About Mark Tilsen

Mark k. Tilsen is an Oglala Lakota Poet Educator from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He comes from activist families long steeped in the struggle for liberation for all people and the long term survival of the Lakota Nation. At Standing Rock he stepped into the role of a direct action trainer and police liaison. Since then he has led trainings and teach ins about the lessons learned from Standing Rock.

He has spent months at the L’eau est La Vie Camp helping fight against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline which is the tail end of the Dakota Access Pipeline ending in Louisiana. His first book of poetry, It Ain’t Over Until We’re Smoking Cigars on the Drill Pad recalls the struggle against the pipeline through a blend of journal entries and poems.


Mark Tilsen’s poetry is sacred fire raging under a godless sky. A breeze to read, but make no mistake: there is nothing easy about this book. Darkly hilarious and devastatingly sad, Mark’s poems give voice to many complex and contradictory truths about his people’s struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline as he saw them “on a clear day” from camp. This book challenges the reader to shut the fuck up and meet at the South Gate. It is a call to act, even (especially) when the situation isn’t ideal. Each page burns with love and fury and heartbreaking beauty. Whoever you are, wherever you come from: read this book on your feet if you can—it will make you want to DO SOMETHING.

Mike Anderson, freelance journalist/writer