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Posts Tagged ‘White Earth Nation’

Photo: Jaida Grey Eagle / The McKnight Foundation
Marcie Rendon has received the McKnight Foundation’s 2020 Distinguished Artist Award. An enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, she is the author of poems, plays, children’s books, and novels that explore the resilience and brilliance of Native peoples.

This morning’s Google video about the famous Osage ballerina Maria Tallchief got me thinking about Native American women in the arts and how difficult their path to fulfillment often is. Consider the writer Marcie Rendon, whose reputation got a big boost when she received a McKnight Foundation award in August.

Mary Ann Grossmann reported the story for the Pioneer Press. “Marcie Rendon, award-winning poet, playwright, author of children’s books, short stories and the popular Cash Blackbear mystery series, is the winner of the $50,000 McKnight Foundation 2020 Distinguished Artist Award.

“An enrolled member of the White Earth Nation [Ojibwe], Rendon is the first Native American woman to receive this prestigious award, which honors artists who stay in Minnesota and make the state more culturally rich. …

“ ‘I’m kind of in shock and overwhelmed,’ Rendon said last week in a phone interview from her home near Lake Hiawatha in Minneapolis, where she lives with two granddaughters and a great-granddaughter. She has three daughters and 12 grandchildren.

“The Artist Award is always a surprise to the winner. The McKnight folks lured Rendon onto Zoom in August by telling her they wanted to talk about her work. But when she dialed in she found herself facing a roomful of people who told her she was the awardee.

‘I started crying. It just seemed unreal,’ she recalled. ‘Then somebody said, “Tell her how much the check is,” and I cried even more. I could give you a hundred names of people who deserve it. It never occurred to me I was in that category.’ …

“Rendon is pleased that her award turns the spotlight on Native artists.

“ ‘I grew up in northern Minnesota and never lived in the city. I didn’t even know book awards were a thing until one of my books was nominated. I don’t have an MFA. I’m writing because I love to create and because I love my community,’ she said. ‘Jim (Denomie) and myself getting this award says that Native artists are doing not just what is important for us as Native people, but important to the entire landscape of artists and people in Minnesota. It says we exist and have a significant impact on the arts. We are resilient and thriving. It says to non-Native people, “We are here, we never left.” ‘

“Among Rendon’s previous awards [is] the Loft’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship with Diego Vazquez. … Vazquez, a poet, novelist and editor, has known Rendon for years. ‘I am so excited for Marcie I almost cried when I heard about her award,’ he said. ‘I admire her for everything she does, in her writing and her life, where she is the central focus for her family. She gives her heart to everything.’ …

“Rendon is especially proud of partnering with Vazquez in the eight-year-old women’s writing project, in which they teach women incarcerated in jails in Ramsey, Sherburne and Washington counties. They have reached some 300 women and published 40 anthologies of their writing. …

“Rendon, born in the Red River Valley of northern Minnesota in 1952, was a voracious reader, creative writer and poet early in life. She was with her family, poor but happy, until she was in first grade and put into the foster care system. It was a bad experience, but she survived.

“While studying at Moorhead State College in the early 1970s, Rendon was part of a group of Native student activists who successfully demanded the launch of the university’s first American Indian studies department. She graduated with degrees in criminal justice and American Indian Studies and earned a master’s in human development from St. Mary’s University.

“Rendon moved to Minneapolis in 1978, because ‘this is where my people are, the birthplace of AIM (American Indian Movement),’ and worked as a counselor and therapist while raising her daughters.

“A 1991 performance by Canadian Cree-Saulteaux artist Margo Kane inspired Rendon to share her poetry and writing with a wider audience at venues such as Patrick’s Cabaret in Minneapolis. …

“ ‘I am super-excited for Marcie,’ said [writing buddy Carolyn] Holbrook. … ‘She’s multi-talented and sticks with it, all the while raising a family and putting up with the trauma of having been a foster kid. Her crime fiction knocks me out. Others write (mysteries) about Native Americans but she’s doing it from an authentic place.’ “

Read more at the Pioneer Press, here.

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