Mary Louise Defender Wilson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A wet plate collodion photograph of Marie Louise Defender Wilson

Marie Louise Defender Wilson (October 14, 1930), also known by her Dakotah name Wagmuhawin (Gourd Woman), is a storyteller, traditionalist, historian, scholar and educator of the Dakotah/Hidatsa people and a cultural director working in health care organizations.

Early life[edit]

Wilson was born on October 14, 1930, near Shields on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Her mother Helen Margaret See The Bear, was a midwife and her grandfather, Tall Man See The Bear herded sheep. From a young age, Wilson was surrounded by the storytelling of her Dakotah speaking family. In 1954, Wilson became the second Miss Indian America.


Wilson held administrative jobs with Native American related government agencies before returning to the reservation in 1976. In the 1980s, she taught tribal culture and language at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota. In 1999, Wilson released her first spoken word album, The Elders Speak. In 2002 her second album, My Relatives Say won the Nammy for Best Spoken Word Album.

The value of storytelling, Wilson says, is "Civilization means trying to understand ourselves as human beings, what we are born with. The Dakotah believe that all human beings born into this world have certain primitive characteristics and people have to be careful otherwise those will dominate that human being."[1]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts
  • H. Councill Trenholm Memorial Award from the National Education Association for Human and Civil Rights
  • Best Spoken Word Album, Native American Music Awards (2002), for My Relatives Say
  • Community Spirit Award (2009) from First Peoples Fund
  • Enduring Vision Award (2009)


  1. ^ "Interview with Mary Louise Defender Wilson". Local Learning: National Network of Folk Arts in Education. March 22, 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 


  • Defender Wilson, Mary Louise; Fenelon, James V. (2004). "Voyage of Domination, "Purchase" as Conquest, Sakakawea for Savagery: Distorted Icons from Misrepresentations of the Lewis and Clark Expedition". Wicazo Sa Review. University of Minnesota Press. 19 (1): 85–104. doi:10.1353/wic.2004.0006. 

External links[edit]