Red Cloud Students Place at First Ever LNI Poetry Slam

posted on December 21, 2013

"Poetry is like life," says Zoey White, an eighth grader at Little Wound Middle School. "It's very colorful, and you never know what's coming next."

For the last few months, Zoey and her peers from across the reservation have been coming together for poetry and spoken word workshops sponsored by The Heritage Center's newest educational program, Tȟéča Wówapi Káǧa Okȟólakičhiye, or TWKO—a young writers' society. These young poets have shared their work through performances in local coffee shops on the Pine Ridge reservation, and even at the National Indian Education Association conference and trade show in Rapid City. But this week, for the first time ever, they joined student writers from other reservations and from across the state in 'spitting fire'—as their powerful performances are described—during one of the largest sports and cultural gatherings of the year, the Lakota Nation Invitational.

Listen to one of Marcus's Poems

"It's incredibly powerful to be able to provide a safe space for Native youth from across the state to have an opportunity to have their voices heard," said Brandie Macdonald, museum educator at The Heritage Center, as she explained the mission of TWKO. "And the turnout at the event was great. While poets covered some controversial topics, it remained a very positive environment where everyone supported one another. I'm really proud of them."

After more than three hours of blistering poetry, song and spoken word, the slam drew to an end. Through contagious laughter, deep contemplation, long silences and even a few tears, the results were in. Santianna, a junior at Red Cloud, ultimately took first place, though her classmate Marcus, a freshman, was not far behind in second. But regardless of their individual scores, all the poets knew they had all engaged in something more important than a competition. They had each emboldened a sense of community among them through the artistic telling of their own narratives. And that, said Macdonald, was exactly the point.

Watch one of Santianna's Poems:


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