Marcus Bear Eagle, Oglala Lakota and member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has been named the recipient of the annual Emerging Tribal Writer Award for the upcoming Great Plains Writers’ Conference. The conference will be held March 23-25 at South Dakota State University. The Great Plains Writers’ Conference, which was founded in 1976 at SDSU, initiated its Emerging Tribal Writer Prize in 2013.
The award is presented in cooperation with South Dakota State University’s American Indian Studies Program and American Indian Education and Cultural Center to encourage tribal writers in the early phases of their writing lives and to honor those of extraordinary merit and promise. The award is sponsored by Oakwood, SDSU’s literary and arts journal.
“This award reflects a long-standing interest that the SDSU community and the Great Plains Writers’ Conference have taken in American Indian writing and writers,” says conference coordinator and SDSU creative writing professor, Steven Wingate. “We hope through this program to encourage people in tribal communities to tell their stories and see the literary life as its own reward, and, through the years, to help more young tribal writers to share their work with the world. Conversely, we also want the rest of the world to know the deep role that tribal writers play in the cultural life of this region.”
The SDSU Department of English has a long history of literary support with the tribal writing community. The Oak Lake Tribal Writers’ Retreat, co-founded and facilitated by Dr. Charles Woodard, Distinguished Professor, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary of organizing literary efforts for writers of the Oceti Sakowin (Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota).
Bear Eagle’s winning entry, a one-act play set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is titled “Ake Kagli.” “The title means ‘to bring something home again,” explains Bear Eagle.
Dr. Richard Meyers, Coordinator of SDSU’s American Indian Studies Program, said, “Bear Eagle’s winning entry, a story that targets the Lakota Oyate as its audience, raises interesting questions. Who are a story’s intended readers? And, how does a Native writer bring reality into a proper context?”
Bear Eagle said he writes “to speak to our people who live in the world that is being portrayed. Often the portrayal of our modern day lives [focuses] on how hopeless our circumstances seem.”
In his play, Bear Eagle said he tries to not use “shock value [that] is for mass audience.” Instead, he aims to portray the renewing interest in “healing and old-time traditions” that he sees on Pine Ridge. “This hope which naturally occurs within our people is what painted this story for me.”
Bear Eagle is a full-time student at Oglala Lakota College majoring in Lakota Studies with an emphasis on the Lakota language.