Monday, April 17, 2006

Frederick Manfred's "Siouxland"

I've never read any of Manfred's works, and know little of him. A Google search yields a lot of information on the man, and here is what the bronze plaque at the north end of Falls Park has to say about him:

This spot is near the center of an area called "Siouxland," so named by writer Frederick F. Manfred (1912-1994). Manfred established a distinct identity for this region, the drainage basin of the Big Sioux River. It includes parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. Manfred was born on an Iowa farm and christened Frederick Feike Feikema VII. He chose to live in Siouxland after years in politics and journalism in Minneapolis. His home was at thte south edge of Blue Mound near Luverne, Minnesota, on the side of what was once an ancient mountain range that stood 30,000 feet above sea level. From his writing tepee atop his house, Manfred could see far across the landscape of Siouxland.

For Manfred, Siouxland contained no rigid state boundary lines. Rather, he envisioned it as an area with distinct social, cultural, and economic values that made its people unique. His writings often reflect his farm upbringing and echo the voices of the farmers, who as settlers, began learning the hard, enduring lessons of the land over a century ago. The voices of native Sioux Indians are heard as well in several of his books, including Lord Grizzly (1954), Conquering Horse (1959), Scarlet Plume (1964), and The Manly-Hearted Woman (1975). Manfred concurred in the Indian beliefs that all people are one with the land and that the land and all life are connected and "wakan," or "holy." Thus Siouxland was "holy land."

Many of Manfred's novels are set in Siouxland. This is the Year (1947) deals with a man's treatment of farmland southeast of Sioux Falls. Conquering Horse is set in Minnehaha County when it was tribal land. It is the story of No Name, a young Yankton Sioux brave, who camps by the "river of the Double Bend" (the Big Sioux River), takes hsi ritual bath at "Falling Water" (the Falls of the Big Sioux), makes his vision quest, and returns victorious , as "Conquering Horse," chief of the Yanktons.

Frederick Manfred illustrated his love of Siouxland and his belief in its uniqueness and importance in his fictional place names and in his personal involvement. He taught at the University of South Dakota (1968-1984) and was a consultant in the Humanities at Augustana College in Sioux Falls (1984-1994). In both his writings and in his life, Siouxland becomes "holy land."


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