The most illuminating books about Minnesota’s Native American history

Why am I passionate about this?

I was attending graduate school in Mankato, Minnesota when I first discovered that 38 Dakota men were hanged there on December 26, 1862. I was shocked to find out that the largest simultaneous mass execution in United States history happened right where I lived and I knew nothing about it. Since then, I’ve dedicated myself to learning, understanding, and sharing the history of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. Over the years, I’ve discovered not just the history, but the legacy of that history for us today. Someday, I hope we all come to understand, and eventually break down, that legacy.  


I wrote...

Resisting Removal: The Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850

By Colin Mustful, John Haymond (editor),

Book cover of Resisting Removal: The Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850

What is my book about?

In February of 1850, the United States government ordered the removal of all Lake Superior bands of Ojibwe living upon the ceded territory. The La Pointe Ojibwe, led by their chief elder Kechewaishke, objected, citing promises made just eight years earlier that they would not be removed during their lifetimes. But Minnesota Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey and Indian Agent John Watrous had a devious plan to force their removal. Put into action, their illegal removal order resulted in the death of approximately four hundred Ojibwe people in an event that has become known as the Sandy Lake Tragedy. In the wake of the tragedy, the Ojibwe resisted removal time and again eventually earning a new treaty that gave them permanent reservations on their homeland. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Night Watchman

Colin Mustful Why did I love this book?

Louise Erdrich is one the premier writers of our time and in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel she doesn’t disappoint. This is a deeply revealing and completely engrossing novel about everyday people who fought against the U.S. government’s 1953 Indian Termination Policy. Using a fictional representation of her own grandfather, Erdrich exposes yet another tragic moment in the history of U.S. relations with Native Americans. What’s brilliant is that she does so without clichés or gimmicks. Her characters are not heroic figures or caricatures that exist to prove a point or embellish an important historical moment. They are deeply human and therefore profoundly real. It’s this wonderful mixture of character and history that raises The Night Watchman to another level.  

By Louise Erdrich,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Night Watchman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE IN FICTION 2021

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

It is 1953. Thomas Wazhushk is the night watchman at the first factory to open near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a prominent Chippewa Council member, trying to understand a new bill that is soon to be put before Congress. The US Government calls it an 'emancipation' bill; but it isn't about freedom - it threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land, their very identity. How can he fight this betrayal?

Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Pixie…


Book cover of Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life

Colin Mustful Why did I love this book?

In Rez Life, David Treuer, an Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation, shows us the real-life consequences of historical events and policy. Through scholarship and anecdote, Treuer teaches readers what it really means to be Native American in a country that has tried, time and again, to erase them. Rez Life is not the history book rendition of past wrongs and tragic events. Instead, it is an articulate, expressive look at the people who live with the legacy of those past wrongs and tragic events. It shows readers the Native Americans they won’t see in history books—the ones that exist today, fighting to overcome the trauma thrust upon them.

By David Treuer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rez Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A prize-winning writer offers “an affecting portrait of his childhood home, Leech Lake Indian Reservation, and his people, the Ojibwe” (The New York Times).
 
A member of the Ojibwe of northern Minnesota, David Treuer grew up on Leech Lake Reservation, but was educated in mainstream America. Exploring crime and poverty, casinos and wealth, and the preservation of native language and culture, Rez Life is a strikingly original blend of history, memoir, and journalism, a must read for anyone interested in the Native American story. With authoritative research and reportage, he illuminates issues of sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation. He…


Book cover of The Assassination of Hole in the Day

Colin Mustful Why did I love this book?

Bagonegiizhig, better known as Hole in the Day, is an extremely charismatic figure in the history of Minnesota, yet few know of his life and leadership. In The Assassination of Hole in the Day, Ojibwe historian and scholar Anton Treuer skillfully reveals the rise and downfall of this clever, polarizing figure. An expert at his craft, Treuer provides readers with an excellent historical context to understand the world in which Hole in the Day lived. Then, Treuer shows readers how Hole in the Day rose to prominence and why he should not be overlooked by the annals of history.  

By Anton Treuer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Assassination of Hole in the Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On June 27, 1868, Hole in the Day (Bagonegiizhig) the Younger left Crow Wing, Minnesota, for Washington, DC, to fight the planned removal of the Mississippi Ojibwe to a reservation at White Earth. Several miles from his home, the self-styled leader of all the Ojibwe was stopped by at least twelve Ojibwe men and fatally shot.

