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Mni Sota Makoce Wins 2014 Hognander Award

Posted byAlison Aten on 07 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: Authors, Awards, MHS Author in the News, MHS press, Native American

Gwen Westerman and Bruce White (courtsey of The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library)

Photo credit: Laura Truett, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library

We are delighted to announce that Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White is the winner of the 2014 Hognander Minnesota History Award.

The Hognander Minnesota History Award recognizes the most outstanding scholarly work related to Minnesota history published during the preceding two years. The award, funded by the Hognander Family Foundation, is presented every two years.

This award stems from the Hognander family’s belief in the importance of studying and preserving history. As Joe Hognander notes, “We established this award because of our relationship with the Minnesota Historical Society. Its commitment to excellence is noteworthy in promoting scholarly research and writing. We hope this award will inspire more activity by recognizing and rewarding the finest work in the field.”

Much of the focus on the Dakota people in Minnesota rests on the tragic events of the 1862 U.S.–Dakota War and the resulting exile that sent the majority of the Dakota to prisons and reservations beyond the state’s boundaries. But the true depth of the devastation of removal cannot be understood without a closer examination of the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota. Drawing on oral history interviews, archival work, and painstaking comparisons of Dakota, French, and English sources, Mni Sota Makoce tells the detailed history of the Dakota people in their traditional homelands for at least hundreds of years prior to exile.

Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2012, the book went on to win the 2013 Minnesota Book Award in the Minnesota category last year.

Westerman and White will be honored for their latest achievement at the upcoming Book Awards Gala on April 5 at the Saint Paul Union Depot. Gwen Westerman is professor of English and Humanities at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Bruce White is author of We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People.

“Little War on the Prairie” episode of This American Life

Posted byAlison Aten on 20 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: MHS Author in the News, Native American

Mni Sota Makoce Gwen Westerman, photo by John RatzloffThis year marks 150 years since the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, a war that changed Minnesota forever. The chain of events leading up to the war, and its terrible aftermath, are central to the story of Minnesota, producing historical traumas that still echo in those living today.

On Friday, November 23, This American Life, the popular radio program hosted by Ira Glass and distributed by Public Radio International, will broadcast an episode examining the war that resulted in the forced exile of the Dakota people and the hanging of thirty-eight Dakota men.

The program’s website notes:

“Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.”

Gwen Westerman, a Dakota scholar and artist, is one of the people interviewed for this episode. She is the co-author of the book Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota with Bruce White. The book examines the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota — and is a celebration of the Dakota in the past, present, and future.

Mankato Free Press article about the episode.

Original Short E-book: Minnesota Voter ID and the National Debate

Posted byAlison Aten on 22 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: Interview, MHS Author in the News

Jim RagsdaleMinnesota Voter ID and the National DebateMinnesota Voter ID and the National Debate: What You Need to Know is a new original e-book short by veteran reporter Jim Ragsdale. The book is available for $0.99 from most popular e-book vendors, including,,, and iTunes.

Our post today is from author Jim Ragsdale:

In rushing from event to event covering the photo ID issue in Minnesota for the Star Tribune, it is hard to find time to put what’s happening into a national and historical context. I tried to do so in this piece, and to direct readers to court cases and books that do that far better than I.

The experience helped me understand why making any change in our voting system is so difficult.

This most basic right (and rite) of citizenship is how “We the People” choose our leaders. But the meaning of those words in the preamble to the Constitution has divided us since the days of George Washington. The framers fought over who should vote. The Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, the draft and the Vietnam War — all enlarged the meaning of who “We the People” are, and who can vote. Seven amendments to the Constitution have been needed to expand and clarify voting rights and election procedures. Nearly a century passed between the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870, which protected voting rights of black men who had been enslaved, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was needed to end Jim Crow laws in the South and enforce the Fifteenth Amendment.

So the photo ID movement sweeping the country, despite its common-sense appeal in a society where IDs are required in virtually every transaction, runs headlong into this history. And it is not ancient history. In my lifetime, people have fought and died on our soil for the right to vote.

I hope readers can begin to see this historical and national context as they watch the ID drama unfold.

Jim Ragsdale on Twitter: @jwrags

Twitter handle for the book: #minnvoterid

Anton Treuer and the Real Story of Thanksgiving

Posted byMary Poggione on 11 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, History, Interview, MHS Author in the News, Native American, Videos

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to AskAnton Treuer, author of Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, was on NPR’s Tell Me More earlier this week, discussing the real story of Christopher Columbus.

