This fundraiser is currently seeking sponsors before going live to the public.
What I'm Asking For
I am inviting readers and community members like you, to contribute to an Indigenous Writers Grant. I would like your help, and your support, to raise $10,000 (additional $500 for transaction fees) for one Indigenous writer to pursue their own form of historical storytelling.
Continue reading below to learn more about who I am, and why I am starting this important grant.
My name is Colin Mustful, and I am a Minnesota-based independent author and historian. My work includes four self-published novels related to the complex, often tragic, transitional period of Minnesota history when Native lands were transferred to American hands. My newest novel, Reclaiming Mni Sota, is an alternative history of the The U.S. - Dakota War of 1862 in which the Dakota and Ojibwe people join forces to defeat the U.S. army and exile the white population, making Minnesota into Mni Sota Makoce, a Native-held and governed land. The intention of the novel is to illuminate the wrongs done to Native peoples by having those same wrongs done to the white settler population. It’s meant to engender empathy.
What I've Learned
While writing about this history, I have learned about the legacy of both marginalization and privilege that has allowed me to live in comfort, earn an education, and convey this history to others. Unfortunately, in doing so, I’m at risk of perpetuating a tradition of historical and cultural appropriation.
Doing Something "Actionable"
Instead of just telling people about history, I want to do something "actionable" to dismantle the legacy of historical wrongs that have had real, long-lasting effects on Native American people and cultures. That's why, when you purchase a copy of "Reclaiming Mni Sota: An Alternative History of The U.S. – Dakota War of 1862" 100% of the profits will go toward the funding of this grant. By giving financial support to Indigenous storytellers, we empower them write their own stories and reclaim the narrative.
It's because of what I've learned about the tradition of historical and cultural appropriation that I am inviting you to contribute. This way, while we all continue to acknowledge and understand the wrongs of the past, we can actively take steps to correct those wrongs while also preventing the misrepresentation of history to continue.
No donation is too small.
All donations go directly and entirely toward the funding of the Indigenous Writers Grant. For those who purchase a copy of Reclaiming Mni Sota, all profits, above and beyond the cost of printing and shipping, will go toward the funding of the grant (Until the goal is reached).
Michael A. (AmikoGaabaw) Loso, an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe
Who is Eligible for this Grant
The awardee of the grant will be chosen through an application process. The awardee must be an enrolled member of a tribal community within Minnesota. Applicants will submit a personal essay along with a sample of writing. Applicants must be able to demonstrate a clear intention to share stories about the past through creative writing. Once the successful applicant has been awarded, they may use the award toward the advancement of their creative writing projects, education, and career.
As a senior in college, I wrote a historical essay about The Battle of Point Pleasant, fought October 10, 1775, between colonial Virginians and Native peoples from the Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, and Ottawa tribes. Two years later, as a graduate student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, I wrote my Master’s Thesis about The Conquest of the Desert, an Argentine military campaign in the 1870s and 80s that destroyed and displaced the Pampas people of Argentina. It struck me, and still does, that over several centuries, the Indigenous inhabitants of the entire Western Hemisphere were exploited, subjugated, displaced, and killed. Two questions arose in my mind: How is that possible, and have we changed?
In 2007, after visiting Reconciliation Park in downtown Mankato, Minnesota, I discovered that thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged there on December 26, 1862, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. I was shocked to find out that this happened in my home state while also feeling discouraged that I had never learned about the hangings or the war that preceded it—known most commonly as The U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. This tragic event not only resulted in the hanging of thirty-eight Dakota men, but the exile of all Dakota and Ho-Chunk people from the state of Minnesota.
In the years following my new understanding, I wrote several historical essays about the U.S. - Dakota War. As I learned more, I wanted to know more. I also felt compelled to share the history with others who, no matter their age or background, may have never heard of the complicated, tragic history that happened right beneath their feet. This led me to write a series of novels along with countless blog posts, YouTube videos, and other various resources related to the history of Native displacement, treaty-making, and settler-colonialism in the place we now call Minnesota. Unfortunately, when I first began this journey, I was wholly unaware of the issues of misrepresentation and cultural appropriation—something that existed long before I came along, but, in my naiveté, I was at risk of perpetuating.
Cultural Appropriation is the process by which members of the dominant society claim ownership over the way in which the views, history, and culture of members of the non-dominant society are portrayed and therefore perceived. It begins as an intentional form of discrimination and erasure, but, over time, becomes seamlessly intertwined into the fabric of society until it’s almost unnoticeable. That’s what I was up against when I first began reading and writing about The U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. A century and a half earlier the dominant society took control of the narrative and then perpetuated that narrative until it was almost impossible to recognize the truth of our history. In other words, no one asked, or in most cases listened to, the Dakota what happened. Furthermore, my ability to understand and convey the history was skewed by my own inherent biases and ethnocentrism—something we’re all challenged with unless we actively seek to break down those biases.
I’m grateful that, over the past fifteen years, I have been able to learn more and more about events and policies regarding Native/U.S. relations—events and policies that unfortunately include assimilation, removal, and genocide. I have been able to share that information with others while also broadening my perspective and giving me a much better understanding of the way the world came to be how it is today. As a part of the way the world is today—the way the present is connected to the past—there exists a huge gap, as a whole, of wealth and education between white and Native populations. There are many contributing and exacerbating factors to this gap, all of which can be linked to the settlement and statehood periods I write about in my novels and blog posts. One of those factors is the inherent bias within us, molded over time and perpetuated—sometimes intentionally, sometimes not—by the narratives we’re told. Throughout American history, most of those narratives have been told by white men like me. This creates a problem—a problem that arises from the patriarchal, white- and wealth-dominant society we were founded on and which was built up over centuries.
What I’m trying to say is that I recognize—and I hope you will too—that no matter how well intentioned we are, it is a significant problem when one viewpoint controls a single narrative. And, because of the issues of inequality mentioned above, there is a lack of Native voices in popular culture. The fact is that the historiography of events like The U.S. - Dakota War of 1862 is vast, but it lacks a diversity of voices. Unless we recognize the problem and actively work to confront our biases, that will never change. And no matter how much I continue to add to that historiography—no matter how well-reasoned and well-intentioned—it will always be lacking. That is why, in conjunction with the upcoming release of my alternative history novel, Reclaiming Mni Sota: An Alternative History of the U.S. - Dakota War of 1862, I am creating an Indigenous Writers Grant.
While I will continue to study and write about events of the past, I would like to support efforts to add more Indigenous voices to the body of storytelling about our past that already exists. Specifically, through your help, I’d like to provide funding for one Indigenous writer to share their story, their perspective, their truth. You can contribute to this effort by making a donation, of any amount, to this GoFundMe page. Your entire contribution will go to one Indigenous writer chosen through an application process who can show a need and demonstrate their intentions to share stories about the past through creative writing.
Thank you for your help!