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The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters

Posted byAlison Aten on 19 Mar 2013 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, Native American

We are honored to publish The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters/Dakota Kaskapi Okicize Wowapi, translated by Dakota elders and scholars Dr. Clifford Canku and Mr. Michael Simon.

Dr. Canku and Mr. Simon will talk about the book and project at two special events on April 11th at Zandbroz Bookstore in Fargo, ND, and April 19th with Birchbark Bookstore in Minneapolis, MN. (Please click on the book title, above, for details.)

The following is an excerpt from the foreword to the book by Dr. John Peacock (Spirit Lake Dakota).

Camp Kearney at Davenport, Iowa, December 20, 1865. The Dakota Prison is at top left. Drawing by W.S. Harnon. National Archives. Courtesy Jim Jacobsen and Davenport Public Library.

“For participating in the Dakota–U.S. War of 1862, thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged at Mankato on December 26 of that year. The following April, approximately 265 more Dakota men, also condemned to death, but not executed, were marched in shackles into Camp McClellan, a military prison at Davenport, Iowa. There they wrote letters in the Dakota language. Fifty of these, written by more than three dozen of the condemned men, have now been translated into English by two of the letter writers’ Christian Dakota descendants, Dr. Clifford Canku and Mr. Michael Simon, themselves members of the last generation in the United States of mother-tongue, fluent Dakota speakers.

Both translators were born on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Nation’s reservation in South Dakota and grew up speaking Dakota as their first language. Now in their seventies, they are traditional Sun Dancers and retired Dakota Presbyterian ministers (Mr. Simon formerly headed the Dakota Presbytery). Both men have told me that their training at seminary in translating Biblical languages helped them translate the Dakota letters. They think of the letters not merely as historic documents but as sacred texts—as revelation of a Dakota apocalypse and as prophesy of the Dakota expulsion and exodus from their Minnesota homelands, the male letter writers to Davenport; their wives, children, and dependent elders first to a prison camp at Fort Snelling and then into the desert at Crow Creek.

These letters were written from a place of sadness and loss. As Mr. Simon says in his preface, the prisoners were held at Camp Kearney, a portion marked off from Camp McClellan in December 1863. The overcrowded barracks, built of green wood, offered little protection from the Iowa winter, and the prisoners were not provided adequate fuel. They were kept shackled for months. Sixteen Dakota women, brought along to cook and launder for the prisoners, also lived in the camp with their children. By 1864, men were taken out of the camp under guard to cut wood and work in nearby farm fields. That summer, a group of Dakota families—ninety men, women, and children who had been picked up at Pembina—were imprisoned with them. At least 120 people died of smallpox and other ailments at Camp Kearney. In the spring of 1866, President Andrew Johnson finally pardoned the men, who were then sent west to meet their families.

The letter writers first learned to write in the Dakota language in prison at Davenport, earlier in another prison at Mankato, or earlier still in mission schools. In all these places, missionaries worked to convert Dakota people to Christianity, in part by teaching them to read and write their once entirely oral language, for which missionaries had created a writing system and into which they had translated the Bible and various Christian hymns and liturgies.

With the exception of a letter addressed to General Henry Hastings Sibley, most of the Davenport letters are addressed to Tamakoce (His Country), the name the Dakota had given to missionary Stephen Riggs, whom the writers also frequently address in the body of their letters as mitakuye, Dakota for ‘my relative.’”

Mark Anthony Rolo Reading Tonight in Marshall, MN

Posted byAlison Aten on 21 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: Authors, Awards, Native American

My Mother Is Now EarthMark Anthony Rolo with Rock Roy Rolo (photo by  Nicholas Rolo)We are pleased to announce that Mark Anthony Rolo’s My Mother Is Now Earth is a finalist for both a Minnesota Book Award and a Northeastern Minnesota Book Award.

The book depicts the story of the last three years of his mother’s life from the perspective of his child self. With an innocent and sometimes brutal child’s view, Rolo recounts stories of a woman who battles poverty, depression, her abusive husband, and isolation through the long northern Minnesota winters, and of himself, her son, who struggles at school, wrestles with his Ojibwe identity, and copes with violence. But he also shows, with eloquence and compassion, his adult understanding of his mother’s fight to live with dignity, not despair.

