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home : features : the bookshelf April 16, 2014


2/5/2013 5:00:00 PM
Book tells the tale of the Dakota War

BLYTHE - The Civil war spanned roughly five years, from 1861-1865. Our history books give us detailed accounts of the battles fought with emphasis on the battlefields paralleling the Eastern seaboard and moving inland toward the Mississippi River.

Overshadowed by the eastern Civil War conflict was another war way out west in Dakota Territory.

The farmland of Minnesota was prize farmland, and the white settlers coveted it. Treaties were made between the settlers and the Dakota Indians, whereby the Indians sold large swatches of prized farmland to the settlers in return for a yearly annuity of clothing, blankets, firearms, ammunitions, food, and a large, annual payment in gold to be delivered to the Dakota Indians by the white men at a predetermined time and place each year.

Unfortunately, the white men liked that sparkly stuff as much as the Indians; the supply lines from the east were long and unguarded; and there were a lot of unscrupulous white men lining their own personal pockets en route.

In 1862, the Indians were told that there would be no annuity payment that year - no foodstuff to last through the winter, no blankets to keep them warm, no gold to buy the necessities of survival in a harsh winter scenario.

The Indians looked at the white man's well-stocked forts, their well-tended horses, their comfortable homes and decided enough was enough. They would take back that what was originally theirs. And thus was born the six-week Dakota War.

Scott W. Berg, in his book, 38 Nooses, takes the reader step-by-step through the intense conflict along the Minnesota frontier as the Dakota clashed with the settlers and federal troops, all the while searching for allies in their struggles. Berg profiles the predominant characters in his narrative, the military presence in the territory, their ever changing leadership, each with his own personal agenda.

Little Crow, the Dakota leader, struggled to keep his people together, even though he knew that they were on the losing side.

Sara Wakefield was captured by the Dakotas and lived within their compound for six weeks as she nursed her newborn baby before she was freed only to become vilified as an "Indian lover" when she befriended them.

Once the uprising was squashed a military commission was convened, which quickly found more than 300 Indians guilty of murder. Their fate: death by hanging. President Lincoln intervened, reducing the number of guilty Indians to 38, the largest sanctioned execution in American history.

38 Nooses details the events within the larger context of the Civil War, the history of the Dakota people, and the subsequent United States-Indian Wars.

Meticulously researched and fascinatingly presented, 38 Nooses gives the reader a front-row seat into the little known history of the six-week Dakota War, which opened up the western plains to settlement by the whites and the herding of the Indians onto Indian reservations.

38 Nooses is ready to circulate. You can find it on the new-book non-fiction shelf under 973.7 BERG.

The Palo Verde Valley Library is in Blythe, California at the corner of Broadway and Chanslorway.





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