Reclaiming Mni Sota: An Alternative History of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862
Two cultures met in Minnesota—one striving to maintain its homeland and traditions, the other trying to create a life of freedom, prosperity, and abundance. Told in dual points of view, one settler, one native—RECLAIMING MNI SOTA is the story of what might have been.
Samuel Copeland was just a teenager in 1859 when he and his family left Vermont for the promise of a new life in Minnesota, but life as a frontier settler proves to be difficult and dangerous. Devastated by the loss of his father at the hands of the Dakota and seeking to protect his brother, Samuel joins the Union army believing he’d never face battle as a frontier soldier. WaabiskiMakwa was still a boy in 1850 when his father perished at Sandy Lake because of the negligence of U.S. government officials. With his way of life crumbling around him, Waabi leaves his home to mourn his father and seek a new path, which includes his lost-love, Agnes. When the Dakota and Ojibwe join forces to fight back against the white settlers of Minnesota, 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.
Determined to save their loved-ones, Samuel and Waabi follow the path of war north to Fort Snelling where the powerful Dakota-Ojibwe Alliance is sure to attack next. On their way, they meet a group of defenders, both white and Native, who have banded together to defeat the Dakota-Ojibwe Alliance. When the battle at Fort Snelling breaks out, Samuel and Waabi join the defenders fighting valiantly for peace. When the Lakota arrive from the west, the defenders are forced to flee, the fort is overrun, and in a reversal of the “white savior” narrative, Waabi sacrifices his own life to save Samuel’s.
With the Dakota-Ojibwe-Lakota Alliance in control, Samuel is reunited with his family while being placed in an internment camp below the fort. Tragedy strikes again as Samuel loses family members to disease and thirty-eight white prisoners are hanged, including his brother. After losing everything, Samuel, and what remains of the settler-colonialists, are sent away on steam ships leaving Samuel to wonder why he ever came to Minnesota at all. In reality, the Dakota lost the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. Their people were sent to an internment camp below Fort Snelling and thirty-eight of their soldiers were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862. Then, the remainder of the Dakota people were exiled beyond the borders of the state forever.
Reclaiming Mni Sota is an alternative history that sees a new reality, one in which Minnesota is Mni Sota Makoce, a Native-held and governed land. As described in the final chapter, it is a beautiful, multicultural nation with a magnificent blend of modern buildings and technology with tepees and wigwams set amongst natural rivers, lakes, and trees. Ultimately, this story challenges the true and lasting results of our past. What if the defeated became the victors? What would that mean for the world today and how would that illuminate the wrongs of the past?
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What if Minnesota was Mni Sota Makoce, a Native held and governed land? RECLAIMING MNI SOTA combines the historical themes and details of Punke’s RIDGELINE with the alternative history twist of Sargent’s CLIMB THE WIND: A JOURNEY INTO ANOTHER PAST.
Vermont, 1859. Samuel Copeland is a hardworking, idealistic young man who seeks his father’s approval and his brother’s respect. Lured by the frontier dream of adventure and opportunity, Samuel takes his family west to the new state of Minnesota. When Samuel’s father is killed by the Dakota and his brother joins the Union army in the early part of the Civil War, Samuel feels compelled to protect the life he once envisioned.
Mooningwanekaaning, 1850. An Ojibwe boy growing up on his traditional homeland, WaabiskiMakwa admires his father and loves his island community. But change comes quickly when the U.S. government agent informs the Ojibwe that they must resettle in Minnesota Territory. After negligent government policies result in death for Waabi’s father and settler encroachment threatens to engulf their community, Waabi leaves home to mourn his father and seek his lost-love, Agnes.
When the Dakota and Ojibwe join forces to incite war against the white settler population of Minnesota, Samuel and Waabi find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating conflict. Thrown together by battle, they discover a common grief binds them. Samuel and Waabi vow to help each other save their families and end the war. After Lakota reinforcements arrive, the Native alliance cannot be stopped. The white settlers are overrun, Waabi is killed in battle, and Samuel and the remaining defenders are sent to an internment camp. After thirty-eight settlers are hanged, Samuel and the rest of the white population are sent into exile as the new sovereign nation of Mni Sota Makoce rises.
RECLAIMING MNI SOTA, complete at 103,000 words, is an alternative history novel that reimagines the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. In reality, thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged, while the remainder of the Dakota people were exiled from the state forever. But what if, as it was rumored at the time, the Dakota allied with the Ojibwe, defeated the volunteer militias, exiled the white population, and created their own tribal nation?
As a historian with master’s degrees in history and creative writing, I understand the legacy of Minnesota’s territorial and early statehood periods. My work on the subject includes four novels, numerous educational resources, and dozens of speaking engagements across the upper Midwest. My writing is rooted in research and has been supported and reviewed by Michael A. (AmikoGaabaw) Loso, an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe. As a sensitivity reader, Mr. Loso checked my work for cultural and historical accuracy. While not a guarantee that the story will not offend some readers, it is one indication of my efforts to ensure that multiple perspectives have been considered in this work.
Thank you for your time and consideration,