma) (co-mentor with Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, our always mentor), sparked lively discussions about indigenous epistemologies in critical writing, and strategies for dealing with writers’ block.

On the indigenous epistemologies front, we discussed and debated the idea of the Great American Indian novel (or great tribal-specific novel), a conversation that was a bit over this social scientist-turned-creative-prose-writer’s head so I will not do it justice. Does such a genre exist? Is it an important literary form to be articulated? Should it be articulated and theorized at that pan-Native level or at people specific levels? (Comments are welcome from other writers who partook in that conversation who might clarify this summary.) Jodi noted that the (great) American novel was symbiotic (my word, not hers) with the rise of U.S. nationalism, a form of literary nationalism. This comment caused our group to think hard then on the merits of the great American Indian novel or tribal specific forms in the cause of tribal nationalisms. To quote our mission statement, our group exists for the very purpose of preserving and defending Oceti Sakowin cultures, oral traditions, and histories and to reaffirm our peoples’ political statuses. We seek to regulate and transform representations of our peoples and histories that are inaccurate and damaging. Thus we produce and promote works across genres in a manner that will bring about a greater understanding of our cultures, legacies, and lands.

Joel Waters and Tasi Livermont. We love this pic!

I’m not sure we came to any conclusions. As someone who does social studies of science and who thinks about the intersections of scientific knowledge production, colonialism, and Native American governance, I was reminded in this conversation of the symbiotic rise of scientific narratives and methods with federal policy and nationalist politics in the 19thcentury. These things are all connected. My fellow writers, almost all of whom have more knowledge about fiction than I do, reminded me in their animated conversation of my biological scientist friends with their will to categorize literary forms into genres, then in other moments they wrestled with the inevitable smearing of genres and fields that we encounter today.

The writers’ block conversation in the afternoon also revealed a key insight. As Native writers, we decided our blocks are less internal than external. We felt we have no end of topics to take up from our tribal standpoints (this conversation also came on the heels of a discussion about Said’s term “contrapuntal” thinking—that one must read against the larger imperial context that informs the emergence of text). Rather, for us, the challenge is often to narrow our work sufficiently for the piece at hand. And we struggle to find language and terms that are culturally/tribally grounded but yet also speak to non-native readers. A final key point of debate was how much do we care about speaking to non-tribal audiences and why or why not? What is the function of speaking to tribal audiences, and what is the function of speaking to non-tribal folks.

Whenever pertinent, I like to end blog posts with some local flavor. With no internet out at the Oak Lake Field Station (thank goodness so we get some work done!) I needed to drive into town to blog. I write from the Brownstone Restaurant and Lounge tonight at 313 Main Avenue in Brookings. Nice décor (lots of dark wood, pretty bar, good music streaming) and nice food: steaks, pastas, other lovely meals and an extensive beer and wine (some of it organic!) list. Free wifi to boot and friendly competent staff. It’s definitely recommended.

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn to speak at 44th Annual Dakota Conference to Discuss Wounded Knee

Oak Lake mentor, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn will speak on Friday, April 27 at 1:15. Her talk is entitled,”Dissent in Indian Country.” See the program for more details.
DATES: Friday, April 27, 2012 – Saturday, April 28, 2012
LOCATION: Center for Western Studies
TICKET INFO: Registration is $55.

EVENT DETAILS:The 44th-Annual Dakota Conference, “Wounded Knee 1973: Forty Years Later,” will be held at the Center for Western Studies on April 27-28. Approximately 80 presenters from as many as 15 states gather to present papers and participate in panels at this two-day national conference.

On display in conjunction with the Conference is the art exhibition “Interpretations of Wounded Knee 1973 and 1890,” a one-time show featuring the work of twenty-two artists.
A public reception will be held on Thursday, April 26, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

On December 29, 1890, Miniconjou Lakota chief Spotted Elk (Big Foot) and 300 of his followers were attacked on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek. Eighty-three years later, 200 Oglala Lakota seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee. In observance of the 40th anniversary of the occupation, the 2012 Dakota Conference will address questions related to Wounded Knee 1973, the 1890 massacre, as well as any and all aspects of Northern Plains American Indian history and culture.

For more information and a link to the program see the conference Web site.

Poet Mabel Picotte to read in Chamberlain SD Jan. 28

Oak Lake Writer, Mabel Picotte will be honored in Chamberlain for her writing and for winning the South Dakota Poetry Society Contest (see Jan 10 post below). If you’re in the area, please join Mabel and her community on Saturday, January 28th from 4:00pm to 5:30pm at The Meeting Place, 100 S. Main Street. Mabel will be the featured reader and will be followed by a (family oriented) open-mic.

This event is sponsored jointly by Acting for Justice and the Institute for Healing Racism. Acting for Justice is a theater group organized using the principles and techniques of Theater of the Oppressed. The Institute for Healing Racism is organized to heal the affects of racism and move beyond racism in the Chamberlain area. Members of both groups meet often for potluck meals and discussion on such topics as living organically and sustainably and forming a more understanding, creative, and peaceful community in Chamberlain.

