Current Research

“In Our Own Rightful Territory”: Dakota Mobility, Diplomacy, and Belonging in Mni Sota Makoce after the US-Dakota War

In the years following the US-Dakota War (1862), Minnesotan settlers, militiamen, and the US Army pushed Dakota people (Mdewakanton, Sisseton, Wahpeton, and Wahpekute) west and north from their Minnesota homelands. Throughout this diaspora Dakota people instilled and reinforced a broader assertion of their homelands, Mni Sota Makoce, which stretched across the Great Plains in well into the Canadian prairies. Whereas many histories cast the US-Dakota War as the demise of Dakota people in Minnesota, a spatial approach towards their diasporic movement offers another view of their survival and resistance. Indeed, many Dakota people who fled were chased by the US Army, forced into prison camps like Fort Snelling, or confined onto reservations like Crow Creek. Others found safety by crossing the US-Canadian border, a fluid but hardening boundary that separated US and Canadian jurisdictions since its creation from the 1783 Treaty of Paris and reestablishment through the 1846 Oregon Treaty. Within a larger historical context of settler nations seeking to confine all Indigenous peoples, Dakota people in diaspora used mobility across their extended homelands to spark a transnational confrontation over their communal rights and sovereignty.

This dissertation approaches mobility as an analytical lens to better encapsulate the tumultuous decades that followed the US-Dakota War. Whereas many scholars approach efforts to confine Dakota people as guaranteed, “In Our Own Rightful Territory” instead focuses on the strategic movement of Dakota people across the US-Canadian borderlands to show how Dakota people strategically played the settler nations off one another. For the Dakota people who rebuilt their lives and communities across the border in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, they sustained an ongoing political relationship with the British and Canadian governments despite being characterized as “refugee” or “foreign” Indians. Additionally, these communities further participated in the social, political, and economic livelihood of the surrounding Indigenous and settler-colonial nations. While Dakota people now live on reserves in Canada, the period after the US-Dakota War lays a critical foundation for examining Dakota visibility and how they asserted rights to home, belonging, and the making of Dakota futures in Mni Sota Makoce.

"Searching for Indigeneity in The Oregon Trail"

This project explores the Indigenous histories paved over by the Oregon Trail in the hit computer program developed in 1971 and redeveloped in 1985. As part of the edited collection, Playing at War: Identity & Memory in American Civil War Video Games (LSU Press), my chapter uses the designers strategies to be “historical accurate” in developing The Oregon Trail as a means to emphasize the unintentional or intentional erasure of Indigenous histories in the beloved computer game. I argue that settler colonialism plays a pivotal role in our perception of the American West, the Oregon Trail, and the computer game that depicted the journey of white settlers west in the nineteenth century, infrequently encountering Indigenous people and their cultures along the way. Games like When Rivers Were Trails, as I describe in the chapter, provide a corrective to the settler colonial erasures to show Indigenous survivance and experiences, not only in the game but also its developmental process all together. 

Punishing Little Six and Medicine Bottle:

How U.S. Political Violence Shaped the Long U.S.-Dakota War, 1862-1865

I am preparing an article manuscript that explores the persistent efforts of the U.S. government to punish Minnesota Dakota after the U.S.-Dakota War. Most scholars see the Dakota War as a brief conflict lasting only six weeks during the late summer of 1862 in Minnesota. Additionally, they see the war ending with the largest mass execution in U.S. history when the Army hanged thirty-eight Dakota on December 26, 1862. This paper, however, explores the 1864-1865 episode of Little Six and Medicine Bottle’s abduction from British Canada, their military trials, and formal execution as a way to expand the geographic and chronological scope of the Dakota War. Often overlooked and under-appreciated, this paper focuses on the military trials to show how the Army used legal military proceedings to justify extreme punishment of the Dakota fugitives. This commission relied on shoddy evidence to support murder and other depredation charges in these trials. At the same time, the commission ignored the U.S. Army’s illegal abduction of the Dakota chiefs from sovereign British territory. The Little Six and Medicine Bottle affair connects with other military tribunals that punished the Dakota after the Dakota War. I coin the “Long U.S.-Dakota War” framework to show how Little Six and Medicine Bottle’s dramatic story was more than an anomaly but part of a persisting effort to punish and criminalize Dakota people.

The Myth and Memory of Chief Tamanend at Gettysburg

I am working on a book chapter for the volume, The Keystone for the Union: New Perspectives on the Civil War Era In Pennsylvania, edited by E. J. Murphy. My chapter explores the 42nd New York Infantry Monument on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg National Military Park. This monument depicts the Lenni-Lenape Chief Tammany, a seventeenth-century Native leader who inspired the Tammany Hall political institution In New York City. I explore how this monument came to be and why it's significant for understanding the commemorative landscape at Gettysburg. Generally, visitors learn very little about Chief Tammany other than his story, which was used and reappropriated by white Americans during the nineteenth century. I use the concept of settler colonialism to frame the lack of contextualization at the park and how we can move forward to build a better collaboration with the Lenape Nation and to offer more historical context for visitors to learn about the monument beyond the appropriation of Tammany's Image.