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A Conversation About Poetry and Place with Premiere Native American Poet Laureates

Three distinguished Native American Poet Laureates--Denise Lajimodiere, Gwen Westerman, and Heid E. Erdrich--share their poetic insights and cultural perspectives in this online Game Changer event.

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Time & Location








Game Changer webinar with Poet Laureates Denise Lajimodiere, Gwen Westerman, and Heid E. Erdrich

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2025

7-8 pm CT

A Conversation About Poetry and Place with Premiere Native American Poet Laureates

In spring 2023, Denise Lajimodiere, an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, was selected as the first Native American Poet Laureate for North Dakota. Neighboring Minnesota also selected their first Native American Poet Laureate, Gwen Westerman, an enrolled citizen of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, in 2021. And Minneapolis’ inaugural Poet Laureate is Native American Heid E. Erdrich of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe.

Denise Lajimodiere has been involved in education for forty-four years as an elementary teacher, principal, and professor, earning her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees from University of North Dakota. Dr. Lajimodiere is a retired Associate Professor from the School of Education, Ed. Leadership program, North Dakota State University, Fargo. She is one of the founders of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS). Denise is a poet – Dragonfly Dance; Thunderbird; Bitter Tears; His Feathers Were Chains; Children’s book author, Josie Dances, and academic book author, Stringing Rosaries: The History, The Unforgivable, The Healing of Northern Plains Boarding School Survivors. She is a traditional Jingle Dress dancer, Ojibwe Birch Bark Biting artist, and lives in a cozy cottage by a lake on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. She is currently North Dakota’s Poet Laureate.

Gwen Nell Westerman is a poet, visual artist, and scholar. Her roots are deep in the landscape of the tallgrass prairie and reveal themselves in her art and writing. Gwen’s father's family is from the Heipa District. Her mother's family is from the Flint District of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Neither of her parents spoke English when they were sent as small children to boarding schools in Oklahoma and South Dakota, and they met at Haskell Indian Institute in 1953. Gwen understands from experience the important ways language and the land shape who we are.

Heid E. Erdrich authored seven poetry collections, including Little Big Bully, a National Poetry Series winner. Erdrich edited New Poets of Native Nations anthology from Graywolf Press and has published a book on Indigenous foods with recipes. Her honors include two Minnesota Book Awards, the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress and a National Artists Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. An interdisciplinary artist and curator, Heid serves on the board of Minneapolis-based Rosy Simas Danse as well as Indigenous Nations Poets (IN-NA-PO). Along with Minnesota Poet Laureate Gwen Nell Westerman, Heid is a scholar-editor for Minnesota Humanities Center.

HND Value Statement

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Humanities North Dakota. However, in an increasingly polarized world, we at Humanities North Dakota believe that being open-minded is necessary to thinking critically and rationally. Therefore, our programs and classes reflect our own open-mindedness in the inquiry, seeking, and acquiring of scholars to speak at our events and teach classes for our Public University. To that end, we encourage our participants to join us in stepping outside our comfort zones and considering other perspectives and ideas by being open-minded while attending HND events featuring scholars who hold a variety of opinions, some being opposite of our own held beliefs.

Humanities North Dakota classes and events are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities

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