Roseville writer to discuss historical novel on indigenous history

Colin Mustful

Mustful’s historical novel, “Resisting Removal: The Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850.” (courtesy of History Through Fiction)

A Roseville writer will be discussing his historical novel, “Resisting Removal: The Sandy Lake Tragedy of 1850,” on Aug. 17 at Roseville’s Half Price Books.

The book is a fictionalized account of how the Ojibwe people of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin were forced to reservations, where they remain today.

Its author, 37-year-old Colin Mustful, researches and writes about the often fraught history of native peoples in Minnesota and the Americas, a topic he found as an undergrad in college. 

“I just had an interest in how and why this has happened,” he says. “Indigenous people throughout the whole Western Hemisphere have been marginalized.”

He was studying at Minnesota State University, Mankato, when he says he learned the city’s Reconciliation Park was the scene of the 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota men, which punctuated what’s called the Dakota War of 1862. It’s the largest mass execution ever carried out in the U.S.

“I never learned about it growing up,” says Mustful.

From there he dove into the past, going on to earn a master’s in history at Mankato, writing a thesis titled, “The Generation of 1837: Attitudes, Policies, and Actions Toward Indian Populations of Argentina.”

Mustful balances his history work with other endeavors: he coaches high school soccer, is a special education paraeducator for Anoka-Hennepin schools and delivers food in Northeast Minneapolis.

To bolster his writing skills he’s wrapping up this month a masters of fine arts degree in the writing program at Augsburg University.

Mustful says he leaned on some of his learnings at Augsburg to write “Resisting Removal.” Though accomplished in penning historical essays and presenting at conferences, the switch to historical fiction was an effort to try something new, despite a steep learning curve, and to get his work into the hands of folks who otherwise might not read it.

“[I wanted to] share that history but do it in a way that’s compelling enough to reach new audiences,” he says.

With a number of speaking engagements in Iowa and Minnesota already behind him this summer, Mustful says audiences are surprised to hear how clear European leaders from the 19th century were in their intentions to remove native people from their lands.

“People are saddened, obviously, and they do show a lot of interest, which is great,” he says, pointing out the region and the state’s histories are complicated.

“We share that legacy,” Mustful says. “Minnesota is a beautiful, wonderful place to live and it’s a difficult thing to comprehend, because on the one hand it was created through very industrious people who had a vision ... but at the same time it exploited so many other people.”

As he wraps up promoting “Resisting Removal,” Mustful says he’s not racing to write another book — he’s not been taken by any single idea, yet. 

Part of his MFA program focused on publishing, and as a self-published writer — the novel is under his own imprint, History Through Fiction — he’s looking to help others in the historical fiction realm to get their work out into the world.

He’s taking submissions at his website,, through Dec. 31.

Mustful will discuss “Resisting Removal” on Saturday, Aug. 17, at Half Price Books, 2481 Fairview Ave. N. in Roseville, with a signing from 3 to 5:30 p.m., and a reading from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

More information about Mustful, his work and future appearances can be found at


–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813. 

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