John R. Legg

Historian of Native America, the American Civil War Era, and Digital Humanities

Dakota Sioux Breaking Camp by Alfred Sully, Sully Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale University

About Me

I'm John R. Legg, Ph.D. Candidate in history at George Mason University. My research focuses on the history of Native America, borderlands studies, refugee studies, spatial history, and digital humanities. I am specifically interested in the history and memory of the U.S.-Dakota War. I am currently writing my dissertation, titled "Lands of Refuge: Dakota Diplomacy and Belonging in the Canadian Northwest, 1851-1890," which explores how the Dakota from Minnesota use movement and diplomacy to circumvent U.S. policies of genocide, confinement, and authority after Minnesota's U.S.-Dakota War. This project demonstrates how Dakota understandings of their homeland, Mni Sota Makoce, an expansive geographic space stretching from Minnesota, to the Dakotas, into Iowa and Nebraska, and north into Manitoba and Saskatchewan, allowed these groups to challenge colonial authority by using borders as strategic tools for kinship, trade, warfare, refugeedom, and survival. I plan to defend in May 2024. 

My work has been generously funded by the American Philosophical Society, the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and George Mason University's Department of History and the Office of the Provost. I've also received recognition by the Western History Association, the American Society for Ethnohistory, the Northern Great Plains History Conference, and the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, VA. For a full list of my academic accomplishments, please visit my CV above. 

I currently reside in Galesburg, Illinois with my fiancé, Jen, who is the amazing inaugural Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Knox College. I am also an active wedding and portrait photographer (see portfolio here). 

John posed along the Bloody Lane at Antietam. Photo by Jen Andrella.