Murdering Indians

A Documentary History of the 1897 Killings That Inspired Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves


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About the Book

In February of 1897 a family of six—four generations, including twin infant sons and their aged great-grandmother—was brutally murdered in rural North Dakota. The weapons used were a shotgun, an axe, a pitchfork, a spade, and a club. Several Dakota Indians from the nearby Standing Rock reservation were arrested, and one was tried, pronounced guilty and sentenced to be hanged. The conviction was reversed by the state supreme court, which ordered a new trial. Only a week later, however, a mob of thirty angry men broke into the county jail in the middle of the night, dragged three of the five accused Indians out, and hanged them from a butcher’s windlass.
These events were fodder for hundreds of newspaper articles, letters, and legal documents. Many of those documents, including the transcript of the trial convicting one of the Indians and the statement by the state supreme court reversing the conviction, are collected in this work, and, with the author’s commentary, tell a disturbing tale of racism and revenge in the pioneer West, one that provided the basic story line for Ojibwe novelist Louise Erdrich’s acclaimed novel The Plague of Doves.

About the Author(s)

Peter G. Beidler, a professor emeritus at Lehigh University, has published widely on British and American life and literature. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Bibliographic Details

Peter G. Beidler
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: 10 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7564-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1427-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface: Six Murders, Then Three More 1

Author’s Notes 7

 1. Despair 9

 2. Murder 33

 3. Whiskey 45

 4. Confessions 55

 5. Trial 89

 6. Reversal 154

 7. Lynching 162

 8. Recollections 197

 9. Healing 217

10. Epilogue 232

Key Dates and People 235

Questions for Discussion 239

Index 243