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Louise Bernice Halfe was born in Two Hills, Alberta. Her Cree name is Sky Dancer. She was raised on the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School.

Halfe’s first published poetry appeared in Writing the Circle: Women of Western Canada. She has since published four collections. Bear Bones & Feathers was published in 1994. It received the Canadian People’s Poet Award and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award. Blue Marrow was published in 1998 and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, Pat Lowther Award, and Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award. The Crooked Good was published in 2007.

Her most recent collection, Burning in this Midnight Dream, was published in 2016 and details Halfe’s personal response to the Truth and Reconciliation process and how the experiences of residential school children continue to haunt those who survive, and how the effects are passed down for generations. The book won three Saskatchewan Book Awards and the League of Canadian Poets Raymond Souster Award.

Halfe has served as poet laureate of Saskatchewan and is widely recognized for weaving Cree language and teachings into her works. A collection of Halfe’s work, Sohkeyihta, containing poems written across the expanse of her career, was published by Wilfrid Laurier Press in 2018.

Halfe has a Bachelor of Social Work, and received a Honorary Degree of Letters from Wilfrid Laurier University. She currently works with Elders in an organization called Opikinawasowin (“raising our children”). Halfe lives outside of Saskatoon with her husband.

Award History

Jury Citation

“In the works of Louise Bernice Halfe, we are in the presence of an extraordinary storyteller, okihcihtâw-iskwew (a warrior woman): one whose voice emerges from profound solitude, and simultaneously opens to a vast polyphony of voices. Halfe’s poems are highly attuned to speech, silence, and stillness; to breath, to incantation; creating a taut, resonant relationship between the page and the reader. She leaves no experience unturned: her own life, the violence experienced by Indigenous women, and the painful legacy of the residential school system.

Halfe’s poetics refuse the hierarchies of colonial literary critique, instead affirming the equality of the contemporary, the ancestral, and the mythological; holding a multiplicity of cosmologies and quotidian realities as relevant and urgent. In so doing she will not allow any of us to read Indigenous narrative as an elegy. She resists the lyric as a strategy for making experience, and especially the process of Truth and Reconciliation, forgiving and safe, requiring instead a vigorous accountability. Halfe reminds us not only of the consciousnesses that want to be heard, but that listen back; that listen to our listening.

Her work cannot be assimilated in the canon of contemporary Canadian literature; instead, it must be ingested, transforming our collective literature on a cellular level, reimagining our identities, languages, and memories as denizens of Turtle Island.”
— 2017 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize Jury (Alice Burdick, Soraya Peerbaye, and Gregory Scofield)

Works recognized by WT

Bear Bones & Feathers

Blue Marrow

Burning in this Midnight Dream

The Crooked Good

Sôhkêyihta: The Poetry of Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe