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News Release

The Minnesota Humanities Center

The Minnesota Humanities Center (MHC) and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC) announced the publication of the Minnesota Native American Lives Series, three biographies of inspirational Native American leaders written for elementary students.

The Minnesota Native American Lives Series is a series of books for elementary students by, for and about Dakota and Ojibwe people that portray their histories, knowledge, culture-keepers and beloved figures. 

"These biographies will help Dakota, Ojibwe and other Native American children imagine their own potential and help them see their cultures represented alongside biographies of [American] leaders in our society,” –Heid Erdrich and Gwen Westerman, co-editors of the series, said.

The Minnesota Native American Lives Series is a partnership between MIAC and MHC highlighting the history and experiences of individual Dakota and Ojibwe people: leaders, healers, culture-keepers and other notable figures. 

The books for this project support “Why Treaties Matter,” a community engagement program of MHC and MIAC. “Why Treaties Matter” communicates, in a meaningful and truthful way, the history of sovereignty and treaties between nations in Minnesota territory (and later the state of Minnesota) to educators, students, and the general public.

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The Minnesota Native American Lives Series includes three biographical books. 

“Charles Albert Bender: National Hall of Fame Pitcher" is about the World Series-winning pitcher who invented the slider and was the first Minnesotan inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Bender grew up poor on a farm where he worked in the fields. He lived far away from his home and family while attending an Indian boarding school in Pennsylvania. He worked hard all his life and defined his success by the amount of effort he put into something. The story is written by Kade Ferris, of Turtle Mountain Chippewa and Canadian Metis descent.

“Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector” tells the story of Deloria, who loved to listen to her family tell stories in the Dakota language. She recorded many American Indian peoples’ stories and languages and shared them with everyone. She helped protect her people’s language for future generations. She also wrote stories of her own. The story is written by Diane Wilson, Dakota Mdewakanton Oyate enrolled on the Rosebud Reservation.

And “Peggy Flanagan: Ogimaa Kwe, Lieutenant Governor” is about the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. This is the second highest office in the state. She is the first Native woman to hold such a high elected statewide office in the United States. Her whole life she knew that the school system doesn’t tell American Indian stories in a true way. Peggy is working hard to change how Native peoples’ stories are told and to make life better for all Minnesotans. The story is written by Jessica Engelking, White Earth Band of Ojibwe.

All books are illustrated by Tashia Hart, Red Lake Anishinaabe, an illustrator who recently started the independent publishing company (Not) Too Far Removed Press. The mission of the press is to uplift fellow Indigenous authors and artists of the Midwest region. 

For more information or to purchase the books, visit Minnesota Native American Lives.