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In a chapter book, brightly illustrated, a treacherous spider tricks the Lakota people into leaving their safe, underground home. Life on the surface is hard, and a heavy sacrifice must be made. 

Flip to the next chapter, and the story and art style change. A young warrior discovers horses, dazzled by their brilliance. Keep reading, and the story changes again to a muskrat and a skunk learning drum beats. 

Separately, the books are called "Tatanka and the Lakota People: A Creation Story," "Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend" and "Sinkpe na Maka: A Lakota Drum Story." Together, the stories create this year's Young Readers One Book, "Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People," a three-books-in-one compilation. Each is by Rapid City artist and illustrator Donald F. Montileaux.

For Montileaux, a 71-year-old member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the books are a way to pass on the stories he grew up hearing from Lakota elders to a new generation.

"I knew a lot of stories about the Lakota people, and nobody was doing them," he said. "Nobody was writing them."

Now, thousands of children across the state have read them through the Young Readers One Book program, said Jennifer Widman, the director of the South Dakota Center for the Book, which is part of the South Dakota Humanities Council.

Along with Montileaux's stories, the 2019 One Book South Dakota is Kent Nerburn's "Neither Wolf Nor Dog." It tells the story of two Native men and one non-Native man as they learn to communicate between respective cultures. In 2017, the book was turned into a movie that was filmed in the Badlands and on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in western South Dakota, and starred the late Lakota elder Chief David Bald Eagle.

Every year, the humanities council chooses a One Book South Dakota and Young Readers One Book to promote reading. Those books, and their authors, are a focal point of the South Dakota Festival of Books, which is Oct. 4-6 in Deadwood. The festival showcases about 50 authors, scholars and publishers with panels, workshops, readings and book signings.

"It’s a busy and exciting time for authors. It’s great for people who like to read books," Montileaux said. "It’s just fabulous."

Montileaux says he didn't write "Tatanka and the Lakota People," but he did illustrate it, using the same art style Lakota used to paint buffalo hides. "Tasunka," which Montileaux wrote and illustrated, is drawn like ledger art, a style Montileaux has studied for years. "Sinkpe na Maka," (the muskrat and the skunk) uses jovial illustrations to capture what Montileaux describes as the playful stories he remembers hearing as a child.

Once the stories were completed, Montileaux wanted to translate them into Lakota. He called upon Agnes Gay, the assistant archivist at Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, who speaks Lakota fluently. She translated the stories, and the Lakota translation is on each page below the English story. 

"Tatanka and Other Legends" is a book of firsts, for Montileaux and the Young Readers program: first Young Reader book by a South Dakota author, the first written by a Native American tribal member, the first bilingual book, first published by a South Dakota press, and first to include an audiobook form. 

Montileaux is leading the book festival's Young Readers lineup of authors and presenters, which includes about a dozen other children's authors and illustrators who will visit schools in Rapid City and Deadwood. 

As part of a festival preview, so to speak, Montileaux will give special presentations about his books to all of the third-graders in Rapid City on Oct. 3, at 9:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Central High School. He'll also speak from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Rapid City Public Library downtown. On Oct. 4, Montileaux will talk to third-graders from the Northern Hills — and the students love it, Widman said. 

"We think of him as Grandpa Don," she said.

In addition to Montileaux and Nerburn, presenters at this year's book festival include South Dakota Poet Laureate Christine Stewart, and a mix of national, regional and local authors across genres.

There's Heather Graham, a nationally best-selling author of romance, mystery and supernatural novels; Craig Johnson, a Wyoming author whose Sheriff Walt Longmire series was adapted into the popular show "Longmire"; and Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church who is now a writer and an activist living in South Dakota.

Local authors include Sean Covel, whose children's book "Porter the Hoarder" is illustrated by fellow South Dakota resident Rebecca Swift; Robin Carmody and Betty Jo Huff, who co-wrote "But Nana, Who Was Wild Bill?" illustrated by Alex Portal; Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, "In Defense of Loose Translations"; and Paul Higbee, "The First Strike."

Widman said about 4,000 people attend the festival every year, with another 5,000 students (kindergarten through 12th grade) involved. This is the 17th year of the festival, which rotates between Deadwood, Brookings and Sioux Falls. It comes back to Deadwood every other year, and Widman said everyone loves the location.

"It's a great place to be," she said. 

'Ambassador of poetry'

Poetry is like perfume, says Christine Stewart. 

A poem may tell the same kind of story as a memoir or essay, but where a story may take a chapter in a memoir and include flashbacks, reflection and dialogue, a poem strips the story down.

"It's so distilled," she said.

Stewart, as South Dakota's poet laureate, has plenty of experience distilling her own fragrances. She has published five books of poetry, starting with "Postcards on Parchment" in 2008. Her most recent works, "Untrussed" and "Bluewords Greening" both published in 2016.  

Stewart, who writes as Stewart-Nuñez, was named the South Dakota poet laureate in May, and started her four-year term in July. In her role, Stewart said she sees herself as an "ambassador of poetry." She will travel the state to promote poetry reading and writing, and one of her biggest projects is to edit an anthology of poems by South Dakota authors. 

That projects starts soon, and Stewart said the South Dakota Poetry Society is taking submissions. To submit, visit sdpoetry.org and click the "Submissions" tab. She said there will be a form via Submittable, an online form, where writers can submit one to three poems for consideration. They must also include their residential connection to South Dakota, which Stewart said needs to be "significant" — raised here, educated here or lived here for about five years. 

Stewart will be at the festival as a presenter, including leading a special workshop on Oct. 4 to help aspiring poets develop their "poet's ear." It's one of several special ticketed events sprinkled through the weekend.

Widman said festival organizers like to add different events beyond the author presentations and workshops, too, like Oct. 4's Books and Brews presentation with J. Ryan Stradal on his newest book, "The Lager Queen of Minnesota." At noon Oct. 4, Graham and Sandra Brannan will participate in one of Deadwood Alive's shootout re-enactments outside the Deadwood Mountain Grand. 

"We’re always looking for ways to combine books with whatever interests people might have," Widman said. 

The Women Behaving Badly convocation is Oct. 2, and the Oct. 3 "pre-festival" events start at 10 a.m., with events in Rapid City, Sturgis and Lead. The festival officially starts Oct. 4, with presentations and workshops from 10 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. at various venues across Deadwood and Lead. It continues Oct. 5 from 9 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 6. 

The final event of the festival is a luncheon at SpringHill Suites at Cadillac Jack’s in Deadwood with Sean Sherman, author of "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen." Sherman will serve a meal with locally sourced, indigenous ingredients and describe the history behind the food. 

Most events are free, but some do require tickets. For a complete schedule of events, visit sdhumanities.org/festival-of-books, email info@sdhumanities.org or call 688-6113. 

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Contact Candy DenOuden at candy.denouden@rapidcityjournal.com

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