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A Project Failed or a Lesson Learned: My Author Journey Continued

A Project Failed or a Lesson Learned: My Author Journey Continued

Note to ReadersThis blog post is about a potential campaign to raise funds to create an Indigenous Writers Grant. I am still in the process of determining how or if to move forward with this. I will share more updates with you as things proceed. Thank you!

When I first started reading, researching, and writing about the U.S. – Dakota War back in 2007, I did not understand the very complicated nature of that history and what it means for us today. I just wanted to know what happened and why. My curiosity, along with a multitude of life’s random developments and circumstances, led me to share my research through essays, blogs, videos, presentations, an online course, and novels. Over time I’ve discovered that there is a lot more at stake than just the history itself. My two major observations are these: It matters how and why the history is being conveyed; and many of the people currently pursuing, consuming, and living the legacy of that history have deeply-rooted thoughts and feelings about what it means. 

People often want to know why I’m interested in this particular history and whether or not my pursuit and portrayal of it is authentic and accurate. I can’t easily answer those questions, nor do I think it’s worthwhile to try. All that I can do is tell you what I’ve done and what I haven’t done. It is in that spirit that I share this blog post about my initial attempts to start an Indigenous Writers Grant. I’m not writing this post as any kind of indictment or judgment. It is merely done to share my story—my whole story so that you can learn, along with me, everything that’s involved in the process of being an author who writes about Minnesota’s complicated and tragic history. I don’t have any answers, and I have been wrong about many things. But I am always striving to learn and grow in my understanding to the degree that I am able. 

Thy Eternal Summer was published by Tate Publishing in 2013. After learning more about publishing and the content I write about, I republished Thy Eternal Summer as Fate of the Dakota in 2016.

Louise Erdrich once pointed to the word “Conflict” in the title of my novel, Thy Eternal Summer: The U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862 and said, “There’s your first problem. The Dakota don’t view it as a conflict, they view it as a war.” That was eye-opening for me. It was, I’m sorry to say, the first time I stepped back to consider the history from a viewpoint other than my own. Since then I have learned dozens of invaluable lessons about how history has generally been portrayed and how it ought to be portrayed—that is, from a broader, more respectful, and more objective point of view. I have tried my best to incorporate those lessons in my own portrayal of The U.S. – Dakota War, the Sandy Lake Tragedy, and other related history. But having done that, and understood that, there is one thing I haven’t done. I haven’t taken any actionable steps toward reversing the long-lasting inequities created by historical wrongs, institutionalized by generations since, and accepted by generations present. Should I? I’m honestly not sure, but I’m willing to listen and find out. 

That brings me to today and an idea I had to take those actionable steps. My idea was to create and fundraise for a $10,000 Indigenous Writers Grant. My thought was to raise funds for the grant through the sale of my upcoming novel, Reclaiming Mni Sota: An Alternative History of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. This, I thought, would be an action I could take to use my writing to contribute to breaking down the systems in place that prevent and have prevented Indigenous storytellers from gaining access to the resources they need to share their side of the story—resources I have been privileged to utilize because of the legacies our history has created. You might expect that Indigenous and literary organizations would be eager to support and promote this cause. But that is not exactly the case. Before officially creating and launching the grant, I sought feedback from Indigenous community members. Then, after receiving little feedback, I sought advocates and donors from both Indigenous and literary organizations. The response has been underwhelming. I don’t wish to classify that as a negative thing, but it was disheartening.

Read the current draft of the grant’s GoFundMe Page.

Speaking at a public library in June 2015, my first-ever book tour.

As I continue down this path, I discover that there is a lot I don’t know and cannot anticipate. And that’s okay. I just don’t want to let it force me to change course until I’m ready. With all these things in mind, I’m going to share with you a list of all the people and organizations I have reached out to over the past six months seeking either feedback, partnership, advocacy, or donations for the creation and funding of an Indigenous Writers Grant. I’ve also reached out to a small number of organizations asking if they would accept donations that come from the sale of the forthcoming book. Below is that list and their response or lack of response. I will repeat that this is not an indictment. It is merely a way for me to share my story and the lessons I’m learning while also being completely transparent for those who truly are interested in the work that I do.

 

