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Published April 11, 2013, 06:05 PM

Two men translate, publish Native American prisoner of war letters

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - They are 50 extraordinary letters, written by some of the 270 Native Americans at a prison camp in Iowa following the U.S. Dakota War of 1862.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - They are 50 extraordinary letters, written by some of the 270 Native Americans at a prison camp in Iowa following the U.S. Dakota War of 1862.

Letters translated recently and now in "book form" because of the work of two local men; Dr. Clifford Canku and Michael Simon, both experts in the Dakota language.

A Dakota prisoner, Many Lightning Face, in an Iowa camp describing to relatives he and others are trying to reconcile taking Holy Communion after taking part in the U.S. Dakota War in Minnesota.

Dr. Clifford Canku, Book Author: “They said they will not take the communion, it is so.”

For the last several years, Canku, an enrolled Dakota member of the Sisseton Wahpeton tribe, and NDSU instructor, has translated over a hundred letters, painstakingly interpreting the words from his people who were imprisoned following the hanging of 38 Dakota men near Mankato. The prison camps in Iowa saw Dakota men starve and freeze to death.

Canku: “At the same time, the character of our Dakota people was very positive.”

Dr. Canku hopes this book is read by non-Indians as well, to get some understanding and basis for the Dakota's claim of mistreatment at the time, and false stories about the Dakota War he says, taught in schools for years.

Canku: “Get back to telling our side of the story, two sides. One is the colonizer stories and those have been colonized. Our resources have been stolen.”

Canku is credited with helping save the Dakota language from fading away. His curriculum, along with the new book, helps keep the next generation from ever forgetting.

A book signing, scheduled for tonight at Zanbroz, has been cancelled by the weather.

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