By Rachel M. Anderson, Contributing Writer
(Twin Cities) – Minnesota is known as the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes and its people are said to be “Minnesota Nice,” meaning they are friendly, polite and have a tendency toward understatement. They also tend to have an aversion to confrontation.
But it wasn’t always this way. Are you aware of the not so nice thing that happened to the indigenous people who called the land home before Minnesota became a state? If not, Colin Mustful of Roseville, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul, says you should be; and he’s on a mission to make sure the wrongs of the past are not forgotten.
In his latest novel, Resisting Removal, the author and historian writes about the history of the Ojibwe people of Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota and how they came to be established on the reservations where they live today.
Resisting Removal is a fictional account of the life of Benjamin Green Armstrong, whose memoir, Early Life Among the Indians, was published in 1892. The story begins with Benjamin walking into the office of Thomas Wentworth, a reporter at the A.W. Bowron Press in Ashland, Wisc. Benjamin tells Thomas he has a story to tell he wants distributed throughout the country, then goes on to share intimate details of the harrowing journey he went to in an attempt to right a wrong.
In the process of telling Benjamin’s story, Mustful shares the history of the Ojibwe people, who first settled in the Midwest hundreds of years ago—before European migration—and lived off the land, fishing in the summer, harvesting wild rice in the fall, hunting, trapping and ice fishing in the winter, and tapping maple syrup in the spring.
“They maintained peaceful trading relationships until about 200 years later when the United States decided the time had come to annex the land they called home,” explains Mustful.
According to the treaty the Lake Superior Ojibwe signed in 1842 that sold their lands in Wisconsin, the Ojibwe maintained the right to live upon and use the land for the next 50 to 100 years. Yet, eight years later, that promise was broken.
When the U.S. Government learned of the Ojibwe’s reluctance to give up their land, its agents forced the issue by requiring the Ojibwe to travel 150 miles from their home in La Pointe, Wisc., to Sandy Lake, Minn., to receive their annuities and provision of supplies. The Ojibwe set off on their journey in late Oct. When they arrived, the payment was delayed. The government supplied rations set aside for them spoiled. Hunger and disease set in quickly.
“About 150 Ojibwe died at Sandy Lake. More than 200 more who had decided to turn around and return home died along the way. I didn’t find out about what had happened at Sandy Lake until I was in my 30s, and was surprised by how intentional it was, and that there were no consequences.”
While working on his manuscript, Mustful relied heavily on the notes historian and anthropologist Bruce White had prepared for the Supreme Court in the 1999 case, “Minnesota vs. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians,” in which they were arguing over treaty rights. The ruling went in the Chippewa’s favor.
Resisting Removal is Mustful’s fourth historic novel about Indian affairs. He has also written Ceding Contempt: Minnesota’s Most Significant Historical Event (Apr. 6, 2016), Fate of the Dakota: A Novel and Resource on the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 (Jan. 20, 2016) and Grace at Spirit Lake (Jun. 30, 2014).
“I’ve always had an interest in the genocide of Western indigenous people. My master’s thesis (at Minnesota State University, Mankato), is actually about The Conquest of the Desert, the military defeat and expulsion of the Pampas Indians living throughout the Pampas region of Argentina,” says Mustful, who first began researching and writing about the wrongs suffered by the Natives who settled in North and South America while attending classes at Minnesota State in Mankato.
“I found out about the hanging of 38 Dakota on Dec. 26, 1862, which they say was the largest execution in U.S. history, while in grad school (at Minnesota State University in Mankato) because there’s a statue in Downtown Mankato at Reconciliation Park that commemorates the event,” says Mustful.
Shocked by what he learned, and because he has always had an interest in history, he researched and wrote about the U.S. Dakota War. He also began studying the treaty system. “After learning about what had happened to the Ojibwe I decided it would be interesting to write about them too,” says Mustful.
