A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity


A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity

Dispatches from the Dakota War

Mary Butler Renville
Edited by Carrie Reber Zeman and Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola
Foreword by Gwen N. Westerman

408 pages
14 illustrations, 4 maps, 2 appendixes


June 2012


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eBook (PDF)
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June 2012


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

This edition of A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity rescues from obscurity a crucially important work about the bitterly contested U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Written by Mary Butler Renville, an Anglo woman, with the assistance of her Dakota husband, John Baptiste Renville, A Thrilling Narrative was printed only once as a book in 1863 and has not been republished since. The work details the Renvilles’ experiences as “captives” among their Dakota kin in the Upper Camp and chronicles the story of the Dakota Peace Party. Their sympathetic portrayal of those who opposed the war in 1862 combats the stereotypical view that most Dakotas supported it and illumines the injustice of their exile from Dakota homelands. From the authors’ unique perspective as an interracial couple, they paint a complex picture of race, gender, and class relations on successive midwestern frontiers.
As the state of Minnesota commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Dakota War, this narrative provides fresh insights into the most controversial event in the region’s history. This annotated edition includes groundbreaking historical and literary contexts for the text and a first-time collection of extant Dakota correspondence with authorities during the war.

Author Bio

Mary Butler Renville (1830–1895) and John Baptiste Renville (1831–1903) dedicated their lives to education and mission work among the Dakotas. Carrie Reber Zeman is an independent historian specializing in the context and historiography of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola is a professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the author of The War in Words: Reading the Dakota Conflict through the Captivity Literature (Nebraska, 2009). Dakota scholar Gwen N. Westerman is a professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and director of the annual Native American Literature Symposium.


“[The editors] have provided splendid introductions and meticulous and helpful annotations that allow readers to appreciate the importance of this account. Zeman’s historical introduction is a scholarly tour de force that reflects an impressive knowledge of the relevant sources and also a good sense of what is significant. . . . It is a complex story that is here well told and convincing. . . . It is an outstanding work.”—Professor Raymond DeMallie, editor of The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk’s Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt

“This is an impressive and extremely important contribution to our understanding of the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War. . . . Mary Renville’s account, enriched by her husband John’s presence at a number of council meetings, offers a perspective that qualitatively differs from other captivity narratives.”—Professor Mary Wingerd, author of North Country: The Making of Minnesota

"Anyone looking to further their understanding of the culture and trials of this turbulent time in America's history can't do better than this excellent book."—Monsters and Critics

"[A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity is] an exemplary contribution to the literature of the Dakota War, a model of academic inquiry and deep understanding grounded in primary sources."—Scott W. Berg, Minnesota's Heritage

[A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity] is an essential primary and secondary source for historians interested in the years leading up to, and through, the Dakota War of 1862. Literary critics specializing in captivity narratives will also find much of value in the reprint of this obscure text."—Linda Clemmons, South Dakota History

"This fascinating edition should help scholars to better understand the complexities of race, gender, and compassion through the voices of those who struggled with them in their own lives."—Michael Knock, Annals of Iowa

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
A Note on Editorial Procedure
Pronunciation Guide for Dakota Iapi (Mdewankanton)

Historical Introduction
Literary Introduction
A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity
H. D. Cunningham's Statement

Appendix A: Correspondence between the Dakota Camps and Authorities, September-October 1862
Appendix B: Selected Correspondence of John B. Renville and Mary A. Renville, 1862-1888

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