“Walk with your vision in your heart”
SD Nelson is the author and illustrator of numerous children’s books including, Black Elk’s Vision, Gift Horse, The Star People, Buffalo Bird Girl and Greet the Dawn. The Flagstaff artist has a diverse ethnic background. He is descended from Norse stock and is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas. His mother, who was a quarter-blood Sioux Indian named Elk Tooth Woman, taught him at an early age “to see the world with both the curious eyes of a child and the wistful eyes of an old man.”
Because his father was a career Army Major (164th Infantry Regiment, WWII-Guadalcanal, Korea, Germany, Vietnam), Steve lived in many different places as a young boy. But his mother’s ties to her home in western North Dakota brought them back to the Standing Rock Reservation nearly every summer. It was on the Dakota prairies that Nelson developed his passion for landscapes, star-filled nights and traditional Lakota imagery—
“I remember one particular summer night…cricket song filled my ears. Then, shimmering overhead, the Northern Lights came dancing, pale green at first, then in ethereal robes of red and gold; spiraling ever upward. Colors vanishing, only to reappear. Although I was staring directly into the heavens, from the corner of my eye, I saw something. The sacred something that Lakota People believe is within all things. I was only a boy, but I was seeing in a Wakan manner, in a sacred way.”
Nelson’s books have been praised as “stirring, inspirational, original and beautifully illustrated”. Awards include: Book for a Global Society—International Reading Association, Honor Book—American Indian Library Association – 2016, The Spur Award—Western Writers of America 2004, 2006 (Finalist Awards 2005, 2011, 2016), Notable Book Award – American Library Association 2001, 2011 and Steve was chosen as the feature artist for the Inter-Tribal Ceremonial – Gallup, NM and for Flagstaff’s Night Visions Exhibition. Videos of his work can be found on YouTube by searching: SD Nelson Lakota Way.
SD Nelson taught art at Mount Elden Middle School in Flagstaff for 27 years (1976-2003 Go Thunderbirds!). As President of Citizens for a Beautiful Flagstaff he helped design and put in place the city-scaping of our downtown Route 66 corridor. He has served on several City of Flagstaff committees with the mission of protecting the natural mountain environment of our community. The author is a member of the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition.
Steve graduated from North High School in Fargo, ND (1968—Hall of Fame). He is a graduate of Minnesota State University at Moorhead (B.S. 1972). He has lectured at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC and he was the keynote speaker for Read North Dakota 2010 (NDHC). Steve is the President of READ AT HOME, a non-profit literacy program for Native American Children that currently serves 500 preschool kids on the Navajo Nation and the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation. Please visit: readathome.org
SD Nelson paints with acrylic paint which he brushes, sponges, splatters and sprays. His paintings offer a contemporary interpretation of traditional Lakota images. SD has painted extensively on animal skins and bone. He has crafted traditional rawhide drums, hand-stitched beads on leather and created ledger book drawings. Nelson’s fluid style and traditional Native American imagery combines bold design, color and texture into a visual celebration of life. The artist has two adult daughters and lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.