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Story of five Lake Shetek women will be told at Cultural Heritage Center

A story of survival will be told in a program at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

Author and former Pierre resident Pamela Nowak will discuss her historical fiction novel “Never Let Go,” which follows the lives of five women living near Lake Shetek, Minn., during the Conflict of 1862.

The program will begin at 7 p.m. CDT (6 p.m. MDT) on Wednesday, Aug. 18. People may register at to hear Nowak in person at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre or virtually via Zoom. Everyone is welcome to attend the free program, sponsored by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

“Pamela will talk about the research she conducted to merge fact and fiction in writing the novel of historical fiction, and the relevance to South Dakota history of events at Lake Shetek during the Conflict of 1862,” said foundation Chief Executive Officer Catherine Forsch.

Living in southwest Minnesota, Nowak grew up familiar with the story of the Conflict of 1862. She walked the areas around Lake Shetek, which is about 70 miles east of Sioux Falls, learning from a local expert and imagining what the events must have been like for the women involved.

“We know a great deal about the events at Lake Shetek due to the efforts of early historians, but the insights into the women were limited to the events,” Nowak said. “Only one of the women wrote extensively about her own experiences. For years, I wondered how these women felt about what they went through and how they were able to channel the strength to survive.”

She began researching the Lake Shetek women in 2017 by reviewing Lakota oral histories associated with the Fool Soldiers, consulting state and local archives, speaking to local experts and reading scholarly works. To get a sense of each of the five women, she poured over census and land records, county histories, genealogical sites and depredation claims. Around the facts, she crafted personalities, motivations, dialogue and scenes.

“I wanted this story to be more than just a recitation of facts,” Nowak said.

Nowak graduated from South Dakota State University in 1984, married and moved to Pierre. She taught history at Stanley County High School and served as arts coordinator for the Short Grass Arts Council before she and her late husband, Tim Nowak, relocated. Both Pam and Tim were living history enthusiasts and active in Pierre Players.

Please call 605-773-6006 for more information about the program. Call 605-773-6000 for information about membership in the South Dakota State Historical Society.

“Never Let Go” is sold at the Heritage Stores at the Cultural Heritage Center and the Capitol.

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 since 2013, 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.

About the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation
The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation is a private charitable nonprofit that seeks funding to assist the South Dakota State Historical Society in programming and projects to preserve South Dakota’s history and heritage for future generations.

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