Translating Historic Documents Originally Written in a Native American Language: The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters
Saturday, December 12, 3-5 pm. Free parking is available. Admission is free. Parking passes available onsite.
The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters—Dakota Kaskapi Okicize Wowapi (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013) is a book-length, dual-language translation of fifty letters written in the endangered Dakota language by three dozen Dakota prisoners of war incarcerated at Fort McClellan, Davenport, Iowa, mostly on trumped-up charges of having killed non-combatants during the Dakota-US War of 1862, the first Great Plains Indian war.
This lecture will be about the translation process and the letters’ historical context. Among the questions addressed: why were the letters translated not into the Standard English spoken by non-Native readers, but into the idiomatic Dakota English spoken on reservations in North and South Dakota by the letter writers’ many surviving descendants, the primary audience for the book? Why did the traditional elders who translated the letters consider them not just secular historical documents, but sacred texts?
John Hunt Peacock, Ph.D. (enrolled Spirit Lake Dakota), Professor of Native American Studies, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, was translation editor and wrote the introduction and afterword for The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters: Dakota Kasapi Okicize Wowapi, translated Clifford Canku and Michael Simon, which won a 2014 American Association for State and Local History “Leadership in History” Award.
We hope you’ll join us for this exciting and informative talk!
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