Nathan Chasing Elk has been in prison for a crime he did not commit - that of killing his wife. In those four years, he has only had a small barred window to look out at the blue sky and dream of the life he grew up with in the Black Hills, and not this life he now knows being chained and whipped like a dog. But one day he finally sees his chance at escape and takes it, if for no other reason than to convince his daughter of his innocence.
Catherine Lyons is supposed to be managing a farm with her brother, but he left days ago and hasnít been seen since. Fearing him dead and terrified that a persistent Apache warrior will to take her as his, Catherine sets out for the nearest town to find out what happened to her brother - and to head back East, where she thinks she belongs.
But before she can go even ten yards, she encounters a lone horse and, not too far away, Nathan lying face down in the dirt. Before she can think the decision is taken out of her hands by approaching Indians. After days spent in each otherís company, the two grow to love each other, but Chasing Elk knows he must leave to avenge his wifeís death and to claim his daughter. Having nowhere else to go, Catherine goes with him.
The journey consists of finding his daughter and gaining her trust, reuniting with his mother who lives in the Black Hills, and running from the law until he is finally caught.
The whole storyline is somewhat unbelievable; even though there is sizzle and drama, there is no sex. If all the other components of the story really tugged at the heartstrings - which they donít - I would have no problem with a sexless Native American novel.
Throughout the whole story, wherever Chasing Elk goes he is accepted as if he were white; the only reason people rush him out of town is because of the wanted posters of him hanging around. Baker really never indicates what year the book is supposed to be set in, but even as late as the 1920ís, Native Americans could not live among other people because of their skin color.
This is something of a disappointment since Baker's past novels have been good. Dakota Dreams just falls flat of reader expectations.