Smoke Colored River: Depicting the 1862 Dakota War through Historical Fiction

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Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | History


Annette Atkins, Liberal Studies


I have researched and written a novel set during the 1862 Dakota war in Minnesota. For a generation the Dakota people had lived alongside and intermarried with White traders and settlers, but by 1862 relations had become increasingly strained due to land disputes and a government program which pushed Dakota assimilation. The summer of 1862 was particularly difficult. The past year’s crops had succumbed to cut worms; annuity money and supplies due from the Dakotas’ sale of land to the US government failed to arrive. Some children actually died of starvation. In mid-August a brutal crime committed by four Dakota hunters sparked six weeks of horrific warfare which swept through the area, taking both Dakotas and Whites by surprise. My novel tells the story of the war through the eyes of three adolescents of both Dakota and Irish descent.