Rolo will be speaking tonight at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota, as part of the Visiting Writers Series at SWSU. The event is at 7:00 p.m. in Charter Hall 201 and is free and open to the public.

2013 Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring, and Truth-Telling

Posted byAlison Aten on 22 Jan 2013 | Tagged as: Native American

Both the City of Minneapolis and the City of St. Paul have declared 2013 as the Year of the Dakota. The text from the resolutions is below.

The Minnesota Historical Society Press is honored to publish a few new books by Dakota authors, and in the spirit of fostering dialogue in response to making sure that “every effort . . . is made to ensure that the Dakota perspective is presented” we hope that these books help contribute to the conversation in the coming year.

Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White

The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters Translated by Clifford Canku and Mike Simon (March 2013)

Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past and Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life by Diane Wilson

Mni Sota Makoce The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters Spirit Car Beloved Child

Minneapolis Resolution
Recognizing the 150th Anniversary of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 and Declaring 2012-2013 the Year of the Dakota in Minneapolis.

St. Paul Resolution
Recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 and declaring 2013 the Year of the Dakota.

War Within War: Lincoln and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

Posted byAlison Aten on 15 Jan 2013 | Tagged as: Authors, Event, Native American

Lincoln and the IndiansTickets are still available for the afternoon History Forum program this Saturday January 19th with David Nichols, author of Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics.

He will also speak in Mankato Tuesday January 22nd at Minnesota State University

In early 1862 a federal investigator cautioned President Lincoln that mass corruption within Minnesota’s system of Indian Agencies would lead to disaster if left unchecked. The president, consumed by the battle to preserve the Union, ignored the warning. When the U.S.-Dakota War broke out eight months later, Lincoln told Minnesota’s governor Alexander Ramsey, “Attend to the Indians… Necessity has no law.” The war and its aftermath—U.S. victory, Dakota internment, the largest mass hanging in American history, and the forced removal of the Dakota from their homelands—solidified Minnesota’s place in the Union, even as it set the stage for the Indian Wars to come, and tragically altered the lives of thousands of Dakota people for generations to come.

David Nichols is the former academic dean at Southwestern College in Winfield, his alma mater. A native of Kansas, he has a Ph.D. in history from the College of William and Mary.  His dissertation, Lincoln and the Indians:  Civil War Policy and Politics, was published by the University of Missouri Press in 1978.  That book, still the definitive study of Lincoln’s Indian policies during the Civil War, was reissued as a paperback by the University of Illinois Press in 2000 and was published in a third edition by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in June 2012.  Dr. Nichols has spoken across the nation at venues including the Clinton Presidential Library,  the Eisenhower Library, Atlanta History Center, John F. Kennedy Library, the Air Force Academy and the National Archives.

To learn more about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, please visit www.usdakotawar.org

150th Anniversary of Mankato Executions

Posted byAlison Aten on 26 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: History, Native American

The Crow is to Die For! by Dwayne Wilcox from Ded Unk’unpi—We Are Here http://www.allmyrelationsarts.com/

One hundred and fifty years ago today, 38 Dakota men were executed in Mankato for their alleged participation in the U.S-Dakota War of 1862. This was the largest official mass execution in American history.

You can learn more about the war and its aftermath at the Minnesota Historical Society’s usdakotwar.org website. The following recent articles and posts examine today’s significance and how the anniversary is being commemorated in Minnesota, South Dakota and  Nebraska.