Hole in the Day's death was national news, and rumors of its cause were many: personal jealousy, retribution for his claiming to be head chief of the Ojibwe, retaliation for the attacks he fomented in 1862, or retribution for his attempts to keep mixed-blood…


Book cover of Massacre in Minnesota: The Dakota War of 1862, the Most Violent Ethnic Conflict in American History

Colin Mustful Why did I love this book?

Gary Clayton Anderson is one of the foremost authorities on the complex and complicated history of the U.S. – Dakota War. In his latest book, Massacre in Minnesota, Anderson relies on his knowledge of the conflict and his skill as a historian to create an objective, thorough look at Minnesota’s watershed historical event. Anderson, who’s been writing about the U.S. – Dakota War and its participants since the 1980s, guides readers through the events with expert explanations and a multitude of perspectives. He also shows growth and maturity by revising his language and viewpoint to fit the understanding of contemporary scholarship. Massacre in Minnesota is an easy-to-follow, comprehensive look at a tragedy we’re still trying so hard to understand.    

By Gary Clayton Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Massacre in Minnesota as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In August 1862 the worst massacre in U.S. history unfolded on the Minnesota prairie, launching what has come to be known as the Dakota War, the most violent ethnic conflict ever to roil the nation. When it was over, between six and seven hundred white settlers had been murdered in their homes, and thirty to forty thousand had fled the frontier of Minnesota. But the devastation was not all on one side. More than five hundred Indians, many of them women and children, perished in the aftermath of the conflict; and thirty-eight Dakota warriors were executed on one gallows, the…


Book cover of The Night Birds

Colin Mustful Why did I love this book?

Set before, during, and after the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862, The Night Birds by Thomas Maltman uses fiction to effectively convey the trauma of one of Minnesota’s most tragic events. Using well-developed, relatable characters, Maltman works hard to intertwine people and places in a way that is emotionally moving. Maltman includes numerous historic facts along with culturally relevant details that work to make the novel incredibly interesting, while making the characters and their journeys very compelling. Finally, he manages to capture the pain and suffering of Dakota and white characters alike. It’s a slow, but highly rewarding read. 

By Thomas Maltman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Night Birds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A “luminously written and harrowing” historical saga of three generations of German immigrants to the Midwest (Minneapolis Star Tribune).
 
“Set in the 1860s and ’70s, Maltman’s superb debut evokes a Midwest lacerated by clashes between European and Native American, slaveowner and abolitionist, killer and healer, nature and culture. Asa Senger, a lonely 14-year-old boy, is at first wary when his father’s sister, Hazel, arrives at his parents’ Minnesota home after a long stay in a faraway asylum, but he comes to cherish the mysterious Hazel’s warmth and company. Through her stories, Asa learns of his family’s bitter past: the lore…


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Book cover of Dulcinea

Ana Veciana-Suarez Author Of Dulcinea

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with 16th-century and 17th-century Europe after reading Don Quixote many years ago. Since then, every novel or nonfiction book about that era has felt both ancient and contemporary. I’m always struck by how much our environment has changed—transportation, communication, housing, government—but also how little we as people have changed when it comes to ambition, love, grief, and greed. I doubled down my reading on that time period when I researched my novel, Dulcinea. Many people read in the eras of the Renaissance, World War II, or ancient Greece, so I’m hoping to introduce them to the Baroque Age. 

Ana's book list on bringing to life the forgotten Baroque Age

What is my book about?

Dolça Llull Prat, a wealthy Barcelona woman, is only 15 when she falls in love with an impoverished poet-solder. Theirs is a forbidden relationship, one that overcomes many obstacles until the fledgling writer renders her as the lowly Dulcinea in his bestseller.

By doing so, he unwittingly exposes his muse to gossip. But when Dolça receives his deathbed note asking to see her, she races across Spain with the intention of unburdening herself of an old secret.

On the journey, she encounters bandits, the Inquisition, illness, and the choices she's made. At its heart, Dulcinea is about how we betray the people we love, what happens when we succumb to convention, and why we squander the few chances we get to change our lives.

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Interested in Minnesota, the Ojibwe, and American Indians?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Minnesota, the Ojibwe, and American Indians.

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