I think there’s a growing awareness that Columbus didn’t discover America–that the place was densely inhabited by other human beings. But certainly the Columbus experience would change the entire world. But in spite of the fact that Christopher Columbus wrote lots of letters and kept many journals, and by his second voyage there were many official scribes, army officers, priests, writing about the experience, over 500 years later this piece of history gets sugarcoated a lot.

And you know, we now know as a fact of history that on Columbus’s second voyage, the Spanish instituted a gold dust tribute, whereby those who failed to bring a certain quantity of gold dust would have their hands chopped off. And we know for a fact of history that the Spanish cut the hands off of 30,000 people that year on the island of Hispaniola–what’s now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“And we know that within thirty years, the two million people that the Spanish estimated to be inhabiting that island before contact were completely annihilated. And that is a textbook definition of genocide. And we have so successfully sugarcoated the history that we have obfuscated some of the most important parts of that story.”

Check out Anton Treuer’s answer to “What is the real story of Thanksgiving?” from the book Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.

Treuer’s recent in-depth television interview on C-Span’s Afterwords is also now available.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Short Story Published in the New Yorker

Posted bylucia.randle on 14 Aug 2012 | Tagged as: Authors, MHS Author in the News, Uncategorized

phpVMQ1pEAround 1936, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the St. Paul-born author who wrote the American classic The Great Gatsby, penned a short piece called “Thank You for the Light,” which was rejected by editors at the time. The story is about a woman who steps into a Catholic church for a smoke break and, after she lights up, goes through a miraculous experience. Deemed a little strange by some readers, it may have been intended as part of a larger project. The story was finally accepted by the New Yorker when Fitzgerald’s grandchildren resubmitted it recently and is included in the August 6 issue.

Fitzgerald’s Minnesota connection is well documented here: see A Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s St. Paul and The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, for example. As for his more famous work, keep an eye out for The Great Gatsby film, set for release next summer.

Dr. Anton Treuer to Appear on C-SPAN Book TV’s After Words

Posted byAlison Aten on 17 Jul 2012 | Tagged as: Authors, History, MHS Author in the News, Native American

Anton Treuer Anton Treuer, author of Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask is off to Washington DC next week to record an episode on C-SPAN BOOK TV’s After Words program. Book TV’s signature program, After Words, is an interview program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policy makers, legislators, and others familiar with their material.

Dr. Treuer will be talking with Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of National Congress of American Indians. Stay tuned for updates on broadcast dates.

Click here to find the answers to the following questions from Anton Treuer’s book:

What is the future of Indian gaming?

Are all Indians rich from casinos?

How has casino gambling affected Indian communities?

What are naming ceremonies?

Why do Indians have long hair?

Should Leonard Peltier be freed?

Can white people dance at powwows?

St. Paul Gangster Haunts on Travel Channel

Posted byAlison Aten on 08 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, History, MHS Author in the News, MHS press, True Crime, Videos

Today’s post is by Paul Maccabee, author of John Dillinger Slept Here, which inspired a recent episode of Off Limits on the Travel Channel.

Paul Maccabee and Travel Channel TV host Don Wildman

Explorer and history buff Don Wildman had braved an underground Titan II nuclear missile silo in Arizona, prison cells inside San Quentin, and a former Nazi military compound for his Off Limits TV show on the Travel Channel. But would Wildman survive a visit to the St. Paul gangster haunts frequented by such Public Enemies as John Dillinger, Alvin “Creepy’ Karpis, and Babyface Nelson?

As the author of the MHS Press book John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, I got to serve as Wildman’s on-camera guide to the Minnesota underworld for a segment that was shot in July and began airing on November 17.

Easily our grisliest adventure was filmed in the basement of the downtown St. Paul Police Department.  The TV crew secured a rare view of the bullet hole-filled hat last worn by John Dillinger’s machine-gunner Homer Van Meter–a hat autographed by the four police officers who shot Homer to death on August 23, 1934, just outside the Minnesota State Capital off University Avenue. Van Meter’s hat, which had vanished and was missing for more than three decades, was rediscovered in time for display during the show. Members of the St. Paul Police Historical Society also unearthed artifacts from the 1928 gangland assassination of St. Paul’s Irish Godfather Danny Hogan, who had guided the underworld from his Green Lantern bar. Wildman was enchanted by these artifacts from St. Paul’s dark past, perhaps most by the bullet holes, blood, and cerebral matter that were still visible inside Van Meter’s unlucky straw hat.  Here’s an outtake from that creepy moment.

