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The Book Launch Party

July 4, 2012

On June 29, 2012, the Pond Dakota Heritage Society hosted a launch party for A Thrilling Narrative at the historic Gideon Pond House in Bloomington. It was a lovely day in every way.

Many old friends came to help us celebrate and I was surprised by the number of people I’ve never met before who were drawn by the premise that Dakota and non-Dakota scholars collaborate.

Surprised because I realized how quickly I’ve come to take it for granted. From the first days of the project, I felt deeply that it was the right approach. So in retrospect, it seems natural that it worked out this way.

But I only have to go back two years ago this month to remember myself, a bundle of nerves holding an apple pie, standing on Gwen and Glenn’s front porch, wondering what I would say and praying (literally) I wouldn’t saying anything offensive. Two years ago, I could not imagine taking the book to print without their help. But I also did not assume that they would feel led to work with me.

They did ūüôā ! And because they did, I think we can come much closer to understanding John and Mary Butler Renville’s story. The point of the launch party was to celebrate that. Here are some photos.

This dear man in Alan Woolworth, one of my mentors, who is about to celebrate his 88th birthday. Alan has a sense of humor and proudly wore one of his “Nebraska” caps to the party because he did his undergraduate work at the University of Nebraska, whose Press, in 2012, published the new edition of¬†A Thrilling Narrative. The book is dedicated to Alan, whose committment to discovering and sharing the raw materials of history¬†under-girds¬†almost everything being written about 19th century Minnesota history today.

My friend Zabelle is about to retire (early!) from her career teaching and writing American Literature at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. She gave an overview of the book project, which had its roots in our collaboration on her book, The War in Words: Reading the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 through the Captivity Literature.

As my girls will testify, Zabelle is also a wonderful house-guest and they can’t wait until she comes back in August for the New Ulm Symposium!

“All roads lead to Gwen and Glenn!” someone remarked at this table. This year I think their unassuming ¬†cover has been blown :). Gwen is Professor of English and Director of Humanities at Minnesota State University, Mankato and tells a great story about her father’s reaction when she told him she’d been offered a job there. The story starts with, “You know what they do to Dakota people in Mankato, don’t you?”

If you are fortunate to hear Gwen in person, you may get to hear the rest :). Gwen is a wonderful storyteller who works in media ranging from fiber-art to poetry. Besides writing the foreword to A Thrilling Narrative, 2012 will see the release  of her book with Bruce White, Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota (Minnesota Historical Society Press, September 1).

Glenn grew up in Sioux Valley, Manitoba, where he learned Dakota as his first language. Today he is a humble elder, teacher, and first-speaker leader ¬†in the Dakota language revitalization movement ¬†–stewardship of the Dakota language to ensure that it maintains its vitality and its centrality to communicating the Dakota way of life as it is transmitted to future generations.

Glenn read aloud one of John B. Renville’s letters in Dakota from the book and Gwen read the English translation. It was so good to hear John’s thoughts in his heart language.

The girls and their cousins camped out at the back with my husband and sister–close to the lemonade and their great-grandma’s cookies :).

My favorite part of the afternoon was talking to people who’ve begun reading the book. It is good to hear that people are reading it in the spirit I wrote it and are understanding the Dakota War story in new ways.

This week, we are in the middle of Korean Culture Camp and I am writing a talk that has been on my heart for years. This coming Sunday afternoon, at Lac qui Parle, the theology and history I love will come together in a presentation I may never be asked to repeat. But it means very much to me. In the place John was born, in the little reconstructed Presbyterian chapel where he worshiped as a young man, I will be sharing how the doctrine of the sovereignty of God shaped his life and ministry.

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