is a historical fiction novel written by award-winning Minnesota author, Jan Neubert Schultz. This book would be a good choice for those children considered "reluctant readers". Although this is fiction, Jan is historically accurate when writing about this very volatile time in Minnesota's state history (inaccuracies are clearly stated in her Author's Note).
The story is set in 1862 Minnesota during the Dakota Conflict. The plot centers around two fictional teenage boys, Johnny Preuss, who is the son of a white Minnesota farmer and his best friend on the next farm over, Chaska, a mixed blood (half white, half Dakota). Both families are caught up in the horror of the uprising, and the boys struggle to remain friends throughout the conflict.
The Dakota people ceded their land to the U.S. government in exchange for cash and annuities. Their land was opened to white settlement while they were given reservation lands administered by U.S government agencies. Over time, the U. S. Congress changed the terms of the treaties with the Dakota, lessening the annuity and goods amounts, and the Dakota were soon at the mercy of unscrupulous traders and agents. When cash annuities arrived, the agents gave the traders their money "owed" by the Dakota people first; many Dakota were then left penniless and starving.
It was just too much for the Dakota to bear, so the ingredients were in place for all-out hostilities between the starving Dakota and the white settlers. Throughout the story, the boys struggle to help each other and their families survive. Jan does a terrific job of weaving the boys into actual events.
As a result of this bloodbath, President Lincoln ordered the largest mass execution in U.S. history to take place in Mankato, Minnesota. On December 26, 1862, thirty-eight Dakota were hung by the neck till dead on the public square erected specifically for this purpose. Many of the Dakota were innocent and had actually protected the whites, but in the end, it didn't matter - they were hung anyway. If you were an Indian, and you were caught, then you were guilty. Through the help of his friend, Johnny, Chaska was spared the hanging when Johnny was able to prove him innocent of the charges. The friendship bond between these two boys was strong enough to endure all.
A riveting, excellent story that really explains both sides of the issue so that the reader can feel good about understanding the whys and the wherefores of a small part of American history from 145 years ago.