Appropriately, the Travel Channel’s TV crew lunched at Cosetta’s on West 7th Street, where I regaled them with tales of Minnesota mobster Rocky Lupino and other homegrown Mafioso over bites of ravioli and meatballs.

Then, Wildman toured the courtrooms of the Old Federal Courts Building (now Landmark Center), where members of the Dillinger and Barker-Karpis Gang were tried for kidnapping and other federal crimes. We retraced the steps of Dillinger’s comely girlfriend, Evelyn “Billie” Frechette, who attempted to escape from federal authorities on the third floor, and slipped inside the detention room where FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had chained Alvin “Creepy” Karpis before dragging him into court.  But Off Limits is dedicated to bringing its camera to places where the public cannot go, so we also climbed to Landmark Center’s guano-spattered roof for a panoramic view that included the 1920s Bucket of Blood brothel area once presided over by madame Nina Clifford (now the site of the Science Museum), landmarks associated with the 1933-34 kidnappings of millionaires Ed Bremer and William Hamm, the gangland caves along the Mississippi River where bootleggers kept their illicit liquor, and hotels that were frequented by mobsters Bugsy Seigel and Al Capone. Catch it on reruns, or pick up a copy of John Dillinger Slept Here and take your own personal gangland tour.

–Follow Paul Maccabee @maccabeepr

Lost Twin Cities III

Posted byAlison Aten on 06 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: Arts, History, MHS Author in the News, Videos

Today’s blog post is by Dave Kenney, author of several books, including Twin Cities Picture Show. Find out more about his current obsession at MN70s.

Cooper TheaterEarlier this year, I got a call from Emily Goldberg, a producer at TPT (Twin Cities Public Television). She was putting together a new edition of the network’s popular “Lost Twin Cities” documentary series (based on the book by Larry Millett) and was wondering whether I’d like to be one of the show’s talking heads. She wanted me to talk about two movie theaters—the Cooper in St. Louis Park and the Terrace in Robbinsdale—that I described in Twin Cities Picture Show. She knew perfectly well that authors almost always jump at the chance to drone on about the subjects of their books. I magnanimously agreed to help her out.

Emily had chosen two of my favorite theaters.

The Cooper was one of the first showhouses built specifically to screen Cinerama movies. Located near what is now the intersection of I-394 and Highway 100, it looked from the outside like a huge, orange oil storage tank. Inside, it was all 1960s swank with walnut paneling, black brick, burnt orange furnishings, and blue acoustic ceiling tiles. It was demolished in 1992.

The Terrace was a true gem, one of the finest examples of what became known as ultra-modern theater design. Opened in 1951, it featured a sunken “country club” lounge, a refreshment bar, a television room, and a soundproof nursery where baby boom parents could hide with their crying children. It remained one of the Twin Cities’ classiest movie theaters until the 1980s, when its big auditorium was carved up into three smaller theaters. It showed its last movie in 1999.

We did the shoot for the Terrace segment outside the theater itself—which survives today in depressingly boarded-up fashion. Since the Cooper no longer exists, we needed a stand-in location that somehow evoked its midcentury aura. Emily settled on the Riverview Theater in South Minneapolis, an inspired choice.

Emily encouraged me to talk in personal terms about the two theaters, but there was only so much I could say. I remember going to only one movie, the original This is Cinerama, at the Cooper, and my memory of that experience has faded considerably over time. I’m sure I saw at least one film at the Terrace (I remember a theater with tons of big picture windows, and the Terrace is the only one in the Twin Cities that matches my recollection), but beyond that my mind is a blank. Most of my “memories” of the Cooper and Terrace are bits and pieces of the past that I’ve gleaned from the surviving historical record. I guess they will have to do.

I haven’t seen “Lost Twin Cities III” yet. I’ll be watching with everyone else when it debuts Wednesday (December 7) at 7 p.m. One thing I do know, though: the likelihood that I’ll look stupid on the air is now considerably less than I thought it would be. Emily had to excise the Terrace segment due to time constraints. Only the Cooper segment made the final cut. I apparently will have to wait for “Lost Twin Cities IV” to find out what I said about that old boarded-up theater in Robbinsdale.

