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Defender Wilson Honored for Her Storytelling Art
Janurary 27, 2016

By Alicia Hegland-Thorpe, United Tribes News

Mary Louise Defender Wilson

United Tribes Technical College adds its congratulations to many who have recognized Mary Louise Defender Wilson upon receiving a much-deserved 2015 USA Fellows Award.

The prestigious national honor was announced in December, recognizing her as one of America’s most accomplished and innovative artists. She’s the first person ever from the state of North Dakota to be so honored.

Defender Wilson is highly regarded and widely respected as a traditional storyteller. She is Dakotah and Hidatsa from Standing Rock. She grew up in a family of storytellers and began learning to tell the stories of her elders at a young age. At 85 she continues to share with communities and groups across the state and country.

Recognition is not new to her. She was crowned Miss Indian America in 1954, the second Native woman to hold the title. She was honored in 1999 with a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She recorded three spoken-word albums, each earning Best Spoken Word recording at the Native American Music Awards (The Nammy’s): ‘The Elders Speak’, ‘My Relatives Say’, and ‘The Way We Are.’  In 2015, she was part of the North Dakota Council on the Arts “Art for Life Program.” She also received the Women in American History Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Defender-Wilson plans to use the $50,000 fellowship award to help preserve Native dialects by visiting Dakotah and Lakotah communities.

Over 400 artists from the US and US Territories were nominated. Thirty-seven winners were chosen by a panel of experts in various artistic fields.

Click here to listen to Mary Louise Defender Wilson’s interview from National Public Radio’s Scott Simon on her 2015 USA Fellows Award.

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