In June 2018, I sat down to write a short story that saw a white settler and a Native Ojibwe cast aside their differences in the midst of war to become sympathetic to each other’s points of view. The story itself was inspired by my research into The U.S. – Ojibwe Conflict of 1862, an event that nearly led to the outbreak of war between the U.S. and Ojibwe at the same time the U.S. was at war with the Dakota. Well, after years of writing, revisions, and input from a variety of sources, the story is finally ready! And today, I couldn’t be happier to share with readers the cover design for Reclaiming Mni Sota: An Alternate History of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. This stunning, colorful design, created by Christine Horner of The Book Cover Whisperer, not only represents the beautiful Minnesota landscape, but it symbolizes the definition of the word Minnesota. Derived from the Dakota phrase mni sota makoce, Minnesota is translated as “land where the waters reflect the clouds.” The cover image is a wonderful illustration of that phrase. Highlighted at the bottom is a gashkibidaagan, or a bandolier bag. With colorful beaded designs, bandolier bags have been created and used by Ojibwe people for centuries. It’s included on the cover because it also represents an important part of the story found within the novel.
Set for release on October 10, 2023, Reclaiming Mni Sota is my fifth novel and my first alternate history. I first took in interest in the the U.S. – Dakota War in 2007 while studying history at Minnesota State University, Mankato. After writing several essays about the U.S. – Dakota War, in 2010 I began work on my first novel, Fate of the Dakota, which was first published in 2013 under the title Thy Eternal Summer. Following Thy Eternal Summer, I wrote Grace at Spirit Lake, a historical novel about the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857, and Ceding Contempt, a historical novel about the 1851 Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota.
In 2019, I published Resisting Removal, a historical novel about the Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850. Departing from the Dakota of Minnesota, Resisting Removal centered upon the Ojibwe of Minnesota and Wisconsin while remaining on the same topic, time period, and style of writing. In order to publish Resisting Removal, a novel I completed while studying for an MFA from Augsburg University, I created History Through Fiction, a small literary press that publishes historical novels based on real events and people. Since its founding, History Through Fiction has published five novels from five separate authors. The press has also grown to include a podcast, editing services, online events, short stories, and writer workshops.
Reclaiming Mni Sota is a dual narrative written from the perspectives of Samuel, a white settler, who seeks his future in Minnesota, and Waabi, a Native Ojibwe, who mourns the loss of his homeland. But when progress clashes with tradition, Samuel and Waabi find themselves on opposite sides of a war years in the making. Thrown together by battle, they discover a common grief binds them. As they fight for their future, and the future of their loved ones, Minnesota is changed forever. Ultimately, Reclaiming Mni Sota confronts America’s history of settler-colonialism while illuminating the personal stories and heartrending choices that men and women, white and Native, were forced to make.
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