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Unrepentant Dakota Woman

Angelique Renville and the Struggle for Indigenous Identity, 1845-1876

Unrepentant Dakota Woman


$29.95, Hardback
ISBN: 9781941813485

Preorder now! Ships September 22!

Born in Minnesota in 1845, the daughter of a prominent mixed-ancestry Dakota family, Angelique Renville (1845–1876) learned traditional Dakota ways of life from her relatives while navigating the complex multi-cultural world of the declining fur trade. At age six, along with her younger sister Agnes, she was formally adopted by Protestant missionaries Stephen and Mary Riggs, who did their utmost to erase her Dakota identity and educate her as a “proper” Christian woman. Despite their best efforts, Angelique remained close with her Dakota kin, especially her mother and siblings.

After a frustrating year at a female seminary in Ohio, Angelique worked as a domestic servant for a family friend, ostensibly continuing her education. The outbreak of the U.S.–Dakota War in 1862 and Agnes’s subsequent death in a U.S. Army prison camp changed everything. Returning to Minnesota, Angelique turned her back on the missionaries, entered a polygamous marriage with a Dakota man, and moved with her relatives to the Dakota Territory, where she increasingly distanced herself from the Riggs family. In 1869, she took legal action to emancipate herself from the guardianship of Stephen Riggs and to seek legal redress against unscrupulous loan sharks who had illegally sold her lands. It was an extraordinary act for an American Indian woman of the time, and she faced a steep uphill battle in court. Despite her untimely death of tuberculosis in 1876, Angelique Renville lived her final years on her own terms.

Author Linda Clemmons works from extensive primary sources, including letters written by Angelique herself—a rarity for American Indian women who are all too often silent or ignored in the historical record. Unrepentant Dakota Woman follows Angelique’s remarkable struggle for Indigenous identity and self-determination, while revealing new insights into relations between missionaries and their converts, education of American Indians, disparities between Native and Euro-American conceptions of family, and the challenges faced by Dakotas during one of the most tumultuous periods in their history.

Includes an appendix of letters written by Angelique.

About the Author