Daybreak Woman, also known as Jane Anderson Robertson, was born at a trading post on the Minnesota River in 1810 and lived for ninety-two years in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Canada, and South Dakota. The daughter of an Anglo- Canadian trader and a Scots-Dakota woman, she witnessed seismic changes.
For her first five decades, Daybreak Woman was nurtured and respected in the multiethnic society that thrived for generations in the region. But in the last forty years of the nineteenth century, this way of life was swamped and nearly annihilated as the result of Euro-American colonization and the forced exile of most Dakota and Euro-Dakota people from Minnesota after the US–Dakota War of 1862. Dakota and Euro-Dakota people struggled to reestablish their communities in the face of racial violence, injustice, calls for their mass extermination, abject poverty, disease, starvation, and death. Daybreak Woman and her children survived these cataclysmic events and endured to rebuild their lives as Anglo- Dakota people in an anti-Indian world.
In this extraordinary biography, historian Jane Lamm Carroll uses the life of one mixed-heritage woman and her family as a window into American society, honoring the past’s complexity and providing insights into the present.