Delphine Red Shirt’s George Sword’s Warrior Narratives honored

Book about George Sword DELPHINE RED SHIRT, lecturer of Native American Studies and Special Languages, was recently honored with two awards for her 2016 book about the writings of Native American George Sword.

Her book, George Sword’s Warrior Narratives: Compositional Processes in Lakota Oral Tradition, examines the characteristics of the oral storytelling and literature of the Lakota people, who live in the Northern Plains. Red Shirt analyzed about 245 pages of Sword’s work—or 2,240 lines of text— written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The text was in the Lakota language, using the English alphabet.

Arizona State University selected the book for the 2017 Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award for “its groundbreaking work into the composition and structure of the Lakota oral narrative tradition.” The book also won the 2017 Electa Quinney Award for Published Stories from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“For me, dispelling the notion that what we accept as ‘Native American Literature’ in the academy is actually highly colonized, is the goal for this work,” Red Shirt said. “And the awards being given by Native American academics, for me, validate the need to make this distinction so that we can begin to reclaim our stories.”

Red Shirt, who is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, speaks the Lakota dialect. As a child, she lived with her family on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.

She previously served as chair of the Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, as well as a nongovernmental representative of her tribe at the United Nations.

Red Shirt also wrote a 1997 memoir, Bead on an Anthill: A Lakota Childhood, about her childhood experiences. She wrote about the life stories of women in her family in a 2003 book, Turtle Lung Woman’s Granddaughter.

Red Shirt teaches Lakota in Special Languages in the Language Department and in Native American history as part of Native American Studies in the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity.