The Dakota Prison Letters Project

Eight years ago, “the DPL” –the Dakota Prison Letters project was a rumor in the local research community: that Dakota people had identified and were in the process of translating a subset of Dakota language letters from the Riggs Papers at MHS, those written by Dakota men imprisoned in the wake of the Dakota War.

A conversation with Dr. Elden Lawerence at Sisseton in the days I was searching for a first-language speaker to translate John B. Renville’s letters confirmed the project was real. But, Elden added, the project had run out of funding and he didn’t know when the translations would be available.

Then last summer, in conversation with John Peacock, I was thrilled to learn that the DPL was not only back on track, it had a publisher, the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Compared to the decade invested in getting the book to press, with a release date of November, 2012, the DPL book, The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters: Dakota Kaskapi Okicize Wowapi, is almost here.

I am excited that this Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 2:00 PM, at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, MN, Dr. John Peacock, who made the last level of translation into English and who wrote an introduction to the book, will be overviewing the project for us, focusing on the language and translation process. (For details, see below.)

Then last Sunday at Lac qui Parle, I was honored to meet Dr. Clifford Canku again and to meet Rev. Michael Simon for the first time. Both men are not only first-language speakers of Dakota who translated the letters in the book, they also are descendants of some of some of the men who wrote them. Their enthusiasm for the Dakota language is contagious and we hope we will be honored to have them join our speakers’ calendar in 2013.

Watch for this book and please join us this Sunday if you can! Here are the details for John Peacock’s appearance:

The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters Sunday, July 15 2:00 pm at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, 2200 West Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, MN

In the wake of the Dakota War of 1862, Dakota men imprisoned at Davenport, Iowa wrote letters to relatives in their own language. 150 years later, their voices have been recovered in a book of translations made by two of their descendants, Dr. Clifford Canku and Rev. Michael Simon (MHS Press, Nov 2012) Dr. John Peacock, who wrote the Introduction for the book, will discuss the project. Dr. Peacock is Professor of Native American Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, and is an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation.

This event is sponsored by the Pond Dakota Heritage Society, the  Plymouth American Indian Initiative, the Traverse des Sioux Library System, Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, and the Bloomington Historical Society.

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One Response to The Dakota Prison Letters Project

  1. Pingback: Honor Canku and Simon With Us! | A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity: Dispatches from the Dakota War of 1862

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