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About Gwenyth Swain
Gwenyth Swain is the author of more than two dozen books for young readers. Along with writing, she works as a library aide at Twin Cities Academy, a charter public middle school and high school in St. Paul, MN.
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In this carefully researched biography of the Dakota leader, the first ever written for children, author Gwenyth Swain presents a compelling portrait of the leader, warrior, and politician at the center of the Dakota War of 1862.
Beginning with Taoyateduta's childhood along the Mississippi River near present-day St. Paul, this biography explores his life in the Big Woods, his wanderings west from the Mdewakanton Dakota's traditional home, his leadership of his people when they were forced to sign over their land to white settlers, and his role during the war of 1862. Hemmed in on a narrow reservation, frustrated by broken treaties, angered by dishonest agents and traders, and nearly starved because of crop failures and late annuity payments, Dakota Indians attacked white settlers living on the Indians' former homelands in southwestern Minnesota. Taoyateduta agreed to lead the battles, knowing that the U.S. government's response would be swift and terrible. In retribution for the thirty-eight-day war, thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged, thousands were imprisoned, and the Dakota people were expelled from the state.
Taoyateduta's story brings to life the painful experience of the Dakota as they lost their land and their livelihood—and as some chose to adopt white ways while others fought back, with disastrous consequences. Little Crow: Leader of the Dakota offers a clear and accessible account of both the man who led the Dakota into war and the causes behind that wrenching conflict.
Beginning with Dred's childhood on a Virginia plantation and later travel with his masters to Alabama, Missouri, Illinois, and the territory that would become Minnesota, this "family biography" vividly depicts slave life in the early and mid-nineteenth century. At Fort Snelling, near St. Paul, Dred met and married Harriet, and together they traveled with their master to Florida and then Missouri, finally settling in St. Louis, where the Scotts were hired out for wages. There they began marshalling evidence to be used in their freedom suit, first submitted in 1846. Their case moved through local and state courts, finally reaching the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857. But the Court's decision did not grant them the freedom they craved. Instead, it brought northern and southern states one step closer to the Civil War.
How did one family's dream of freedom become a cause of the Civil War? And how did that family finally leave behind the bonds of slavery? In Dred and Harriet Scott: A Family's Struggle for Freedom, Swain looks at the Dred Scott Decision in a new and remarkably personal way. By following the story of the Scotts and their children, Swain crafts a unique biography of the people behind the famous court case. In the process, she makes the family's journey through the court system and the ultimate decision of the Supreme Court understandable for readers of all ages. She also explores the power of family ties and the challenges Dred and Harriet faced as they sought to see their children live free.