Minnesota names its first Native American poet laureate

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Westerman’s appointment was announced at a press conference Thursday, September 9 at the Minnesota Humanities Center in St. Paul.

Westerman said on Thursday that she was honored to take on the role “and as a Dakota woman, to be a presence to heal and understand and share more knowledge and information about our people, all of our people, in the ‘State of Minnesota because we all love this land.

Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, a citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, joined Governor Tim Walz in selecting Westerman for the role. Flanagan said Westerman’s historic appointment was important because “the natives are still here, we’ve always been here, we were in Minnesota before Minnesota was Minnesota, and we’ll continue to be here long into the future.” of Minnesota. ”

“Part of the thing and the gift that makes us who we are are the arts, our words. It’s poetry. It’s storytelling. It’s who we are in our heart, ”continued Flanagan. “I’m so excited that Minnesotans have the chance to get to know Dr. Westerman better as a Poet Laureate: a Dakota woman who will lead the way.”

As the third Poet Laureate in Minnesota State History, Westerman, through appearances and public engagements, will encourage audiences – especially Minnesota youth – to connect and enjoy poetry , engage with marginalized populations through poetry, uplift state poets and writers and more.

Walz said Thursday the poet laureate was “a beacon of the best Minnesota has to offer,” inspiring new generations of writers and readers.

“One thing that I am very excited about and that I know our new poet laureate will do is to offer the gift and joy of poetry to young people, and to be able to do so by showing them the vibrant and diverse tapestry that makes up Minnesota, ”Walz said.

Westerman has taught in the English Department at Minnesota State University at Mankato since 1992 and focuses his award-winning and nationally published writings on the history and language of Dakota. His first book of poetry, “Follow the Blackbirds”, was written in English and Dakota. Westerman also makes quilts, with permanent collections of his quilting art spread across the Great Plains.

Her father is from Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, South Dakota, and her mother is from Flint District of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Westerman grew up in Oklahoma and Kansas and has lived in Minnesota since 1991. She received her BA and MA in English from Oklahoma State University and her PhD in English from the University of Kansas.


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