Dakota War Whoop Or, Indian Massacres and War in Minnesota, by Harriet Bishop
This book is one of a couple of books that I have read about the Dakota War, and it must be admitted that this is not the book I prefer of the two. That is not to say that this is a bad book. It certainly has its charms, if you are fond of the melodramatic style of the middle of the 1860’s. On the plus side, even for a reader who is less fond of melodrama than I am of most styles, there was still much about this book that could still be enjoyed. For example, the volume includes a great deal of interview information, which indicates that the author either has a really good imagination or had access to first-person sources of information, or some combination of the two. And it is that primary documentary that makes this book worthwhile as a history source for the reader who is able to appreciate or at least tolerate the book’s style. And admittedly this book is written in a fashion that focuses attention on what the author considers to be the most shocking elements, and this book certainly has some elements in common with contemporary journalism, if you’re into that.
It should be noted that this book, at a bit more than 400 pages, is an accurately titled description of its content. The author, for example, focuses a great deal on the militarism of the Sioux. In particular, the author focuses on the atrocities that were committed by various Sioux, and in light of those atrocities it is striking that only 38 of them were put to death for it. Far from being a sign of bloodlust on the part of surviving people in Minnesota, it does appear as if justice was done and that people died who deserved to die. This might be a more popular opinion in the middle of the 19th century than it is today but it is certainly my own personal opinion. In addition to that, the author is interested in the war, but more attention is paid to the drama of children escaping being scalped or women and girls being raped. This is not pleasant business, but the fact that the Sioux feel somewhat put out about the way that 38 murderers and rapists were put to death justly in contemporary times gives some idea of why this war needs to be better taught, at least in the context of wars.