CENTRAL, Utah – Joseph M. Marshall III, an Oglala/Sicangu Lakota writer of nonfiction and fiction and a cultural and historical consultant and actor on many films, is the 2023 Owen Wister Award honoree for lifetime contributions to Western Literature, Western Writers of America (www.westernwriters.org) has announced.
The award is scheduled to be presented at the 2023 WWA convention in Rapid City, South Dakota, June 21-24, when Marshall will also be inducted into the Western Writers Hall of Fame, housed at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo.
Born in 1945 and having grown up on South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation – his first language is Lakota – Marshall is author of The Long Knives are Crying, a novel about the Battle of the Little Big Horn that was a 2009 Spur Award finalist for Best Western Long Novel. His novel Hundred in the Hand (2007) told the story of the 1866 Fetterman battle.
His nonfiction titles include The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History and The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn: A Lakota History, a 2008 PEN/Beyond Margins Award winner. But many of his books are about Lakota beliefs, customs and spirituality such as The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living, a finalist for the PEN Center USA West Award in 2002; The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage: Lessons in Resilience from the Bow and Arrow; Walking with Grandfather: The Wisdom of Lakota Elders; Living the Lakota Way: Learning from the Land, the Spirits, and Our Ancestors; To You We Shall Return: Lessons About Our Planet from the Lakota; and Returning to the Lakota Way: Old Values to Save a Modern World.
“While he was born and raised on the Rosebud reservation and specializes in Lakota history and culture, Joseph M. Marshall III’s writing has a way of bridging gaps between Natives and non-Natives,” WWA executive director Rachelle “Rocky” Gibbons said. “He is a brilliant author for all the people and is the perfect choice for the Owen Wister Award and Western Writers Hall of Fame induction honor this year.”
Since the early 1950s, WWA has honored and promoted all forms of literature about the American West. Previous Owen Wister honorees include Pulitzer Prize winner N. Scott Momaday; historians Eve Ball and Robert M. Utley; and bestselling novelists Rudolfo Anaya, Elmore Leonard, Tony Hillerman and Lucia St. Clair Robson.
“After reading the list of past honorees for the Owen Wister Award, I am profoundly humbled and honored to be included,” Marshall said. “My initial reaction upon receiving the news from my friends [former WWA president and Spur-winning screenwriter for Into the West (2005)] Kirk Ellis and [2015 Owen Wister Award recipient and Hall of Fame inductee] Win Blevins was one of disbelief, and it still is to some extent. Nonetheless, I am extremely grateful for this recognition and I will always treasure this moment in my life.”
“Joe Marshall has been a ground breaker – from writing books in his native language to work on film productions that bring an authentic Lakota voice to everything he creates,” said Candy Moulton, a Spur Award-winning biographer and documentarian. “Throughout his professional career, he has shared his Lakota understanding both within his tribe and to non-Natives as well.”
In the 2005 children’s book and companion CD, How Not to Catch Fish: And Other Adventures of Iktomi, Marshall teamed with Yankton Lakota illustrator Joe Chamberlain and Lakota recording artist John Two-Hawks to tell seven Lakota trickster tales, and his audiobook Quiet Thunder: The Wisdom of Crazy Horse is considered the first audio-learning program based entirely on Lakota oral tradition. Founder and charter board member of the Rosebud Reservation’s Sinte Gleska University, Marshall has also served as a cultural and historical consultant and actor on many films.
“It’s somewhat difficult to accept that my first book was published 31 years ago, and it was after dreaming of that moment for many, many years,” Marshall said. “I decided to become a writer as a young adult and took some time to learn the craft of writing, which I am still learning. The release of my first book – coauthored with two friends – was a dream come true, at a time when I was past young adulthood. Receiving the Owen Wister Award at this time in my life is an affirmation for me that I pursued the right dream.
“I humbly express my appreciation to the Western Writers of America for this honor, and to all of you who made it possible. And just as importantly, for recognizing an indigenous voice which is an important and necessary part of all the stories.
“Lila pilamayaya pelo – I thank you very much.”
The Wister Award is a bronze statue of a bison created especially for WWA by artist Robert Duffie.