The War in Words


The War in Words

Reading the Dakota Conflict through the Captivity Literature

Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola

398 pages
22 photographs, 1 map


May 2009


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The War in Words is the first book to study the captivity and confinement narratives generated by a single American war as it traces the development and variety of the captivity narrative genre. Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola examines the complex 1862 Dakota Conflict (also called the Dakota War) by focusing on twenty-four of the dozens of narratives that European Americans and Native Americans wrote about it. This six-week war was the deadliest confrontation between whites and Dakotas in Minnesota’s history. Conducted at the same time as the Civil War, it is sometimes called Minnesota’s Civil War because it was—and continues to be—so divisive.
The Dakota Conflict aroused impassioned prose from participants and commentators as they disputed causes, events, identity, ethnicity, memory, and the all-important matter of the war’s legacy. Though the study targets one region, its ramifications reach far beyond Minnesota in its attention to war and memory. An ethnography of representative Dakota Conflict narratives and an analysis of the war’s historiography, The War in Words includes new archival information, historical data, and textual criticism.

Author Bio

Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola is a professor of English and the director of the William G. Cooper Jr. Honors Program in English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is the editor of Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives and the coauthor of The Indian Captivity Narrative, 1550–1900.


"Everyone teaching the Dakota War or captivity narratives, or seeking a cultural lens into a microcosm of nineteenth-century Indian Wars, will find this an essential addition to their library. . . . Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola has given us an interesting and effective way to think about this complicated moment in Minnesota history—a moment many groups are still struggling to come to terms with."—Wendy Lucas Castro, Southwest Journal of Cultures

"A combination of literary history, historiography, and cultural contextualization, this cogent book situates the little-known literature produced by this unresolved conflict in the context of genre studies, American Studies, public memory, and trauma and reconciliation."—S. K. Bernardin, CHOICE

"Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola delves into what is one of the most hotly contested topics in Minnesota history—the ongoing legacy of the 1862 Dakota War. . . . It is clear from the first pages that Stodola has taken great care in crafting a balanced analysis of her material."—Diane Wilson, Minnesota History

"The War in Words will be an invaluable source for scholars in many different fields."—Linda M. Clemmons, South Dakota History

"The War in Words is a well-researched and carefully constructed analysis of the historical and literary records produced following the controversial and chilling conclusion of the Dakota War."—Theresa L. Gregor, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"Drawing on an exhaustive list of printed histories, personal narratives, contemporary perspectives, oral histories, and even fiction, Derounian-Stodola in The War in Words has written a compelling, thorough, and admirably inclusive history of the Dakota conflict."—Journal of American Ethnic History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


List of Narratives and Their Chronological Contexts


Historical Perspectives on the Dakota War


Part 1. European Americans Narrating Captivity


1. Martha Riggs Morris and Sarah Wakefield: Captivity and Protest

2. Harriet Bishop McConkey and Isaac Heard: Captivity and Early Dakota War Histories

3. Edward S. Ellis: Captivity and the Dime Novel Tradition

4. Mary Schwandt Schmidt and Jacob Nix: Captivity and German Americans

5. Jannette DeCamp Sweet, Helen Carrothers Tarble, Lillian Everett Keeney, and Urania White: Captivity and the Antiquarian Impulse

6. Benedict Juni: Captivity and the Boy's Adventure Story


Part 2. Native Americans Narrating Captivity


7. Samuel J. Brown and Joseph Godfrey: Captivity and Credit

8. Paul Mazakutemani: Captivity and Spiritual Autobiography

9. Cecelia Campbell Stay and Nancy McClure Faribault Huggan: Captivity and Bicultural Women's Identity

10. Big Eagle, Lorenzo Lawrence, and Maggie Brass: Captivity and Cultural Stereotypes

11. Good Star Woman: Captivity and Ethnography

12. Esther Wakeman and Joseph Coursolle: Captivity and Oral History

13. Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve: Captivity and Counter Captivity


Conclusion: Captive to the Past? The Legacy of the Dakota War


Works Cited


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