Winter is known as the time for storytelling and one Dakota family is sharing their stories in a new book. Emma Needham speaks with one of the authors about the publication and a virtual event to celebrate its launch.
Twenty years ago, a book idea began from a conversation between author Teresa Peterson and her great Aunt. Teresa Peterson is a member of the Lower Sioux Community in Southwestern Minnesota. This place is known to Dakota People as the place where they dig the yellow medicine or Pejuhutazizi. Now, the book, “Voices from Pejuhutazizi: Dakota Stories and Storytellers”, celebrates its long-awaited virtual launch on February 5th. with the Minnesota Historical Society.
“My mom, when I went off to college, shared a book that she had typed up the letter, My great-grandpa, Waŋbdiṡka Fred Pearsall, had written to his five-daughters, before he passed away, that shared stories he had heard among Dakota people, and also told the story of their family, of our family, their mother and their grandmother,” said Peterson.
In time, Teresa asked her mother’s youngest brother, Walter “Super” LaBatte Jr. to share his gift for storytelling. Walter (Super) LaBatte Jr.is a well-known storyteller and history keeper in their community and throughout Mni Sota Makoce. He agreed to co-author and add his stories to the collection. Then came the process of organizing it.
“It took some time to figure out how to, how to organize the stories. And especially because there’s multiple voices, and how to make sense of that over multiple generations. And eventually, you know, as you see in the book, there are themes of stories, stories of land and stories, entertainment stories, stories about values, and traditions and stories (of) reconcile, stories (that) provide belonging.” said Peterson.
These stories are important to Teresa and her family, but they are also important to readers for the same reasons- they tell us about the resiliency and courage of native people.
“I just think about the things that they went through, like my grandma’s boarding school, my mom’s relocation, just all the things that they went through. And it just spoke to me that I was meant to be here. And they went through a lot for me to be here. And I think about the courage and strength that they had, and made me kind of think maybe a little bit of that strength or courage somehow runs through my veins,” said Peterson.
Interested readers can attend a free, Live streamed Virtual Book Launch this Saturday, January 5th, online at the Minnesota Historical Society’s website and also available as a recording on Facebook and YouTube. Stories of Pewjahtizizi can be purchased through the Minnesota Historical Society press, by visiting the authors’ websites, or at major booksellers.
The Minnesota Historical Society is hosting a free, Live streamed Virtual Book Launch on Saturday, February 5th, online at their website… MNHS.ORG Recordings will also be available on Facebook and YouTube.
Stories of Pewjahtizizi can be purchased through the Minnesota Historical Society press, or by visiting the authors’ websites, and at major booksellers.
As for the future, Teresa wants to leave listeners with a call to action about their own stories.
“So this book has taken me close to 20 years to complete, as I have been on a healing journey. I hope that you as a reader, reclaim your stories of values and traditions, stories of place, stories that entertain and those that reconcile and make things right….What does it say about our society when there is only one story of our collective history that is widely told, shared or printed? What if we all reclaimed our stories, took the time to share them, listen deeply to others for understanding, and shared and validated the stories in our education system. If we all reclaim our stories, we will begin to eliminate the disparaging narratives that cause invisibility, arm, and alienation. I hope that the storytellers in this lesson invokes the storyteller in you share your story.” said Peterson.
Virtual Book Launch
Saturday, February 5, 2022 at 10:00 am
Emma Needham reporting for Minnesota Native News
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