The early reviews for the book have been very favorable. Historian John Haymond, who has published several books about the U.S. Military says, “Resisting Removal is the account of a nearly-forgotten tragedy of American history. Colin Mustful’s unique approach to historical narrative and thorough research brings to life a story of political intrigue and bitter betrayal in this moving depiction of a people’s desperate struggle to adapt to a changing, hostile world. Resisting Removal is captivating and engaging for all the right reasons; talented historical storytelling at its finest.”
Since the release of his first book in 2013, Mustful has become a sought-after speaker in Minnesota schools. “I’m really impressed by the perspective of young people and their ability to look at history through multiple perspectives,” he says.
More information about Colin Mustful and his books can be found at Historythroughfiction.com.
About the Author
Colin Mustful is a Minnesota author and historian with a unique story-telling style that tells History Through Fiction. His work focuses on Minnesota and surrounding regions during the complex transitional period as land was transferred from Native peoples to American hands. Mustful strives to create compelling stories about the real-life people and events of a tumultuous and forgotten past.
In addition to his newest novel, Resisting Removal: The Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850, Mustful has also authored three authored three novels which tell the story of the people and events surrounding the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. This tragic event resulted in the expulsion of the
Dakota people from beyond the borders of Minnesota as well as the hanging of thirty-eight Dakota in Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862. Utilizing elements of fiction and nonfiction, author Colin Mustful writes a unique cross-genre in order to convey this period of Minnesota history in a manner that is both compelling and educational.
In 2016, Mustful published an electronic textbook titled Confronting Minnesota’s Past: A Resource to Test Your Understanding on the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. Using the research from his novels and blog posts, Mustful has compiled a comprehensive tool on the U.S. – Dakota War and the people, places, and events leading up to that war. Additionally, Mustful has created an online academic course titled, The U.S. – Dakota War of 1862 and published through Udemy.com.
In addition to being a novelist, Mustful has written several historical essays that consider the U.S. – Dakota War as well as other topics. One such essay, The Tobacco Controversy of 1857, was published in the Spring 2008 edition of the Hindsight Graduate History Journal from Fresno State University, California. Mustful has presented his work at several conferences including the Missouri Valley History Conference, the Northern Great Plains History Conference, and the International Conference on the Book. Also, in 2012, Mustful completed an internship in the Teacher and Education Department of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Colin Mustful is a graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he earned his Master of Arts in History (2007). His master’s thesis, The Generation of 1837: Attitudes, Policies, and Actions Toward Indian Populations of Argentina, analyzed the genocide of the Pampas Indians throughout the nineteenth century as influenced and justified through the words and works of a group of political and intellectual elite known as the Generation of 1837. Mustful has continued to study the subjugation and genocide of western indigenous cultures through his research and writings. Two such works include, Unwarranted Expulsion: The Removal of the Winnebago Indians and A Welcome Tragedy: The U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862. In order to improve his ability to convey important historical topics, Mustful is currently studying for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a concentration in Publishing from Augsburg University in Minneapolis.
Mustful lives in Roseville, Minnesota, and works as a Special Education Para and food service employee. Mustful is an avid soccer player as well as a coach and referee. Also, Mustful is a runner who has completed eight marathons and one ultra-marathon. When not writing or working, Mustful enjoys travel adventures such as hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, working a seasonal job at a ski resort in Vermont, living and working at Yellowstone National Park, a Mission’s trip to Panama and Paraguay, and spending a month on a family farm in Andulucía, Spain.
Previous Publications include
• The U.S. - Dakota War of 1862, Online Educational Course, Udemy.com, 2017
• Confronting Minnesota’s Past: A Resource to Test Your Understanding on the U.S. - Dakota War of 1862, Electronic Textbook, Amazon Kindle Direct, 2017
• Ceding Contempt: Minnesota’s Most Significant Historical Event, Historical Novel, Lulu Press, 2016
• Fate of the Dakota: A Novel and Resource on the U.S. - Dakota War of 1862, Historical Novel, Lulu Press, 2016
• Grace at Spirit Lake, Historical Novel, Lulu Press, 2014
• The Tobacco Controversy of 1857, Scholarly Essay, Hindsight Graduate History Journal, 2008
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