150 years after an event as thoroughly-studied as the U.S. Dakota War of 1862, it is hard to find a fresh angle, a new point of view that makes even scholars question what they think they know. Mary Butler Renville’s A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity is that kind of story.
This website is the back story for A Thrilling Narrative, helping you consider the Dakota War and how it has been represented in history by gathering sources you can access on the Internet: from old primary documents to the most recent scholarship and headlines.
How did a 19th century woman born in New York state become the wife of a Dakota man? How could they be “captives” of their own kin? Why did a Dakota resistance movement form to oppose a war started by Dakota people? How did that change the course of the war? Asking new questions opens new lines of inquiry.
“What one book should I read to better understand the Dakota War?” Gwen Westerman was asked recently.
“It was a hard question to answer,” Gwen admitted. “A very hard question. Finally I said, ‘Don’t read just one story. Read many stories.'”
Your interest in the Dakota War will be piqued by Renville’s A Thrilling Narrative. Keep reading. Keep listening. Keep inquiring. As you’ll see when you begin to explore the resources collected on this site, it is one among many stories.