Oak Lakers and others who are in the area, please come out and join Mabel and her local community for a night of poetry and great conversation.

Mabel Picotte, 1st prize winner in SD Poetry Society Contest

The South Dakota Poetry Society Contest winners are in (drum roll….) and our own Oak Lake Writer, Mabel Picotte, won first place for her poem, “Lips Like Strawberries.” Mabel’s voice is honest (I would never say brutally) and fearless in a way one might not expect upon first meeting her. The poem below reflects so much of what makes Mabel an accomplished writer and an accomplished human. It is gentle, but strong, generous in its imagery, and thoughtful. Join Mabel and other winners at the historic Goss Opera House in Watertown this Sunday Jan 15th, 12:00-4:00 p.m., for a reading of winning poems.

Mabel Picotte

The scent of Jasmine
hung heavily
the night I got drunk on Beringer
and blew out love
with the smoke a Marlboro makes
“There are at least two sides to everything”
you said
with lips like strawberries
“I would have never known what was in the front
if I didn’t try the back.”
The wooden steps
became solid, cold
as I pondered the thought
shifting restlessly
to find the softness
that once lifted me outside
my body
killing my glass
my fingers lifted to right
a curly strand
instead I found them
poised mid-air
longing to feel the smooth brown
skin of your cheek
out-stretched and shaking
I choked twice on
imaginings of Lot’s flight
that sparked behind my eyes
at the soft pat of my hand
dropping to my knee
your eyes met mine in pure joy
filling my glass while
calling me your “Kick a hole in the sky girl”
I imagined dancing with you
in the moonlight
but how could I compete
with that “other side”
so silently and uncontrollably
I watched
those strawberry colored lips part
those sweet windows into bliss
press against his
-the maleness I could never be
Inhaling deep
I blew out love on
both your manly faces

Oak Lake Writers’ Society Call For Submissions!

The Oak lake Writers’ Society (OLWS) is looking for creative Dakota, Lakota and Nakota writers to submit original work for our upcoming anthology. We are looking for works that are related in some way to the Pipestone quarry in present-day southwestern Minnesota.

Catlin's painting of Pipestone

All submissions must be original work in the form of short story, poetry, essay, memoir or narrative. Both fiction and non-fiction are acceptable but must focus on thoughts, feelings, stories, policy or history surrounding the Pipestone quarry.  Please type submissions in Microsoft Word. Our anticipated date of publication is sometime in 2013, press to be announced.

Deadline & Contact
Submissions should be sent to OLWSPipestone@gmail.com no later than midnight on Sunday April 1, 2012. Questions are welcome and can be sent to our gmail account above.


Oak Lake Writer Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan featured in Diane Wilson’s Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life

We are pleased to announce the publication of Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2011), edited by Diane Wilson, which features a chapter on Oak Lake Writer Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan’s activism and includes her poem “Star Spirit.” YouTube features a video of Gabrielle reading from the collection at a book launch event at the St. Paul Episcopal Church also hosted by Birchbark Books in Minneapolis.

The blurb from the book describes its scope: Far greater even than the loss of land, or the relentless coercion to surrender cultural traditions, the deaths of over six hundred children by the spring of 1864 were an unbearable tragedy. Nearly one hundred and fifty years after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, Dakota people are still struggling with the effects of this unimaginable loss.”Among the Dakota, the Beloved Child ceremony marked the special, tender affection that parents felt toward a child whose life had been threatened. In this moving book, author Diane Wilson explores the work of several modern Dakota people who are continuing to raise beloved children: Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan, an artist and poet; Clifford Canku, a spiritual leader and language teacher; Alameda Rocha, a boarding school survivor; Harley and Sue Eagle, Canadian activists; and Delores Brunelle, an Ojibwe counselor. each of these humble but powerful people teaches children to believe in the “genius and brilliance” of Dakota culture as a way of surviving historical trauma.Crucial to true healing, Wilson has learned, is a willingness to begin with yourself. Each of these people works to transform the effects of genocide, restoring a way of life that regards our beloved children as wakan, sacred.

The Minneapolis StarTribune Review of the volume notes Gabrielle’s contribution:

Another Dakota, Gaby Tateyuskanskan, embraces nonviolent protest as a vehicle to change the way Native Americans are treated. “It’s easy to be angry; it’s easy to lash out,” notes Gaby, “It’s so much harder to … [compassionately] teach somebody or influence somebody to change what they’re doing.” Dakota like Gaby and Sue Eagle, and others that Wilson describes, pursue healing by seeking to understand their own family’s past and the trauma suffered by the Dakota. Wilson explains that they aren’t attacking the dominant western culture, but they’re consciously embracing the Dakota way, which is to get close to the land, to use oral traditions, to acknowledge the self-loathing that has been hard-wired into their brains, and to choose another, more compassionate way to define themselves

–Chuck Leddy, Minneapolis StarTribune, September 1, 2011

Observing 23 years of N/D/Lakota culture-based writing.