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SDHC 2023: A Year in Review

December 30, 2023

For SDHC, 2023 was a remarkable year. The 21st Annual Festival of Books in Deadwood, which featured more than 60 authors and thousands of attendees, was the marquee event. SDHC staff selected these highlights.

  • NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo) and Deputy Chair Tony Mitchell made their first Festival appearance. “The visit resonated with them,” said SDHC Executive Director Ann Volin. “At the National Humanities Conference, Chair Lowe said that Deadwood was a special location for the Festival, and both she and Mitchell said that Crazy Horse was ‘amazing.’ We’re glad we shared our South Dakota sites with them.”
  • Young Readers One Book author Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux) highlighted the 10th Young Readers Festival with appearances in Rapid City, Lead, and Deadwood. “That anniversary celebration was an absolute joy,” said Center for the Book Director Jennifer Widman. “Kate is such a rock star in the world of children’s books, and she’s so wonderful with students.”
  • One Book South Dakota author Diane Wilson (The Seed Keeper) visited more than a dozen communities during her statewide summer tour and Festival appearances.  
  • Author David Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon) delivered the Saturday night keynote address titled “How History Talks: Stories That Won’t Be Silenced.”
  • Joseph M. Marshall III offered a poignant tribute to honor former SDHC board member Jace DeCory.
  • Iva Gwendolyn Good Voice Flute of Pine Ridge was selected as the winner of SDHC’s annual Veterans Story Writing Contest. She represents the first woman and Native American to achieve the honor. To read her story, click here.
  • SDHC Scholar Bruce Roseland, named South Dakota’s eighth Poet Laureate in August, announced the South Dakota State Poetry Society’s Poetry on the Road tour.

For Widman, the panel on Writing about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons was another Festival highlight. “It was an honor to have Chair Lowe moderate the discussion, with South Dakota authors like Joseph M. Marshall III and Geri Gutwein sharing the stage with national bestsellers like David Grann,” she said. “The participation of Lily Mendoza, who invited many family members of MMIP to the event, helped make it especially moving and meaningful.”

2023 marked the first time all third-grade students (more than 14,000 students in 381 schools) in the state received a book as part of the Young Readers One Book initiative. Regarding the milestone, SDHC Development Coordinator Ann Brandt said, “This year was a monumental achievement for a long-standing program.” Brandt expressed her gratitude to SDHC Staff Assistant Stacy Chidaushe for her integral role in this effort. To support SDHC’s commitment to literacy, visit

Programs and Data Coordinator Deb Delaney, who oversees SDHC’s Speakers Bureau program, found special meaning in two elements of her work. “The presentation of eight writing workshops to seniors in assisted living centers opened a humanities avenue for written expression to an often ‘forgotten’ demographic,” she said. “We also had the ability to use musical presenters to tell story in song which brought people together in a way that the spoken word could not; communicating on a deep, emotional level that allows recognition of belonging to something greater than ourselves – a shared human experience that supplanted emotional isolation.”

When asked about 2023 highlights, SDHC’s Melinda Berdanier reflected, “One of the best parts about my job as the Grants Coordinator is making phone calls to grantees telling them they received a grant award and assisting them as they proceed through their grant period.” SDHC expresses gratitude to all who supported the humanities in South Dakota during 2023. For more information, please contact SDHC at (605) 688-6113.

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