Minnessota Names Gwen Nell Westerman as its First Native American Poet Laureate

Folklorists in the News, News from the Field
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Gwen Nell Westerman

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan named folklorist Gwen Nell Westerman as its poet laureate on Thursday. She is the first person of Native American descent to hold the state role.

Dr. Westerman is a professor in the English Department at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her book Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota won two Minnesota Book Awards, and her poetry book Follow the Blackbirds was written in both Dakota and English. She is also a quilt artist whose work is held in museums including the Minnesota Historical society.

In her interview, Westerman told Minnesota Public Radio, “Poetry is song, and I remind them that they know the lyrics to a thousand songs. So, they know a thousand poems, at least. In this role, I think it will be my responsibility to help sing the stories of all the people of Minnesota.”

Listen to the interview

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