Gwen Westerman’s roots are deep in the landscape of the tall grass prairie, and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family. She is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Oyate, her father’s people, and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, her mother’s people. She is the co-author of Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota which won a 2013 Minnesota Book Award, and a 2014 Hognander Minnesota History Award.
A three-time recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Gwen creates incredible textile art influenced by her life and Indigenous cultures. Since 2005, she has been creating quilts that have won awards at the juried shows of the Northern Plains Indian Art Market in Sioux Falls, the Eiteljorg Indian Art Market in Indianapolis, and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair & Market in Phoenix. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Red Cloud Heritage Center Museum in Pine Ridge, the University Art Galleries at the University of South Dakota, the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.
Dr. Gwen Westerman holds her BA and MA in English from Oklahoma State University, and PhD in English from the University of Kansas. She teaches American and Native Nations literatures, Technical Communication, and Humanities to undergraduate and graduate students at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She received the Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research Award for her work on Dakota history and language, and is a Distinguished Faculty Scholar in recognition of her work as a scholar, poet, and artist.
Gwen’s poems, essays, and short stories appear in numerous publications, including the Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (2020); the Minnesota issue of Quiltfolk (January 2020); and New Poets of Native Nations (Graywolf Press, 2018). Her poetry collection Follow the Blackbirds (2013) was published by Michigan State University Press.