(KMAland) — Iowa native and author Gary Kelley has penned a new graphic novel detailing a grim moment in Iowa’s early history.
Kelley’s new novel “Moon of the Snow Blind” recounts the story of the Spirit Lake massacre. Kelley details the struggle between early white settlers and indigenous tribes, culminating in the retaliation by a band of Dakota Sioux on people living on the Iowa Great Lakes. When choosing the subject matter for his newest graphic novel, Kelley says it stems from a combination of family influence and personal interests.
“When I was a kid, my uncle Gene Kelley had been an art student at the Minneapolis Institute of Art,” said Kelley. “He had a lot of art books and books in general on his shelves. I got hooked on a lot of his books, and Spirit Lake was part of that. I can’t tell you why really, but I also growing up, as an artist and someone interested in history culture, my heroes were often the Native Americans.”
Kelley also mentions how growing up near Spirit Lake in Storm Lake made him want to pursue the story even further.
The Spirit Lake massacre took place in March of 1857, led by Inkpaduta. Inkpaduta and his band of Dakota Sioux took four female survivors after the attack and traveled across Minnesota and the Dakotas to elude the military. Two of the captives survived with one, Abbie Gardner, going on to write a famous autobiography of the ordeal. Kelley says that while many readers may see things from one side, it’s important to understand the nuances of both groups’ backgrounds.
“I wanted to tell the story, as I say on the inside page of the book, ‘two sides to every story’,” said Kelley. “I also wanted to start my book out with a little bit of a background on the Dakota Sioux Indian history and the things they had to deal with. I certainly don’t support either side of that — massacring people. But at the same time, there are two sides to every story.”
While many accounts of the massacre are done in a more traditional writing style, Kelley says he chose to portray it through a graphic novel to truly bring the story to life.
“The thing I realized when I work on these projects is that I love composition,” said Kelley. “I love organizing elements in a scene and designing the way I’m telling this scene visually. Almost every panel in the book is a compositional challenge that is really fun for me.”
Copies of Kelley’s “Moon of the Snow Blind” are available at garykelleyart.com or at icecubepress.com. Kelley spoke about his book on KMA’s Morning Show, which you can hear below.