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A Conversation with a Nakoda/Assiniboine Poet

Nakoda Sky People, poems by Minerva Allen

During this program, Minerva Allen talks with TWQ producer Chérie Newman about her role as a guardian of tribal culture. She also reads from her collection of poetry, Nakoda Sky People, and from Stories from the Elders: Nakoda Horse Society.

Nakoda Sky People is a compilation of poems from several of Allen’s smaller collections, and also contains a lexicon of Nakoda words and phrases as well as pages of Native recipes and herbal medicines.

In an introductory essay to her collection of poems, Nakoda Sky People, Minerva Allen states directly, “We keep our history and culture alive by telling of our ancestors and legends to young people.”  She tells of learning the Assiniboine way of life from her grandparents, and now she feels a duty to pass along what she knows.  “When I go to sleep at night,” Allen writes, “my prayer to the creator is to let me stay a little longer here on earth.  I have unfinished business.  I want to write and leave some good words for my people.”  What does she want her reader (outside the tribe) to know/understand about her culture?  Minerva Allen replies, “First of all it’s letting people know how we are different.”

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The music in this program was written and performed by John Floridis.

Minerva Allen
Minerva Allen

Minerva Allen (Lodge Pole, MT) grew up on the Fort Belknap Reservation with her grandparents. She entered school at age five speaking Assiniboine and Gros Ventre and learned English so quickly she served as tutor for other students in her elementary school. She is a life-long educator. She has worked as Head Start Director, Bilingual Director and Federal Programs Director at the Hays Lodge Pole School District, and served as President of the Montana Bilingual Education Association. She is the mother of eight children (and raised six more) and numerous grandchildren.

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