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Stetson Matthew Paul Kastengren

PhD Candidate


Stetson Kastengren is an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and a PhD candidate specializing in US history since 1877, the colonial/Early Republic era, Race and Ethnicity, and American Indian Studies. His dissertation, “Imperial Fantasy: Mní Wakán Oyáte and the Dawes Act in the Late Nineteenth Century Reform Era” reinterprets the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887 by combining a community-centered analytic with a national and global lens of US empire and imperialism. “Imperial Fantasy” reveals how the Dawes Act was a culmination of longstanding imperial desire to transform Indigenous nations and people that the reenergized postbellum state helped shape into tangible law. By tracing the threads connecting the Dawes Act to the imperial past and future, “Imperial Fantasy” reveals its connection to the colonial era, US state formation, Early Republic imperial designs, and later postbellum movements for Greater Reconstruction, the Progressive era, and America’s imperial ventures abroad. Imperial fantasy, then, was the conviction that Congress had the ability to legislate into existence a post-Indigenous America. A fantasy that, in one example among many, collapsed along the shores of Mní Wakán or Spirit Lake in present-day North Dakota when the Dakhóta people met the allotting agent with section-specific clauses from their treaties. Treaties that were contracts and promises signed in order to secure a future as a people. 

Research Interests

U.S. History since 1830

Colonial/Early Republic

American Indian Studies

U.S. Empire/Imperialism 

Settler Colonialism 



MA in History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2021

BA in History, South Dakota State University, 2016



2023-2024 Doris G. Quinn Dissertation Completion Fellowship 

2023 Cobell Graduate Summer Research Fellowship 

2022-2021 Winton U. Solberg Academic Excellence Award 

2021-2022 ABD Research Fellowship, University of Illinois, History Department

2017-2019 University of Illinois Graduate College Fellow 


Awards and Honors

University of Illinois List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (2023)

University of Illinois List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (2022)

University of Illinois List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (2021)

University of Illinois List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (2020)



Courses Taught

History 288: American Indians of Illinois (Instructor)

History 277: Encounters in Native America (Instructor) 

History 173: U.S. History since 1877, (Advanced Composition)

History 164: History of the Automobile (Instructor) 

History 104: Black Music (TA)

History 142: Western Civilization since 1660 (TA)