In February of 1897 a family of six - four generations, including twin infant sons and their aged great-grandmother - was brutally murdered in rural North Dakota. The weapons used were a shotgun, an axe, a pitchfork, a spade, and a club. Several Dakota Indians from the nearby Standing Rock reservation were soon arrested, and one was tried, pronounced guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. The conviction was subsequently reversed by the state supreme court, which ordered a new trial. Only a week later, however, a mob of thirty angry men broke into the county jail in the middle of the night, dragged three of the five accused Indians out, and hanged them from a butcher's windlass.
These events were fodder for hundreds of newspaper articles, letters, and legal documents. The author has gathered together many of those documents, including the transcript of the trial convicting one of the Indians and the statement by the state supreme court reversing the conviction. These documents, together with the author's extensive commentary, tell a disturbing tale of racism and revenge in the pioneer West, one that provided the basic story line for Ojibwe novelist Louise Erdrich's acclaimed novel The Plague of Doves.