2019 Was a Year to Remember for the South Dakota Humanities Council

End of Year Highlights: Sharing Indigenous Culture, Poignant Moments

The South Dakota Humanities Council educated and entertained readers and humanities enthusiasts of all ages in 2019 while providing access to culturally significant literature and moments of real-life connection that exemplify the word "humanities."

In no particular order, here are eight of the numerous highlights our organization enjoyed in 2019:

1. SDHC Meets $5,000 Giving Tuesday Goal, Kicks Off 2020 One Book Program

The South Dakota Humanities Council met its fundraising goal for the South Dakota Day of Giving, gathering more than $5,000 in donations from the Dec. 3 event.

For the second year in a row, SDHC participated in the statewide movement, created by the organization South Dakota Gives, that provides non-profits a chance to highlight their work as donors across the state celebrate generosity by donating to their favorite organizations.

Hundreds of non-profits in South Dakota participated, and a group of local nonprofits joined together as #BrookingsGives to encourage donations for Brookings County non-profits, including SDHC. Through donations received online, by mail or in person from visitors who attended SDHC's event, a total of $5,050 was raised for humanities programming in South Dakota. The goal for the day was $5,000. SDHC received donations from 47 unique donors, including 13 who had never given to the organization before.

"Thank you to all of the donors who contributed to making the South Dakota Day of Giving such a special day for our organization," said SDHC executive director Ann Volin.

Members of the public visited the SDHC office throughout the day to celebrate; an added draw was the unveiling of SDHC's 2020 common read selections: "Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church" by Megan Phelps-Roper and, for young readers, a three-book bind-in featuring the "Bink and Gollie" characters created by co-authors Alison McGhee and Kate DiCamillo. Phelps-Roper, of Clark, visited the office to sign copies of her books and chat with readers after the reveal.

"Unfollow" has arrived at the SDHC office and is available for book clubs statewide for just a $50 application fee.

This thermometer tracked the donations made during the 2019 SDHC Day of Giving celebration.

This thermometer tracked the donations made during the 2019 SDHC Day of Giving celebration.

2. 2019 One Book Author Kent Nerburn Reaches Masses with Book, Tour

Author Kent Nerburn has a massive following, and the 2019 One Book South Dakota author of "Neither Wolf nor Dog" reached droves of his readers — both online and in person — during his year-long term. Fans traveled far to see Nerburn; one couple drove nearly 600 miles from Chicago to Sioux Falls to meet him during a tour event at the Full Circle Book Co-op.

Not only did Nerburn visit numerous communities, but he also posted regular updates on his Facebook page about his experiences in South Dakota, immersing himself in the state's landscape and its people — readers who enjoyed "Neither Wolf nor Dog" and wanted to discuss issues of race and reconciliation explored within its pages. His tour spanned 14 days through towns both east and west of the Missouri River and featured 15 public discussions.

Nerburn's final stop was the 2019 Festival of Books in Deadwood, where he gave a keynote lecture and signed books for fans. Click below to read his One Book Tour blog made up of updates from his Facebook page.

2019 One Book author Kent Nerburn speaks in Sioux Falls as part of his author tour.

2019 One Book author Kent Nerburn speaks in Sioux Falls as part of his author tour.

3. 2019 Young Readers One Book "Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People" Becomes First Indigenous Lakota Language Common Read, Audiobook as Oceti Sakowin Becomes Official State Language

During the same year "Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People" became the first in the history of the Young Readers program to be made available in both Lakota and English, a bill passed by the South Dakota Legislature made Lakota, Dakota and Nakota the state's official indigenous language. The juxtaposition of the two events in 2019 was fortuitous, as it strengthened the heritage of Native American culture and its tradition of "Native American culture and language in South Dakota."

South Dakota is now the third state to adopt an official indigenous language, joining Hawaii and Alaska. Montileaux was the keynote speaker for Young Readers at the 2020 Festival of Books.

"Tatanka," a bind-in of three books authored and illustrated by Oglala Sioux Tribe member and Rapid City resident Donald F. Montileaux, was published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press and distributed to second grade students this spring. Montileaux and his translator, Agnes Gay, recorded an audio version of the book at Rapid City's Flat Iron Recording in early April. Montileaux read the book in English; Gay read it in Lakota.

2019 Young Readers One Book Author Donald F. Montileaux speaks at the Rapid City Central Theater during the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books. The Festival was held in Deadwood but featured Young Readers events in Rapid City.

