Story of Dakota Origins, Imprisonment, and Exile: A Work-in-Progress

By John Hunt Peacock.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper excerpts and discusses my “Story of Dakota Origins, Imprisonment, and Exile,” a work-in-progress written mostly in English but with some words from the endangered Dakota language. This work of historical fiction is based partly on my re-telling of the Dakota origin story and partly on historic letters dictated in Dakota to missionary Stephen Riggs by my ancestor Wakanhditopa (Four Lightning). He was writing on behalf of thirty-eight fellow Dakota War prisoners condemned in 1862 to be hung in what is still the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Four Lightning's letters were translated by contemporary Sisseton-Wahpeton tribal elders Mike Simon, Clifford Canku, and the late Bill Iron Moccasin. Besides containing parts of my work-in-progress, this paper discusses its reparative nature, how I came to write it, and some questions its hybridity raises about the relation between indigenous oral tradition and contemporary historical fiction.

Keywords: Dakota Language, 1862 Dakota War, Historic Letters, Translation

The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 1, Issue 6, pp.161-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.697MB).

Dr. John Hunt Peacock

Professor, Department of Language, Literature, and Culture, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland (MD), USA

John Peacock (Spirit Lake Dakota), Harvard B.A., Columbia Ph.D., is Professor of Language, Literature, and Culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He is a former Wesleyan University Mellon Fellow, University of Antwerp Fulbright Lecturer, and grantee of the American Philosophical Society and the Montgomery Council Maryland Arts and Humanities Council. He wrote the Native American outreach section for a Lila Wallace Community Arts Partnership grant for the Maryland Institute College of Art. He co-authored a Bush Foundation Planning Grant for his Sprit Lake Tribe and co-authored the Modern Language Association's Statement on Native American Languages in the College and University Curriculum ( At the 2005 World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education, his essay on digital language revitalization won a prize of $50,000 of video conferencing equipment for his Spirit Lake Tribe. His writing in English and the Dakota language has been exhibited at the Minnesota History Center and published in "American Indian Quarterly" and in "Studies in American Indian Literatures."


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