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Monday, August 12, 2013

Remembering the Dakota Conflict

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Although the Dakota Conflict was especially on our minds last year because it was the 150th anniversary, we are again at the anniversary in the middle of August.  Many local people come to the library looking for books on the history of the war, and our collection does include many books about it, old and new. 

One of the newest is practically a pamphlet at 22 pages.  Red Earth, White Road by Janet Timmerman is part of the Rural and Regional Essay Series.  The series is supported and distributed by the Society for the Study of Local and Regional History at Southwest Minnesota State University.  Red Earth, White Road tells the true story of the LaFramboises, a mixed-race family caught between the two sides of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict. 

Birch Coulie: The Epic Battle of the Dakota War is a nonfiction account of the decisive battle, written by John Christgau and published in 2012.  It should not be confused with the 1957 novel Birch Coulie by Bernard Frances Ederer, which we also have in the library.  The Christgau book is described as dramatic but accurate and balanced.
Local author Dean Urdahl’s Uprising Saga centers on the Dakota Conflict and its aftermath, within the context of the Civil War.  The four novels in the series are Uprising, Retribution, Pursuit, and Conspiracy.  Representative Urdahl was a history teacher for 35 years, and he incorporated his extensive knowledge of this time period into his novels.

 38 Nooses: Lincoln,Little Crow, and the Beginning of Frontier’s End tells the story of the conflict through the stories of several people: Little Crow; Sarah Wakefield, a captive of the Dakota who was vilified for defending them; Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple, an advocate for the Indians’ cause; and President Lincoln.  This nonfiction book by Scott W. Berg has gotten great reviews nationwide.  As he details the stories of these individuals, Berg also places the Minnesota events in the context of the Civil War, the history of the Dakota, and the U.S.-Indian wars.

 The Dakota Prisonerof War Letters is a collection of letters written by the Dakota men imprisoned at Camp McClellan in Davenport, Iowa, after their death sentences were commuted.  Dakota elders and retired Presbyterian ministers Clifford Canku and Michael Simon translated and chose the fifty letters included in the book.  The book provides the text of the letters in the original Dakota, the literal translation word-by-word into English, and a translation into contemporary Standard English.  The letters have been stored at the Minnesota Historical Society for decades.  They were written to Stephen Riggs, a Presbyterian missionary who created the written Dakota language.  He shared the letters with the prisoners’ families.  This book is unique because these are the prisoners’ own written accounts of what happened during the conflict and at the prison camp, never before published.


These are just some of the recent books related to the conflict that we have in our collection; older books are available, as well.  We also have resources on microfilm.  We have manuscripts from the Dakota Conflict of 1862 collection and other documents from the Minnesota Historical Society that relate to the conflict.  Our staff can show you how to use the microfilm reader if you’d like to explore those resources, or we can direct you to any of the books that you would like to find.