Collections Up Close Item of the Day: Anniversary of Mankato Execution
Ded Unk’unpi-We Are Here Art Exhibit at The Hill House

Indian Country Today: Minnesota Works on Forgiving But Not Forgetting Its Native History

Reuters: Dakota Indians Mark Hangings of 1862 With Trek on Horseback

Star Tribune: Dakota People in Santee to Honor 150th Anniversary of Mass Execution with Daylong Memorial

Pioneer Press: Dakota War: 150th Anniversary of Mass Execution Leaves Unhealed Wounds

Grand Forks Herald: Today Marks Anniversary of Dakota War Hangings

More on “Saint Paul/Imniźa Ska: A Dakota Place” Exhibit at Black Dog

Posted byAlison Aten on 18 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: Event, History, Native American

Mni Sota Makoce

Saint Paul, known to the Dakota as Imniźa Ska or White Rock, is, like the rest of Minnesota, a Dakota place. The Dakota people named it and left their marks in the landscape and in its history. Wherever you go in Minnesota there are places where Dakota people have lived and which they have valued over many generations. Described in Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota and shown in a new exhibit at the Black Dog Cafe based on the book is a record of the enduring relationship of the Dakota people to their homeland, something that could never be destroyed despite many years of exile brought on by the events of 1862.

The exhibit  features a ceiling-high mural by Owen McBride Platt depicting the history of the Dakota people in Saint Paul and is accompanied by fabric art by Gwen Westerman and paintings by artists Jonathan Thunder and Tiffany Eggenberg. “Saint Paul/Imniźa Ska” is on display at the Black Dog until the end of December 2012.

Bruce White Gwen Westerman, photo by John Ratzloff

Meet the authors of Mni Sota Makoce, Gwen Westerman and Bruce White, tomorrow, Wednesday, December 19, at 7:00 PM.

Black Dog Cafe, corner of Fourth and Broadway in St. Paul’s Lowertown.

E-book Short: Henry Sibley and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

Posted byAlison Aten on 14 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: History, Native American

Henry Sibley and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

Fur trader, congressman, governor, military leader, and senior statesman Henry Hastings Sibley (1811-91) played a long and influential role in the shaping of Minnesota. Historian and writer Rhoda Gilman has spent over thirty years examining Sibley. In this short e-book, Henry Sibley and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, she highlights the rifts and crises leading up to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 as keenly represented by then Governor Sibley.

It is available for $2.99 on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iTunes and from other popular e-book vendors.

MPR rebroadcast of “Little War on the Prairie”

Posted byAlison Aten on 11 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: Native American

Mni Sota MakoceMinnesota Public Radio will rebroadcast Little War on the Prairie from This American Life today at 7:00 p.m. The radio documentary produced by Mankato native, John Biewen, explores the history of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Gwen Westerman, co-author of Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota is one of the people interviewed by Biewen. The book is a history of Minnesota from a Dakota perspective.

MPR also published a series of pictures on their Minnesota in Photos gallery which include photos of Biewen and Westerman, as well as relevant historical and contemporary images.

“Saint Paul/Imniźa Ska: A Dakota Place” Exhibit at Black Dog

Posted byAlison Aten on 07 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: Arts, Native American

From Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the DakotaOrder your beverage of choice at Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar while shopping at The Lowertown Neighborhood Holiday Bazaar happening tonight and tomorrow and view the “Saint Paul/Imniza Ska–A Dakota Place” exhibit at the cafe.

Based on the book, Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Lowertown resident, Bruce White, the exhibit features a ceiling high mural by Owen McBride Platt depicting the history of the Dakota people in St. Paul.

Stay tuned for more info on events related to the exhibit.

“Little War on the Prairie” episode of This American Life

Posted byAlison Aten on 20 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: MHS Author in the News, Native American

Mni Sota Makoce Gwen Westerman, photo by John RatzloffThis year marks 150 years since the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, a war that changed Minnesota forever. The chain of events leading up to the war, and its terrible aftermath, are central to the story of Minnesota, producing historical traumas that still echo in those living today.

On Friday, November 23, This American Life, the popular radio program hosted by Ira Glass and distributed by Public Radio International, will broadcast an episode examining the war that resulted in the forced exile of the Dakota people and the hanging of thirty-eight Dakota men.

The program’s website notes:

“Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.”

Gwen Westerman, a Dakota scholar and artist, is one of the people interviewed for this episode. She is the co-author of the book Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota with Bruce White. The book examines the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota — and is a celebration of the Dakota in the past, present, and future.

Mankato Free Press article about the episode.

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