University of South Dakota Professor of Law Frank Pommersheim recently received the Distinguished Achievement for the Humanities award from the South Dakota Humanities Council. The award is in recognition of scholarship in the field of advocacy for the humanities and civic engagement. He was one of four recognized at the South Dakota Festival of Books Sponsored by the South Dakota Humanities Council.
Honorees of the award demonstrate a commitment to communicate humanities-related events and programs, write books and publications important to the humanities, and provide funding or partnerships to sustain a vibrant cultural landscape. Pommersheim fits all three categories.
Pommersheim is one of the few people in the state known for leading community-wide discussions regarding tribal relations; he has been tapped by the Humanities Council in prior years to present on the topics of tribal sovereignty, tribal relations, and Indian relations. For example, in 2014, he spoke in both Sioux Falls and Vermillion on a reflection of Indian relations on South Dakota’s 125th Anniversary. His experiences and scholarship in Indian Law have been reflected most recently in his book, Tribal Justice: 25 Years as a Tribal Appellate Justice.
“The good thing about the Humanities Council is that it establishes avenues of communications between Indian peoples and non-Indians. There are very few forums were Indians and non-Indians come together to discuss issues; one of the predicates of any solution is engagement. When races don’t have interaction, the gap in communication grows larger and is filled by negative stereotypes.”
Pommersheim was also recognized for his artistic abilities in the field of poetry. Most past or present USD Law students can testify that he is renowned for starting lectures with a poem about Buddha. He has previously published chapbooks containing his poems about eastern philosophy. Those familiar with his chapbooks may have taken note of the beautiful cover art. A little know fact is that USD School of Law Registration Officer Teresa Carlislie creates the cover artwork.
The third Buddha poem chapbook is expected to be published sometime this upcoming spring. Readers consist mainly former students, friends, members of the bar, poetry enthusiasts, and people from Pommersheim’s past.
When asked where he got the inspiration for the Buddha themed poems, Pommersheim replied, “It all started when I was daydreaming about eight years ago about Buddha sending an email.” Email from Buddha was his first poem of the series. Positive feedback propelled him to continue on.
Eastern philosophy poetry, academic scholarship in Indian Law, and engaging communities wedged apart by negative stereotypes and intolerance are a few of the many reasons why Professor of Law Frank Pommersheim was awarded the Distinguished Achievement for the Humanities.