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Dakota scholar, author and artist Gwen Nell Westerman was named Thursday by Gov. Tim Walz as Minnesota's poet laureate.

Westerman, the state's first Native poet laureate, is an English professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has written about Dakota history and language and has won two Minnesota Book Awards for her work about Dakota people, "Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota." Her poetry collection, "Follow the Blackbirds," was written in English and Dakota.

Also a fiber artist, Westerman with works in the permanent collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, the Great Plains Art Museum, the University Art Galleries at the University of South Dakota and the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota.

Her website also says she's worked as a proofreader, a waitress, an editor, a sandwich delivery driver, a technical writer and a teacher.

Westerman will be the state's third poet laureate since the post was officially created in 2007. The previous poet laureates were Robert Bly and Joyce Sutphen.

The poet laureate is expected to promote and encourage appreciation and engagement with poetry and elevate the state's poets and authors. The post comes with a $3,500 annual stipend.

Richard Chin • 612-673-1775