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Fate of the Dakota
Alfred Riggs was the twenty-five year old son of a missionary who found himself helplessly intertwined in the real life actions, events, and people of a harrowing, but largely unknown conflict in the history of Minnesota. Alfred grew up among the Dakota Indians of Minnesota and he developed a profound respect for their people and established a near kinship tie to their spokesman and leader, Little Crow. When war broke out in the summer of 1862, Alfred was torn between the safety of his family, friends, and counterparts, and his deep understanding and tolerance for the grievances and traditions of his Indian neighbors. As death, hate, greed, justice, and vengeance unfolded before him, he was motivated by valor and a brazen struggle for peace that nearly led to his death and alienated him from his father.
Throughout the story Alfred met and interacted with real life participants and witnesses of the war. He shared in their struggles and sought to understand their perspectives. But, rather than mitigate death and disaster, Alfred found himself in a number of dire situations from both sides of the war that included several battles and a suspenseful court hearing. In the end, Alfred was helpless to quell the senseless feud between the Dakota Indians and the white settlers. Ultimately, Alfred was fortunate to escape with his life and finally reconcile with his father.
In 1851, the Dakota Indians signed the Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota, selling their lands west of the Mississippi River and effectively creating the region that would become the state of Minnesota. Frank Blackwell Mayer, a young artist from Baltimore, traveled to Minnesota to witness the negotiations between the Dakota Indians and the United States Government. Doing what he came to do, Mayer captured images of the Dakota Indians and the fleeting frontier through a variety of Illustrations. But he also found more. He found a beautiful land and a burgeoning, multicultural society who sought a prosperous future. He also discovered the unique and extraordinary nature of the Dakota nation.
Throughout his journey, Frank Mayer encountered many people and places that would become well known to Minnesota’s culture and history. Driven by curiosity over the treaty negotiations and his sympathy for one Dakota boy, Mayer became more than just an observer. Discovering the fraud and corruption within the Indian System, Mayer put aside his artistic ambitions and sought to expose the deceitful intentions of traders and politicians while protecting the friendless and impoverished Dakota Indians. However, what he found was worse than he could imagine and more than he could solve.
Grace at Spirit Lake
Joseph Campbell is a thirty-one year old, mixed-breed interpreter who finds himself helplessly intertwined in the real life actions, events, and people of a harrowing, but largely unknown struggle in the history of Minnesota. Joseph grew up along the expanding western frontier and he developed an intimacy for the people and places along with a deep seated knowledge of the varying cultures and languages. Following a massacre incited by Inkpaduta and the Wahpekute Indians in March of 1857, Joseph becomes torn between his duties as a U.S. Interpreter and his deep understanding, compassion, and kinship ties for his Dakota brethren. Joseph struggles desperately to uphold the rights of the Indians while at the same time seeking to capture and punish the guilty party. All the while, Joseph discovers a brooding conflict within himself that he longs to understand and finally overcome.
The event known as the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857 was not an isolated incident, but rather a deeply complicated issue that involved many conflicts and various parties. Throughout the story, Joseph finds himself in the middle of these conflicts and parties as he constantly seeks understanding and resolution. Included alongside Joseph’s profound experience, is mixed a second narrative that follows a love story between two real-life participants who find themselves longing for the hope they once had and the future they still cling to. In the end, Joseph cannot solve the perpetual struggle between the whites of the frontier and the Dakota of southern Minnesota, but the grace of one captive girl propels him forward as he finally discovers who he is and the value of his own identity.