2019 Young Readers One Book Author Donald F. Montileaux speaks at the Rapid City Central Theater during the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books. The Festival was held in Deadwood but featured Young Readers events in Rapid City.

4. DA Awards Recognize Valued Humanities Contributors

Receiving their Distinguished Achievement awards at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books were longtime volunteers Scott Rausch and Julie Moore Peterson as well as the South Dakota Historical Society Press, which printed SDHC's 2019 Young Readers One Book South Dakota, "Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People" by Donald F. Montileaux.

Winners are selected based on their outstanding commitment to scholarly and cultural advocacy around South Dakota — advocacy in the form of presenting humanities-related events and programs, writing books and publications important to the humanities and providing funding or partnerships to sustain a vibrant cultural landscape. Rausch was the winner in the "Individual" award category, while Moore Peterson was selected for the "Librarian" category and the South Dakota Historical Society Press was the winner in the "Organization" category.

Rausch and Moore Peterson have donated countless hours of time and energy to promoting the humanities in South Dakota; they've been instrumental in organizing and setting up SDHC events, plus offering guidance on the SDHC Board of Directors (both have served their full terms and are no longer on the board).

South Dakota Historical Society Press has partnered with SDHC on numerous projects. In addition to printing the 2019 Young Readers One Book, the press also published the 2012 One Book South Dakota "Dammed Indians Revisited" and has been a constant presence at the annual South Dakota Festival of Books, where the organization displays its extensive library of works published about South Dakota and by South Dakota authors.

South Dakota Humanities Council 2019 Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities award winners (from left) South Dakota Historical Society Press (represented by Nancy Koupal), Scott Rausch and Julie Moore Peterson. Awards were distributed by SDHC executive director Ann Volin (far right).

South Dakota Humanities Council 2019 Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities award winners (from left) South Dakota Historical Society Press (represented by Nancy Koupal), Scott Rausch and Julie Moore Peterson. Awards were distributed by SDHC executive director Ann Volin (far right).

5. Vets Story Contest Celebrates Veterans

The 2019 Veterans Story Contest was created by the South Dakota Humanities Council and South Dakota State University Veterans Affairs to encourage past and current service members in South Dakota to share their stories and process their war experiences. Winners were announced during the 2019 Festival of Books by acclaimed writer and U.S. Army veteran Brian Turner. Veterans who entered received a free ticket to Turner's Festival writing workshop.

U.S. Army veteran Stephan Randall of Sioux Falls won first place for his essay "Mountain Climber," while U.S. Marine Corps veteran Alex Sebbey's "I'm Scared Too" won the video portion. Sebbey was a resident of Sioux Falls at the time of the contest and has since moved to Triangle, Va. Both received $500 for their first-place efforts.

U.S. Air Force veteran Michael Welsh of Yankton received second place for his essay "Last Sortie of the Day," while third place essay went to U.S. Navy veteran Douglas Perret Starr of Sioux Falls for "Freeing Prisoners of War." Second place winner in the video category was Shai Mason, currently serving in the U.S. Air Force and based at Ellsworth, for "Veterans' Story Video."

"There are many benefits for veterans to share their story through creative writing or any other humanities driven experience that can encourage healing, release or support others," said Connie Johnson, coordinator for Veterans Affairs at SDSU. Johnson is also the lone female Purple Heart recipient in North and South Dakota.

6. The 2019 Festival in Deadwood Features Fun Events and Poignant Conversations

From gourmet meals to Wild West shootouts to moving discussions about books, life, and everything in between, readers and writers were treated to an assortment of events during the 17th annual Festival of Books.

Nearly 8,000 session attendees were on hand for 122 Festival sessions; the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center was packed for presentations by authors Megan Phelps-Roper, Kent Nerburn, Craig Johnson and others, while patrons gathered en masse at other venues in town throughout the weekend.

Some of the weekend's many highlights included:

