Much of the focus on the Dakota people in Minnesota rests on the tragic events of the 1862 U.S.Dakota War and the resulting exile that sent the majority of the Dakota to prisons and reservations beyond the state's boundaries. But the true depth of the devastation of removal cannot be understood without a closer examination of the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota. Drawing on oral history interviews, archival work, and painstaking comparisons of Dakota, French, and English sources, Mni Sota Makoce tells the detailed history of the Dakota people in their traditional homelands for at least hundreds of years prior to exile. "Minnesota" is derived from the Dakota phrase Mni Sota Makoce, Land Where the Waters Reflect the Clouds-and the people's roots here remain strong. Authors Gwen Westerman and Bruce White examine narratives of the people's origins, their associations with the land, and the seasonal round though key players and place names. They consider Dakota interactions with Europeans and offer an in-depth "reading between the lines" of historical documents-some of them virtually unknown-and treaties made with the United States, uncovering misunderstandings and outright deceptions that helped lead to war in 1862. Dakota history did not begin with the U.S.Dakota War of 1862-nor did it end there. Mni Sota Makoceis, more than anything, a celebration of the Dakota people through their undisputed connection to this place, Minnesota, in the past, present, and future. Gwen Westermanis professor of E nglish and Humanities at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Bruce Whiteis author of We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People.
In an account from around 1720, an unknown Frenchman recorded the Dakota belief that the first of their people came from the ground on the prairie between the mouth of the Minnesota River and the Falls of St. Anthony. In April 1754, Dakota chiefs gathered with a French diplomat, Joseph Marin, at a fort along the Mississippi River to complain about incursions by Ojibwe into their territory. One of the chiefs laid before Marin a map of the region and said, “No one could be unaware that from the mouth of the Wisconsin to Leech Lake, these territories belong to us. On all the points and in the little rivers we have had villages. One can still see the marks of our bones which are still there, which are the remains from the Cristinaux and the Sauteux having killed us. But they never can drive us away. These are territories that we hold from no one except the Master of Life who gave them to us. And although we have been at war against all the nations, we never abandoned them.”