2020 Festival Presenter Brenda Child Inspired by History of Ojibwe Women

By South Dakota Magazine & South Dakota Humanities Council

Editor's Note: A version of this feature story appears in our 2020 South Dakota Festival of Books guide produced by South Dakota Magazine. Download a free copy of the Festival Guide.

The Sound of the Story

2020 South Dakota Festival of Books presenter Brenda Child has written extensively about Native American life.

Her books include studies of boarding schools, Ojibwe women and her 2004 work "My Grandfather's Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation," which won the American Indian Book Award and the Best Book in Midwestern History. Her newest title is "Bowwow Powwow," a bilingual picture book that represents a transition from writing scholarly works to writing for children.

The idea came from her research into the history of Ojibwe women.

"I kept running across documents that referred to a dance Ojibwe people performed before important diplomatic events that was about reciprocity," says Child, the Northrop Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota.

"The lyrics to the song were, 'We are like dogs, we are like dogs.' This got me thinking about dogs and powwows, and the importance of human relationships with dogs."

Though her audience is much younger, Child finds that conducting good research is still essential.

"The writing is also just as important, but the sound of words is more critical in a children's book," she says. "Books for children are usually read aloud."

About Brenda Child

Brenda J. Child is Northrop Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota. She has written several award-winning books of American Indian history. Child was born on the Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota, where she is part of a committee developing a new constitution for the 12,000-member nation. She served on the board of trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian and was President of the Native American & Indigenous Studies Association.

Find Out More

To find out more about the authors who will be part of the 2020 Festival of Books in Brookings Oct. 2-4, subscribe to our e-newsletter below. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many events will be held virtually. We will announce that information as it becomes available. (Note: Because of uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, the Festival schedule will be released later than usual this year. You can also check our website, sdbookfestival.com, and our social media websites, facebook.com/sdhumanities and twitter.com/sdhumanities for updates).