The latest Oak Lake Writers’ Society volume, He Sapa Woihanble (Black Hills Dream), was just published by Living Justice Press (St. Paul, MN). We thank co-editors, Craig Howe, Lydia Whirlwind Soldier, and Lanniko Lee for their vision and for working so diligently on our behalf over the course of several years to help us bring this book into being.
In the volume introduction, Howe and Whirlwind Soldier describe He Sapa as “the spiritual center and homeland of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires people,” and as “a breathtakingly beautiful ecosystem of pine-covered hills, steep-walled rock canyons, countless caves, and meandering meadows that rise out of the northern Plains like an ocean island.” As such, indigenous peoples draw both “physical and spiritual sustenance” from that place. The volume includes traditional and contemporary stories, mythical accounts, memoirs, poems, and critical and historical essays, as well as a transcribed and edited conversation of some of the writers. The conversation and the selected writings in the book address this question: What do the Black Hills, He Sapa, mean to you?
Collectively, the writers’ responses also treat the “spiritual, social, psychological, and environmental ramifications of the exploitation of He Sapa that began in the 19th century.” To provide critical context for understanding Oceti Sakowin peoples’ survival within a legacy of exploitation, the volume reprints four legal documents: 1) the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty; 2) the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty; 3) the 1877 Act; and 4) excerpts from the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision, United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians. The history of this place is both one of profound beauty and one of harsh and continuing struggle. This volume presents a complex picture in which history is with us in the present.
The voices of He Sapa Woihanble are a diverse and powerful chorus, offering critical testimony on one of America’s most iconic sites. These authors chart an enduring relationship with sacred ground, and remind us of our kinship to this exploited territory. Through oral histories, poems, legal documents and scholarship, these voices swell with urgent grace until I am convinced the Black Hills themselves are singing.