Reclaiming Native American Culture: Tribal Literature in the SDHC Lending Library

SDHC Lending Library a Treasure Trove of Tribal Authors, Books

By Ashley Kosters
SDHC Intern

Editor's Note: This post is a part of an ongoing series highlighting selections from the South Dakota Humanities Council Lending Library, which features books in a variety of genres for book clubs and other groups. The lending library selections mentioned in these posts can be borrowed for a $50 application fee as a "Book Club to Go." Click here for more information. 

The South Dakota Humanities Council's mission is to celebrate literature, promote civil conversation and tell the stories that define our state. Because South Dakota is home to nine tribal nations – each with its own unique culture, language and literary tradition – what better genre to explore than Tribal Literature?

The SDHC's Book Club to Go program offers several options for individuals to read and discuss books by and about tribal people. Each author included in the lending library attempts to reclaim Native American culture, and in some cases, to explain it to non-Natives as well.

Sneve, a South Dakota author and an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, reflects on these goals: "The humanities enhanced my knowledge of the history, culture and values of my people. This has helped me in my writing to dispel stereotypes and contributed to communication between the Natives and all citizens of South Dakota."

Tribal Literature Title Spotlight: 'The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History' by Joseph Marshall III

Joseph Marshall III was the 2011 One Book South Dakota author of

Joseph Marshall III signs books at the 2011 South Dakota Festival of Books. Marshall was the 2011 One Book South Dakota author of "The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History."

Most of the world remembers Crazy Horse as a peerless warrior who brought the U.S. Army to its knees at the Battle of Little Bighorn. But to his fellow Oglala Lakota, he was a dutiful son and humble fighting man who – with valor, spirit, respect, and unparalleled leadership – fought for his people's land, livelihood, and honor. In this fascinating biography, Joseph M. Marshall, a Sicangu Lakota and a celebrated historian, creates a vibrate portrait of the man, his times, and his legacy.

Thanks to firsthand research and his culture's rich oral tradition (rarely shared outside the Native American community), Marshall reveals many aspects of Crazy Horse's life, including details of the powerful vision that convinced him of his duty to help preserve the Lakota homeland – a vision that changed the course of Crazy Horse's life and spurred him confidently into battle time and time again.

"The Journey of Crazy Horse" is the true story of how one man's fight for his people's survival roused his true genius as a strategist, commander, and trusted leader. And it is an unforgettable portrayal of a revered human being and a profound celebration of a culture, a community, and an enduring way of life.

Additional Tribal Literature Selections

The SDHC Book Club to Go includes other tribal narratives, such as:

  • "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie
  • "Crazy Horse" by Mari Sandoz
  • "Dammed Indians Revisited: The Continuing History of the Pick-Sloan Plan and the Missouri River Sioux" by Michael L. Lawson
  • "Completing the Circle" by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
  • "Standing in the Light: A Lakota Way of Seeing" by Severt Young Bear and R.D. Theisz
  • "This Stretch of the River" by Oak Lake Writers' Society, Edited by Craig Howe and Kim TallBear
Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, whose books are featured among the tribal literature selections in the SDHC Lending Library, was on a panel discussion at the 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books with Philip Deloria (to her left) and S.D. Nelson.

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, whose books are featured among the tribal literature selections in the SDHC Lending Library, was on a panel discussion at the 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books with Philip Deloria (to her left) and S.D. Nelson.

The Lending Library is just one of many ways the South Dakota Humanities Council highlights literature relating to Native American culture. SDHC's 2017 programming initiative, "Race and Civility," centered on the classic book "Black Elk Speaks" by John G. Neihardt, which features conversations with legendary Lakota healer Nicholas Black Elk.

Programming culminated with a discussion of his book at the 2017 South Dakota Festival of Books by Sneve, S.D. Nelson and Philip Deloria, who wrote the introduction to a re-released version of the book, "Black Elk Speaks: The Complete Edition."

Apply to Host a "Book Club to Go" Today

With a diverse selection of literature, the South Dakota Humanities Council offers a packaged reading program for book clubs or other interested groups. Whether the events are organized by individuals or by organizations, Book Club to Go provides up to 30 copies of any title from the council's lending library and an SDHC scholar, if desired, to lead a book discussion. For a $50 application fee, the group gains access to any of the council's 70-plus titles.

For more information on the application and to apply, click the button below.