Her roots are deep in the landscape of the tall grass prairie, and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family. Since 2005, she has been creating quilts that have won awards at the juried shows of the Northern Plains Indian Art Market in Sioux Falls, the Eiteljorg Indian Art Market in Indianapolis, and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair & Market in Phoenix. Her work is now in the permanent collections of the Red Cloud Heritage Center Museum in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the University Art Galleries at the University of South Dakota, and the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul. She is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate. The co-author of Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota which won a 2013 Minnesota Book Award, she also has a collection of poetry in Dakota and English, Follow the Blackbirds, published by Michigan State University Press.
A 2011 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Gwen creates incredible pieces that find influence from her rich life and Indigenous culture.
Dr. Gwen Westerman holds her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in English, and teaches at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Gwen received the Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research Award for her research on Dakota history and language. Gwen teaches American Literature, Technical Communication, American Indian Literature, and the Humanities to both undergraduate and graduate students.
Gwen's writings have appeared in many poetry anthologies. Most recently her collection Follow the Blackbirds, has been published by MSU Press.
It’s not just the money that helps get this flow going; it has a lot to do with the energy we as Native people share in terms of telling our stories. And we’ve been telling our stories for a long time in a lot of different ways. I think it’s a good time in that people are ready to listen – ready to listen with their eyes, with their ears, ready to listen with their hearts and minds as well, so while the river’s getting crowded we’re all going with the flow here and it’s impressive to me to be a part of group efforts over the last couple of years because we don’t collaborate, but when all the pieces are put together it’s an incredible story. There’s a strong, strong thread that’s woven through everything that we do, so to me that says that we’re all in a good place, and that we’re all coming from the same place as well, from our hearts and our heads.Gwen Westerman
As Dakota people, we have a long, rich history that explains not only where we came from, but also our responsibilities to each other and to the universe. My art is grounded in Dakota culture, history, oral tradition, and language recovery—and the continuation of our story. The women in my family have made functional quilts from fabric for at least six generations—my childhood was full of them. While many of the quilts I create are utilitarian as well, and I expect them to be used, they also function to tell a story. My uncle and my grandma always reminded me that we need to tell the truth about our people and our history. I like to think that I do that in my art.Gwen Westerman