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Oak Lake Tribal Writers holding special event

Authors attending the first gathering of the Oak Lake Writers' Society gathering at the Oak Lake field station in 1993 are, front row, from left, Elizabeth Little Elk, Vi Waln, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, N. Scott Momaday and Darren Renville. Back row, Elden Lawrence, Joyzelle Godfrey, Alicia Boyd, Jerome Kills Small, Sammie Bordeaux, Lydia Whirlwind Soldier and Lanniko Lee. (SDSU.edu)
Authors attending the first gathering of the Oak Lake Writers' Society gathering at the Oak Lake field station in 1993 are, front row, from left, Elizabeth Little Elk, Vi Waln, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, N. Scott Momaday and Darren Renville. Back row, Elden Lawrence, Joyzelle Godfrey, Alicia Boyd, Jerome Kills Small, Sammie Bordeaux, Lydia Whirlwind Soldier and Lanniko Lee. (SDSU.edu)

Brookings, S.D. (KELO AM) - Eight nationally known tribal authors and academicians will share their expertise at a 20th anniversary observation of the Oak Lake Tribal Writers' Retreat, Sept. 16-17.

Each of the nationally known conference presenters has previously spoken at the retreat, according to Charles Woodard, distinguished professor in the South Dakota State University English Department and co-founder of the retreat.

He said this year's shortened retreat is Sept. 13-15 at Oak Lake Field Station near Astoria with the conference being held in the Volstorff Ballroom in the University Student Union on campus.The retreat is usually a five-day event at the end of July and the first of August, but the format was changed for the anniversary.

Oak Lake, a small prairie lake with heavily wooded rolling hills on three sides near the Minnesota border in eastern South Dakota, has been the retreat site because of its deep history with tribal people, who inhabited the area for many generations, Woodard said.

Since Oak Lake is 23 miles northeast of SDSU, the conference is being held on campus to better serve tribal students, he said.

The speakers are Kim Blaeser, Liz Cook-Lynn, Gordon Henry, Roberta Hill, LeAnne Howe, Joseph Marshall III and Laura Tohe.The conference speakers will arrive in time for the community potluck and reading, which will conclude the retreat at 6 p.m. Sept. 15. This year's retreat mentor will be Jim Northrup, author of "Walking the Rez Road," an award-winning collection of short stories and poems. 

The Oak Lake Tribal Writers' Retreat began when Woodard and Lowell Amiotte, then an SDSU College of Education professor, saw the need to develop culture-based writing specifically for the Sioux Nation. In the second year of the retreat, participants decided to form the Oak Lake Writers' Society, a statewide organization of tribal writers.

Dakota scholar and author Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, of Rapid City, has served as the primary mentor for the group.

"This is the only tribal nation retreat for writers in the country," said Cook-Lynn, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe whose most recent books include "New Indians, Old Wars" and "Anti-Indianism in America: A Voice from Tate keya's Earth."  

"We're trying to develop a tribal nation narrative that's very diverse," she explained. "Some of us talk our language; some of us write in it, and some of us don't."

During the conference, there will be readings, lectures and panel discussions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Amiotte, a professor emeritus, will be back to give the introductory remarks at the conference's 9 a.m. Sept. 16 opening.Cook-Lynn gives the morning's message — "Why Write? A Tribal Perspective" — at 9:10 a.m. That is followed by a 10 a.m. response from panelists Blaeser, Marshall, Tohe and Hill. 

The afternoon begins with a 1 p.m. welcome by SDSU President David Chicoine. The presentations are "Storytelling, Story-keeping: Storytellers Making a Story Together" with Marshall, Blaeser and Howe at 1:10 p.m. and "Seeing Red: Hollywood Depictions of American Indians" with Howe, Henry and Tohe at 2 p.m.All of the presenters will be at the 7:30 p.m. reception and book-signing.

Sessions begin at 9 a.m. Sept. 17 with "Bridging Disciplines: The Humanities and the Social Sciences in American Indian Studies" by Henry, Meyers and Cook-Lynn.The 10 a.m. session is "Why Poetry? Some Tribal Perspectives" by Tohe, Hill, Blaeser and Henry.

The 1 p.m. session is "We Tell You Now" with Cook-Lynn and writers from the Oak Lake Tribal Writers' Society.The 2 p.m. concluding session is "Healing the World: American Indian Truths" with Marshall and Hill.

The schedule also is available at www.oaklakewriters.org.

Woodard expects 20 tribal authors to attend the retreat with a couple of hundred people attending the conference, which is open to the public at no charge.

Conference sponsors are the English department, the American Indian Studies program and the Office of Diversity, all at SDSU; the South Dakota Humanities Council, USDA Project Share and the Brookings Reconciliation Council.Conference coordinator Woodard can be reached at 605-688-4056, Charles.woodard@sdstate.edu.

Conference 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) and "Absentee Indians and Other Poems," and the editor of "Stories Migrating Home: A Collection of Anishinaabe Prose."

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 Tate keya'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). He also is 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 two books of poetry, "Star Quilt" and "Philadelphia Flowers."

LEANNE HOWE is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Illinois. Her works include "Shell Shaker" (a novel), "Evidence of Red" (poetry and prose), "Choctalking On Other Realities" (a theatrical production), and "Miko King: An Indian Baseball Story" (a novel).

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."

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