Name/OrganizationDate ContactedResponse
Bois Forte Tribal Government2/16/2022 & 4/6/2022We spoke over the phone. They said they would review the materials. Recommended using Patreon or GoFundMe for recurring donations.
Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa2/16/2022 & 4/6/2022No Response
Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa2/16/2022 & 4/7/2022No Response
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe2/16/2022 & 4/7/2022No Response
Lower Sioux Indian Community 2/16/2022 & 4/7/2022No Response
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians2/16/2022 & 4/7/2022No Response
Prairie Island Indian Community2/16/2022 & 4/7/2022No Response
Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians2/16/2022 & 4/11/2022No Response
Upper Sioux Community2/16/2022 & 4/11/2022No Response
White Earth Band of Minnesota Chippewa2/16/2022 & 4/11/2022No Response
Circle of Indigenous Nations2/16/2022 & 4/11/2022Responded by writing, “Reviewing grant requests isn’t something I work on. My role at the University of Minnesota is to support current Native students.”
Minneapolis American Indian Center2/16/2022 & 4/11/2022Spoke over the phone on 4/15/2022. Said they could not support the grant until I had support from Indigenous writers.
Native American Community Development Institute2/16/2022 & 4/11/2022No Response
Minnesota Indian Affairs Council2/16/2022 & 4/11/2022Said they would bring the information to their board of directors. I sent a follow email on 4/11/2022. I have not heard back since.
UMD Department of American Indian Studies2/16/2022 & 4/13/2022No Response
UMM Native American and Indigenous Studies2/16/2022 & 4/13/2022No Response
Augsburg University American Indian, First Nations, and Indigenous Studies2/16/2022 & 4/11/2022Said they would support me “behind the scenes” but could not support me publicly because of their affiliation to the University.
Augsburg University MFA in Creative Writing Program2/16/2022 & various other datesSaid they would be happy to publicize the grant but are not in the habit if championing certain ventures.
Bemidji State University Indian Resource Center2/16/2022 & 4/13/2022No Response
All Nations Indian UCC4/13/2022No Response
American Indian OIC4/13/2022No Response
Center School2/16/2022No Response
The Circle 4/13/2022No Response
Yellow Medicine Review5/11/2022No Response
Indigenous Literary Studies Association4/13/2022No Response
We Need Diverse Books4/13/2022No Response
Puha Hubiya4/13/2022No Response
Makoce Ikikcupi4/18/2022 & July 2022No Response
Dakota Author (unnamed here)4/18/2022No Response
Ojibwe Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022Unable to help at this time
Dakota Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022No Response
Ojibwe Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022No Response
Ojibwe Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022Declined
Ojibwe Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022No Response
Ojibwe Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022Unable to help at this time
Ojibwe Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022Respectfully declined and recommended reaching out to Dakota people.
Ojibwe Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022No Response
Ojibwe Author (Unnamed here)4/18/2022No Response
TGI Frybread Native American Writers Group5/10/2022No Response
826 MSP5/10/2022No Response
Lakes Area Writers Alliance5/10/2022No Response
Cracked Walnut5/10/2022No Response
The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc5/10/2022No Response
Lake Superior Writers5/10/2022No Response
League of Minnesota Poets5/10/2022Said they would discuss it at the next Executive Committee meeting. Have not gotten back to me since.
Midwest Fiction Writers5/10/2022No Response
MN Speculative Fiction Writers5/10/2022No Response
National League of American Pen Women, Inc.5/10/2022No Response
Playwright’s Center5/10/2022No Response
Screenwriters’ Workshop5/11/2022No Response
Twin Cities Sisters in Crime5/11/2022No Response
Ascent5/11/2022No Response
Blue Earth Review5/11/2022No Response
Conduit5/11/2022No Response
Great River Review5/11/2022No Response
Midwest Review5/11/2022No Response
Mizna5/11/2022No Response
Runestone5/11/2022No Response
St. Paul Almanac5/11/2022No Response
Sleet5/11/2022No Response
The Tower5/11/2022No Response
Under Review5/11/2022No Response
Water Stone Review5/11/2022No Response
Water Stone Review5/11/2022No Response
Whistling Shade5/11/2022No Response
Literary Quicksand5/11/2022No Response
11:11 Press5/11/2022No Response
Afton Press/Calumet Editions5/11/2022Met in Person. Gave Support.
Button Poetry5/11/2022Said they would like to connect directly but have not responded to my invitation to schedule a meeting.
Cloquet River Press5/11/2022No Response
Coffee House Press5/11/2022No Response
Graywolf Press5/11/2022No Response
Handtype Press/Square & Rebels5/11/2022Does not have available funds.
Holy Cow Press5/11/2022No Response
Living Justice Press5/11/2022No Response
Melange Books5/11/2022No Response
Milkweed Editions5/11/2022Said they would forward my message to others within the press. I have not heard back since.
Minnesota Historical Society Press5/11/2022No Response
New Rivers Press5/11/2022No Response
Nodin Press5/11/2022Yes, they will offer their support.
Queen of Swords Press5/11/2022No Response
Ramsey County Historical Society5/11/2022No Response
Red Dragonfly Press5/11/2022Does not have available funds
Shipwreckt Books5/11/2022No Response
Sic Semper Serpent5/11/2022Said they would like to offer support but that they winding down operations.
Sky Candle Press5/11/2022No Response
University of Minnesota Press5/11/2022No Response
Beaver’s Pond Press5/11/2022No Response
The Loft Literary Center5/24/2022No Response
Minnesota State Arts Board5/25/2022Member contacted is on leave until further notice.
Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community 6/20/2022No Response
Native Writers Circle8/6/2022No Response
MigiziAugust 2022Responded with the following: “We get asked by individuals to support books, products and business. Unless directly related to our organization mission and approval by our Board of Directors, we do not allow any individual or business to utilize our organization for any self promotion.”
Ginew/Golden Eagle9/7/2022No Response
Simily.coMay 2022Yes, they have offered their support.

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About the Author

Colin Mustful is an independent author, historian, and publisher. His work helps readers learn and understand the complicated and tragic history of settler-colonialism and Native displacement in the Upper Midwest. He has a Master or Arts degree in history and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. He is also the founder of History Through Fiction, an independent press that publishes high-quality fiction that is rooted in historical research. Mustful is an avid runner and soccer player who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He believes that learning history is vital to understanding our world today and finding just, long-lasting solutions for the future.

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