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A Superb Keeper for Your Bookshelf
on January 9, 2013
Mni Sota Makoce is a compelling history of the Dakota people and Minnesota. Like the beautiful quilt on the book's cover, this history carefully pieces together a wide variety of primary material in making an eloquent case that Minnesota is the Dakota homeland. Original sources dating back to specific Dakota creation stories and also including Dakota oral histories, French maps, and Euro-American art, photos, legal documents, journals, and letters are supplemented by recent historical, legal, and anthropological scholarship, with thorough endnotes that are not to be missed and a comprehensive bibliography. Working in collaboration with Dakota tribal members, historians, educators, an anthropologist and an attorney, authors Gwen Westerman and Bruce White present a history that is as readable as it is fascinating, and that would be appropriate for anyone from middle-schoolers to post-dissertation scholars.
As an attorney, I was stunned by the side-by-side-by-side versions of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux: written English, government drafted/ written Dakota, government interpreted and government drafted/ written English transliteration of the latter, obtained by the book's authors. Together with the government's Treaty Journal as excerpted, this should be required reading in constitutional law classes.
Personally, I loved the drawings by Robert O. Sweeny of Dakota daily life in the 1850's. He also drew a picture of his neighbor's cabin where my French several-greats-grandparents lived, along with lots of pictures of various other people and places in the area. No doubt enhanced by the personal connection, Sweeny's drawings came to life for me. I saw through Sweeney's eyes what my grandparents saw. As with Mni Sota Makoce in its entirety, Sweeny's art left me wondering, and wanting more. There has to be more material, hopefully being found, restored, and developed as we think about it, revealing everyday Dakota life over time from family stories, photos, drawings and diaries of ordinary Dakota and other persons, and I am looking forward to seeing it.
As one of those people who usually just reads a book once and then passes it on to friends, with maybe a dozen books on hand at any one time that have been passed on to me, checked out from the library, or just had to be bought, the ultimate praise I give for this book is that it stays in my small, permanent collection.