  • A moment of connection between Lori Walsh and Phelps-Roper as they empathized with each other while discussing Phelps-Roper's controversial past and its effect on Walsh (Phelps-Roper used to protest military funerals; Walsh is a military veteran). Listen to the interview here.
  • A huge crowd for Craig Johnson, a Deadwood favorite and author of the popular "Longmire" novels that became a television series on A&E and Netflix, who entertained a massive crowd of enthusiastic fans at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center. A young fan even brought Johnson a picture he'd drawn of Longmire "land" and Johnson signed it for him.
  • A devoted audience for author J. Ryan Stradal returning to Deadwood and entertaining large crowds who became hooked on his charming Midwest characters from the 2017 One Book "Kitchens of the Great Midwest" and were eager to hear about his highly successful second novel, "The Lager Queen of Minnesota."
  • A relaxing Sunday conclusion of the Festival with the Closing Luncheon featuring a special gourmet meal in Deadwood by Sean Sherman of "The Sioux Chef." The Pine Ridge native, who spent the majority of his teenage years in nearby Spearfish, prepared traditional indigenous cuisine using natural, locally-sourced ingredients.
  • A Wild West Shootout outside the Deadwood Mountain Grand between mystery authors Sandra Brannan and Heather Graham. The event, which featured good-natured ribbing between the two Festival presenters (with procedural help from the local Deadwood Alive troupe), culminated with the "death" of Brannan.
Lori Walsh, left, interviews Megan Phelps-Roper at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books.

Lori Walsh, left, interviews Megan Phelps-Roper at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books.

Craig Johnson speaking at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood.

Craig Johnson speaking at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood.

J. Ryan Stradal speaks at His & Hers Ale House and Wine Bar in Deadwood.

J. Ryan Stradal speaks at His & Hers Ale House and Wine Bar in Deadwood.

Sean Sherman speaks during the special luncheon for which he was the featured chef at the 2019 Festival of Books.

Sean Sherman speaks during the special luncheon for which he was the featured chef at the 2019 Festival of Books.

Heather Graham draws her

Heather Graham draws on fellow mystery author Sandra Brannan during the Wild West Shootout staged by the Deadwood Alive Troupe at the 2019 Festival of Books.

Sandra Brannan points her

Sandra Brannan draws on fellow mystery author Heather Graham during the Wild West Shootout staged by the Deadwood Alive Troupe at the 2019 Festival of Books.

7. "I Learned to Read at" Brings Alive Reading Memories

A year-long campaign of remembering first reading experiences culminated with the distribution at the Festival of "I Learned to Read at" stories of lifelong readers' first literary steps.

The South Dakota Humanities Council's new 2019 program "I Learned to Read at..." encouraged people to share stories of when and where they learned to read as well as a donation to help SDHC promote literacy in South Dakota. The stories were assembled for a special publication made available at SDHC's Festival booth.

Below are sample quotes from stories submitted by librarians, teachers, and humanities enthusiasts:

  • "I learned to read at Brookings County District #42 and became a lover of literature in my country school library."
  • "As a boy growing up poor in Mitchell, there was little to do particularly in the summer months as our family could not afford summer camps or summer sports. Except that our town had a beautiful Carnegie Library, where a boy could enter free of charge and read whatever took him away from unpleasantries of life. I read all the Gentlemen Jim Corbett adventure tales of African and Indian hunts, and anything Jack London wrote."

To request a copy of the publication, please email info@sdhumanities.org or call 605-688-6113.

Literature is needed now more than ever, as the Pew Research Center revealed that in our technology-dominated society, 25 percent of American adults did not read a single book in 2018. If you'd like to help us raise awareness for literacy and raise money for our programs that encourage reading, please consider making a donation by clicking the button below.

SDHC Executive Director Ann Volin's elementary school lunchbox, above right, was used to collect

SDHC Executive Director Ann Volin's elementary school lunchbox, above right, was used to collect "I Learned to Read at' stories in the SDHC office.

8. Festival of Books Receives Honors College Award for Community Partnership

At its annual Honors Convocation March 28, the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College at South Dakota State University presented its Outstanding Community Partner Award to the Festival of Books in recognition of the opportunities it has offered to SDSU Honors students.

The Festival has helped SDSU students meet acclaimed authors like international bestseller Alice Sebold, whose debut novel, "The Lovely Bones," created a literary sensation upon its release and was later made into a major motion picture by director Peter Jackson with a star-studded cast. Sebold spoke to students and members of the public during Festival events on the SDSU campus in 2018.

Jennifer Widman, director of the South Dakota Center for the Book and the Festival of Books, accepted the award on behalf of the South Dakota Humanities Council.

"We've been so fortunate to collaborate with the SDSU Honors College to provide opportunities for students to hear directly from Pulitzer Prize-winning historians and journalists, best-selling novelists and poets, and many more," she said.

Click below to read more about the award and about the Festival of Books.

Alice Sebold appeared at the 2018 South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings as part of a partnership between SDSU and the South Dakota Humanities Council.

Alice Sebold appeared at the 2018 South Dakota Festival of Books in Brookings as part of a partnership between SDSU and the South Dakota Humanities Council.

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