Edina Resident Unravels Helen Hastings Sibley’s Story

Edina resident Bruce Kohn unravels the story of Helen Hastings Sibley.

Fans of Minnesota history, rejoice. Last December saw the publication of Dakota Child, Governor’s Daughter, an engaging new book by Edina resident Bruce Kohn, an amateur historian who retired from his job as an attorney in 2005. Kohn has spent the past 20 years researching an enigmatic character in Minnesota’s story—Helen Hastings Sibley, the daughter of Minnesota’s first governor, Henry Hastings Sibley.

Helen was born in the mid-1800s to Henry and a Dakota woman he met during a fur-trading expedition. Though Henry acknowledged his mixed-race daughter publicly, “there was some feeling in polite circles that this was a relationship that wasn’t much talked about,” Kohn explains. “Helen is the daughter of a pivotal figure in Minnesota history who bridges two cultures.”

Kohn decided to publish the book, a long “labor of love,” after the Friends of Sibley Historic Site wanted to make Helen’s story available to all Minnesotans. He also has a family connection: Kohn’s wife, Cathy, is descended from Henry Hastings Sibley. “For me it’s been a lot of fun,” Kohn says.
Dakota Child, Governor’s Daughter is available at the Edina Historical Society or from the Friends of Sibley Historic Site.