Memorial Union, Arikara Room
North Dakota State University
1340 Administration Ave
Fargo, ND 58105
Next Wednesday, local poet Denise Lajimodiere will be giving a reading and presentation in the Arikara Room in the Memorial Union at NDSU, where she’s currently an assistant professor of educational leadership.
Lajimodiere will be speaking about the American Indian Boarding School Era, and reading from one of her poetry collections, Bitter Tears, which is the result of interviews with survivors of these boarding schools. The book was published by Mammoth Press in 2016 and addresses the trauma sustained by Native American children who were removed from their homes, alienated from their families, and forcibly assimilated into Western culture.
On the cover of Bitter Tears is the painting After Boarding School: Mourning, the work of artist Ka’ila Farrell-Smith. It is part of the Portland Art Museum’s permanent collection.
Denise Low, the Poet Laureate of Kansas, has said Bitter Tears “restores histories of Ojibwa survivors, people who endured some of the darkest hours of American history… [and] informs as it distills tragedy into healing songs.”
This presentation is sponsored by the Gunlogson fund, which was established to preserve North Dakota’s cultural heritage and is managed by the NDSU College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and the NDSU Libraries. The event will be free and open to the public, with refreshments provided.
Lajimodiere, an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, previously served as president of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, and is still a board member. Back in September, she read from Bitter Tears at the Edge Center for the Arts in Bigfork, MN as part of a reception for an exhibit called First They Cut Your Hair: Remembering Indian Boarding Schools.
Her first poetry collection, Dragonfly Dance, was published in 2010 by Michigan State University Press. The poems delved into the lives of Native American girls and women caught in the tensions of culture clash.
Fellow Native writer Heid E. Erdrich has said, “Dragonfly Dance heals us through movement, music, prayer… reading this book is as uplifting as watching the play of wings across a summer sky.”
Her latest book, Thunderbird, was published by NDSU Press just last year. The main theme of the collection is the birch tree, which was used by Native Americans to make canoes, wigwam covers, hunting and fishing gear, musical instruments, and decorative art.
In addition to being a poet and educator, Lajimodiere also partakes in the ancient art of birch bark biting, which involves biting down on folded strips to create patterns and designs.
This article previously appeared in the High Plains Reader.
– Särah Nour