Mankato professor named Minnesota’s 1st Native poet laureate

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Dakota scholar, author and artist has been named Minnesota’s poet laureate, the first time the honor has been bestowed upon a Native American.

Minnesota State University, Mankato English professor Gwen Nell Westerman is a citizen of her father’s people, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in the Dakotas. Her mother’s people are from the Flint District of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

Westerman has written about Dakota history and language. She has won two Minnesota Book Awards for her work about Dakota people called “Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota.” Her poetry collection, “Follow the Blackbirds,” was written in English and Dakota. Her poems and essays have been published in journals and anthologies across the country.