In Dakota in Exile, Linda M. Clemmons tells the little-known story of the Dakota from their perspective: how their men were executed and imprisoned while their women and children were sent to a distant, barren land. Clemmons examines the Dakotas’ relationship with the US government, Protestant missionaries, the press, and the public.
Focusing on the four-year “postwar hysteria” that began after the US-Dakota War of 1862, the book recalls how government retribution began with the largest mass execution in US history and continued with the demonization and forced separation of Dakota families, eviction from their ancestral lands to country that “white people will never desire,” and punishment, including a bounty on scalps, that brought on starvation, disease, and death to hundreds.
This is history best told by a scholar like Clemmons, whose first book, The Conflicted Mission, delved into the missionary project to convert and “civilize” the Dakota. With Dakota in Exile, her point of view shifts to the Dakota themselves. Her research for this project, involving museums, archives, and private sources, results in a source list including newspaper articles, government documents, manuscript collections, and letters, many of them written by Dakota people in their own language.
The great-great-grandson of a Dakota survivor is credited as a valuable primary source of both oral and written Dakota lore. The stories of his ancestors, Robert and Sarah Hopkins, help to illustrate the severe hardships that the Dakota endured, especially since Robert was a Christian convert who was sentenced to hang after the war but was pardoned by Lincoln.
Students and citizens alike will appreciate Linda Clemmons’s Dakota in Exile, a history text with a personal edge. From its “precipitating event” to its aftermath, this is a heartbreaking story of westward expansion.
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.