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North Dakota Poet Laureate Denise Lajimodiere to deliver commencement address at UND spring ceremonies May 13

Newly named North Dakota Poet Laureate Denise Lajimodiere will give the main address at UND commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13.

Lajimodiere will speak for both the graduate degrees ceremony at 9 a.m. and the undergraduate degrees ceremony at 2 p.m. at the Alerus Center, just south of the UND campus. The events will be available both as a livestream and on demand.

The School of Law and School of Medicine & Health Sciences will hold commencement ceremonies at Chester Fritz Auditorium on Saturday, May 6, at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively.

UND President Andrew Armacost will preside.

About Denise Lajimodiere

Denise Lajimodiere (pronounced “Lah-jim-o-deer”) is an award-winning poet, artist and retired educator of 44 years, as well as a three-time graduate of the University of North Dakota.

A citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, N.D., Lajimodiere was appointed North Dakota’s newest poet laureate by state lawmakers on April 5. With the appointment, she became the state’s first Native American poet laureate, succeeding Larry Woiwode, a native of Carrington, N.D., who passed away last year after holding the poet laureate title for three decades.

At UND, Lajimodiere studied educational leadership, earning her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

Through her career in education, she served as an elementary school teacher in New Town, N.D., and as an instructor and eventually principal in Belcourt. In 2006, Lajimodiere became an assistant professor of educational leadership at North Dakota State University, where she worked until her retirement.

Lajimodiere’s poetry has been published in four books, “Thunderbird,” “Dragonfly Dance,” “Bitter Tears,” and “His Feathers Were Chains.” And as a nationally recognized expert in American Indian boarding schools, Lajimodiere wrote “Stringing Rosaries: The History, the Unforgivable, and the Healing of North American Indian Boarding School Survivors,” which chronicles the atrocities experienced by survivors.

She also published a children’s book, “Josie Dances,” which follows the story of a young fancy shawl dancer at the Labor Day Pow Wow in Belcourt.

As North Dakota’s first Native American poet laureate, and one of only a handful of poets to have served in the post since it was established in 1957, Lajimodiere hopes she can be a mentor and role model, putting on poetry workshops and readings for young writers from underrepresented communities in North Dakota.

She is one of the founders and past presidents of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, formed to increase public awareness and cultivate healing for the trauma experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native Nations as a result of the U.S. Boarding School era, which lasted from the 1800s until the 1970s.