Day 14: A celebration of the Dakota people through their connection to Minnesota

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Minnesota finalist:

Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by G. Westerman and Bruce WhiteMni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota
by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White
Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press
Category Sponsor: Meyer, Sherer & Rockcastle (MS&R)

Much of the focus on the Dakota people in Minnesota rests on the tragic events of the 1862 U.S.–Dakota War and the resulting exile that sent the majority of the Dakota to prisons and reservations beyond the state’s boundaries. But the true depth of the devastation of removal cannot be understood without a closer examination of the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota. Drawing on oral history interviews, archival work, and painstaking comparisons of Dakota, French, and English sources, Mni Sota Makoce tells the detailed history of the Dakota people in their traditional homelands hundreds of years prior to exile.

Excerpt from Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota:

Minnesota is a Dakota place. The Dakota people named it and left their marks in the landscape and in its history. Yet the relationship of the Dakota people to their traditional lands in Minnesota is little understood by Minnesotans today. Many history books describe the Dakota as a fierce, warlike people who lived in Minnesota prior to the arrival of whites, then disappeared. Others tell the story of the 1862 Dakota-U.S. War as though those events were the only ones of significance in Dakota history.

Among the Dakota people, the importance of this place to their history and identity is well known. It is part of the oral tradition and knowledge of the people. In the written record of European encounters with Dakota people that go back three hundred years, explorers and missionaries described the Dakota, this region, and places in it, though perhaps sometimes in incomplete and garbled form. Even from these sources, the enduring eloquence of Dakota people about their connection to the land can be heard.

Gwen Westerman photo by John RatzloffDr. Gwen Westerman, a professor of English and humanities at Minnesota State University–Mankato, specializes in multi-cultural and Native American literature. She serves as director of the Native American Literature Symposium, is the recipient of several prestigious grants, and has published widely on contemporary American Indian literature. Bruce WhiteHer poetry has been published in Yellow Medicine Review, Water~Stone Review, and other journals.

Independent historian and anthropologist Bruce White researches and writes for Indian tribes and government agencies. He is the author of We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People, a 2008 Minnesota Book Award finalist.


“This is a remarkable contribution to not only the scholarship on Dakota history and culture but also the growing narrative on indigenous resistance and endurance through successive eras of settler colonization, treaty-making, conflict, and survival.”— David Martínez, author of Dakota Philosopher: Charles Eastman and American Indian Thought

“Beautifully written and astonishing in research, Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota goes beyond an affinity for the land and develops the understanding that the people are the land and representative of the place.” — MN Book Awards Judge

“…the land is the central character in this delicious hodgepodge of oral histories and written records woven together by Gwen Westerman, Bruce White and a team of storytellers.” — Star Tribune Review by Curt Brown


Listen to Gwen Westerman on NPR’s This American Life, “Little War on the Prairie”

“The Roadhouse” series on WTIP featured an interview by Bob Carter with Dr. Gwen Westerman. In it, she speaks of the four-year collaboration with co-author Bruce White on the research and oral histories that resulted in the book.

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

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