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Dartmouth Commencement 2009

Posted 06/14/09

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Honorary degree citation to Louise Erdrich '76 (Doctor of Letters)

Louise ErdrichA member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, you grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, with an Ojibwe-French mother and a German-American father. Matriculating at Dartmouth in 1972 as a member of the first class of women and the first class in our Native American Program, you went on to become an internationally recognized poet and writer. Love Medicine, your first novel, won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Translated into more than 20 languages, your work appears often on best-seller lists, and you have received prestigious awards. Today, you continue your writing and devote yourself to learning to speak Ojibwemowin, the language of your mother’s people. With your sister, Heid Erdrich ’86, you operate a marvelous, non-profit, independent bookstore – Birchbark Books – and the Birchbark House Foundation, which support Native writing, language, and cultures.

Life does not necessarily have simple and obvious beginnings and endings. Neither do your stories. The threads of the tales loop and circle back and forward in time. Cultures collide and mix, lives interlock and clash, and there are no simple truths.

In the poem “Little Blue Eyeglasses,” you asked that your daughter be empowered to “train her eyes upon the truth” and to “see within the truth the strength/to bear the truth.” For your wisdom in seeing and your skill in setting before us the hard truths and stunning beauties of human lives, Dartmouth welcomes you home and proudly awards you the honorary degree, Doctor of Letters.

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