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Award-winning holiday story now in paperback from State Historical Society

Award-winning holiday story now in paperback from State Historical Society

The South Dakota State Historical Society has released a paperback edition of “The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood,” past winner of an American Indian Youth Literature Award.

Written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and illustrated by Ellen Beier, “The Christmas Coat” shares a story from the author’s childhood on the Rosebud Indian Reservation as the Driving Hawk family prepares for the holidays.

Originally published in 2011 by Holiday House, the story opens as Virginia and her brother are walking to school. Virginia’s old coat is too small, and her brother’s ill-fitting boots get stuck in the mud. The cold South Dakota wind blows, making Virginia shiver. She dreams of the new coat that might arrive in Theast boxes—parcels of clothing from churches in the eastern United States. But she knows she may not have a chance for a coat this year. Her father is the village Episcopal priest, and her family must choose from the boxes last, because, as Mama always says, “The others need it more than we do.”

Praised as an “authentic portrait of Sioux childhood and Christmas traditions,” the book illustrates the themes of generosity and unexpected joy and speaks to readers of all ages as Virginia is reminded of the importance of community.

“I am delighted that the South Dakota Historical Society Press decided to reprint ‘The Christmas Coat,’” writes Sneve in the new edition. “My mother taught me to think of others’ needs before mine—a difficult value for a child to learn … Even today when I am faced with a choice of doing something for myself or for another person, I hear my mother’s soft, but firm voice saying, ‘She needs it more than you do.’”

Driving Hawk Sneve was born and raised on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. A member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, she has authored several books and is the recipient of the Native American Prose Award and the Spirit of Crazy Horse Award. She is also the first South Dakotan to receive the National Humanities Medal.

Beier grew up near New York City. She now lives in Corvallis, Ore., and has illustrated numerous books for children, including Cynthia Rylant’s “The Blue Hill Meadows.”

“Christmas Coat” is available for $9.95, plus shipping and tax, and can be ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press at or by calling 605-773-6009. Follow the South Dakota Historical Society Press on Facebook (SDHS Press) and Twitter (@sdhspress) for more. Sneve will be a featured speaker at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books in October; for more information, visit

About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

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