Dave Kenney is the author of several books including Twin Cities Album, Minnesota Goes to War, and Honor Bright: A Century of Scouting in Northern Star Council. He is currently working on a book on the history of 1970s Minnesota with Thomas Saylor. Follow him @MN70s, on Facebook, and on tumblr.

Photograph, showing a promotional prop for the local premiere of Airport in 1970, from the Star Tribune collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

North Star Cocktails

Posted byAlison Aten on 08 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, Cooking, Event, Interview, MHS Author in the News, MHS press, Videos

North Star CocktailsJohnny MichaelsRecognized as one of the Twin Cities’ best drink makers, Johnny Michaels is the cocktail connoisseur’s answer to a gourmet chef. His home base is the James Beard award–winning La Belle Vie, but he’s designed the cocktail menus for several of its sister restaurants and other top metro eateries. Together with premiere bartenders such as Pip Hanson, Nick Kosevich, Jesse Held, Thea Sheffert, and others in the North Star Bartenders’ Guild, Michaels shares nearly 200 original, crafted cocktail recipes utilizing fresh fruits and vegetables, tips on barkeep techniques and tools, and guides to artisanal liquors and bitters.

Join us Thursday evening at the Mill City Museum to sample craft cocktails and meet Johnny Michaels and members of the North Star Bartenders’ Guild to celebrate the publication of North Star Cocktails.  Johnny Michaels and five other members of the guild will be on hand to mix their cocktail recipes featured in the book. Participants will receive a voucher for three half-size cocktails with paid admission and can purchase vouchers for additional cocktails. Pip Hanson of Marvel Bar will conduct a demonstration of hand ice chipping. Nick Kosevich of Bittercube will deliver a tutorial on the art of handcrafting artisanal bitters. (See today’s feature on The Heavy Table for more on Bittercube.) Dean Phillips will have a memorabilia display highlighting the history of Phillips Distilling Company and its deep Minnesota roots. Complimentary light hors d’oeuvres will be served. North Star Bartenders’ Guild members will sign copies of the book, which will be for sale in the museum store. All author royalties earned from the sale of the book will be donated to SPCA International, an organization committed to advancing the safety and well-being of animals.

For more insider tips, check out the School of Drinks series with MplsStPaul magazine.

Janet D. Spector (1944–2011), In Memoriam

Posted byPamela McClanahan on 07 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, History, MHS Author in the News, MHS press, Native American

Dr. Janet D. Spector, professor emerita and former assistant provost at the University of Minnesota, and groundbreaking scholar of gender studies and American archaeology, died September 13 at her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after a long struggle with a recurrence of breast cancer. She was 66.

Dr. Janet Spector

Dr. Janet Spector

“Janet Spector began her 25-year career at the University of Minnesota in 1973, a tumultuous time in academia. History, sociology and other disciplines were cracking open their doors to women’s long-left-out perspectives, and female scholars were standing up for their work against considerable pushback.

“With a fine blend of energetic curiosity, intellectual firepower and personal charm, Spector not only contributed significantly to the field of American archaeology, but also helped pave the way for other female scholars, according to colleagues and friends.” (Excerpted from the Star Tribune obituary, accessed online October 2, 2011, “Prof. Janet Spector, pioneering scholar at U,” by Pamela Miller,

Curator Marcia Anderson reflects on Dr. Spector’s pioneering work for 10,000 Books:

“I last heard the voice of Professor Janet Spector at a session of the 2008 Berkshire Conference for Women in the Twin Cities. She spoke about the awl featured on the cover of her 1993 book, What this Awl Means: Feminist Archaeology at a Wahpeton Dakota Village (Minnesota Historical Society Press). Spector described the object as evocative. It is a handsome object, but what made it evocative for her was that it was a common tool that was both decorated and well used. To anyone who works with material culture those two qualities tell us why objects have so much meaning for humans–and why individuals save and museums preserve them.

“One of Spector’s greatest contributions to the field of archaeology is her pioneering work in the development of a task differentiation model. This model makes it possible to distinguish gender and to document the activities and lives of women through materials, such as the awl, recovered during archaeological excavations. “Evocative” is an excellent descriptor but I also think the awl could be described as iconic. Iconic because it has come to symbolize an opened floodgate for so many people-people hungry for the voices and stories of women, as well as men, in our global past.”

(Marcia G. Anderson is an independent curator and is writing a book on Ojibwe bandolier bags.)  For further perspecitve on Dr. Spector’s work and life, please see the obituary by Barbara Noble, published by the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts, here.

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