ALS Assistant Professor Co-Organizes Tribal Writing Retreat

Sarah Hernandez (Sicangu Lakota), Assistant Professor in American Literary Studies, co-organized the 28th Annual Oak Lake Writers’ Society Retreat.  The Society is a supportive community of more than 30 Oceti Sakowin writers and scholars committed to preserving and perpetuating Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota cultures, oral traditions, and histories through the development of culture-based writing.

Every summer, tribal writers from South Dakota gather for a week-long writing retreat to discuss and write about Oceti Sakowin cultures, languages, literatures, histories, politics, and sovereignty. Due to Covid-19, and to protect the health and well-being of Oceti Sakowin elders and community members, the Society organized a virtual writing retreat this year. 

This new platform allowed Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota writers from all over the country to gather together to discuss and share their work, ranging from poetry, short stories, memoirs, fiction and non-fiction, to children’s literature.  The Society’s mentor at this year’s retreat was Sicangu Lakota author Joseph Marshall III.

During the retreat, Marshall led group sessions on “Decolonizing Our Stories,” “Writing Fiction and Non-Fiction,” and “How to Write a Book Proposal.” He also led one-on-one sessions with writers to review their manuscripts and offer publishing advice. Several members of the Society are nearing completion on their manuscripts, and preparing to send them off to publishers.  Marshall’s input will help them increase the number of Oceti Sakowin Writers publishing and presenting in the Norther Great Plains region.

Typically, these retreats are reserved for tribal writers living in South Dakota; however, this new virtual format allowed the Society to host a special online event for Native American high school students, college students, and allies.  UNM’s Department of English Language and Literature generously sponsored this event, which allowed emerging writers and scholars to learn how to write about tribes and tribal people in ways that are respectful and responsible to Indigenous people and communities.

The Society wishes to thank UNM’s English Department for their generous support of this treasured event.  Pilamayaye!

To learn more about the Society, please visit their website at