Monthly Archives: August 2013

Remembering Whitestone Hill 150 Years Later: August 24, 2013

On August 24, 2013 (a week from tomorrow), the State Historical Society of North Dakota is hosting the 150th year of observances at Whitestone Hill in southeastern North Dakota. You can drive to the site, and there is an official Facebook page which you can link to here. I also thought I’d just copy and paste the August 24, 2013 line up below. Here it is, verbatim, and I’ve also provided links with the particular names (just click on them to learn more):

Whitestone Hill 150th Commemoration event, Saturday, August 24, 2013
Schedule – August 2013
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Demonstration stations: all day
Dakota Lifeways, Dakota food demo, military life re-enactors, settler life re-enactors, Dakota drum and dance, Dakota War information, interpretive signs –either a prototype or actual sign that will be installed on site by SHSND
9 a.m. Kevin Locke – opening prayer 
9:15 0r 9:30 a.m. Ladonna Allard – Life in the James River Valley 
11 a.m. Richard M. Rothaus – “The Military Context of Whitestone Hill–Tactics, Artillery, and Non-Combatants.” 
11:45 a.m. Aaron Barth – “Remembering Whitestone Hill” 
1 p.m. speaker to be announced – Identity and Story of the Native People of Whitestone Hill
3 p.m. Speaker Panel – Preservation of Whitestone Hill – Past, Present and Future. Alden Flakoll, Board member of the Whitestone Hill Battlefield Historical Society, Dakota Goodhouse, Program Director for North Dakota Humanities Council, Ladonna Allard, Tourism Director for Standing Rock Reservation, Tamara St. John, Tribal Historian for Sisseton Wahpeton Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Diane Rogness, Historic Sites Manager for the State Historical Society of North Dakota.
4 p.m. Kevin Locke – dance
5:30 p.m. Buffalo supper, RSVP required

Directions to Whitestone Hill, North Dakota

The approximate location of Whitestone Hill.

The approximate location of Whitestone Hill.

I’ve decided that very few people know the location of Whitestone Hill in southeastern North Dakota. This decision came to me after hearing the “Where is that?” response to my remark, “Whitestone Hill…” It is now 2013. This location, Whitestone Hill, is important since it is a site where the U.S. Army brought total war to a domestic encampment of northern Great Plains indigenes in early September of 1863. We are almost upon the 150th year of remembrance. So we need to make ourselves more aware of these sites, primarily because our history — whether we know or like it or not — informs us about how things are today. It is also the stuff that disparate groups identify with. This is why we sometimes hear things like, “History is about identity.” This is true. If we don’t know about Whitestone Hill, then we don’t know why things are the way they are today.

So people can more readily find Whitestone Hill, over the lunch hour I decided to scribble out a map, and also scan a DeLorme topo map of the location specifics. I’m blogging about it now, and I figure that if folks ask me, “Where is that?” instead of me gesturing in the air about the relative location of Whitestone Hill to Jamestown, Aberdeen, Edgeley or Ellendale, I can just send them this link. Above is a rough sketch of the approximate location of Whitestone Hill that I prepared while eating squash and cauliflower curry soup over the lunch hour.

A DeLorme map of the Whitestone Hill location.

A DeLorme map of the Whitestone Hill location.

If you’re on Eisenhower’s Interstate 94, just head south from Jamestown, North Dakota on Highway 281. If you’re in Aberdeen, South Dakota, head north on Highway 281.

If coming from Jamestown, drive about 40 or 50 minutes south until you hit Edgeley, North Dakota. From Edgeley, head west on ND Highway 13, and this eventually turns into south-bound Highway 56. Travel south of Kulm about 10 or 11 miles to 88th Street SE. Travel east on 88th Street SE for four miles, and then turn north (by this point you’ll see “Whitestone Hill” signage to direct you to the site).

If coming from Aberdeen, South Dakota, drive north to Ellendale, North Dakota, and head west on ND Highway 11. Travel west on Hwy 11 for about 20 miles, and turn north onto ND Highway 56. Drive 10 miles north on Highway 56, and turn east on to 88th Street SE. Drive the four miles east, and turn north at the Whitestone Hill signage.

Note: even though the signage on the DeLorme map reads “Battlefield,” and even though during your approach you will start seeing “Whitestone Hill Battlefield” signage, do not be tempted to call it that unless you are ready to define what is meant by that. Even then, it is not a good idea.


Stop and Smell the Russian Sage

When it was mid-Spring, just before the weather stopped dropping below 32 F at night, the sturdy Russian sage pushed up out of the soil. This is what it looked like at some point in April-May.

Russian sage in the spring on the North American steppe.

Russian sage in the spring on the North American steppe.

Earlier this morning I scrolled past this image while looking for some photos of the ongoing public humanities discussions we’ve been having concerning the Dakota Wars circa 1862-64.

Then I looked at what the Russian sage looked like yesterday evening (August 2013). The honey bees stay busy with all the blooms. Sometimes we gotta stop and smell the Russian sage — it appears the Europeans are better at it than the Americans. That is also what I thought.

Russian sage in August 2013.

Russian sage in August 2013.

Historic Baseball Ticket Stub: Metropolitan Stadium, August 25, 1961

Side 1Yesterday I was cleaning off my desk and I came across a raincheck stub from an August 25, 1961 Minnesota Twins ball game at the old Metropolitan Stadium (a plaque in the Mall of America marks the location of the original home plate). This got me thinking about how sports have increasingly been looked at as windows into the past, even popularized lately by the movie 42: The Jackie Robinson Story(Jules Tygiel has an exhaustive history cranked out by Oxford University Press here.)

This old Metropolitan Stadium ticket also got me thinking about how the “Met” was built south of the Twin Cities in Bloomington, in a farmer’s field, in the 1950s. This, in a broad sense, represented the increased urban flight from the city proper to the suburbs (something Adam Rome goes on at length in The Bulldozer in the Countryside — environmentalism was a reaction to the hyper development of the suburbs in post-WWII America). The Eisenhower Interstate system also allowed for Americans to bypass the central downtowns, and its gravity reshaped a variety of cities throughout the nation.

Side 2And this 1961 ticket could also — through various connections — reflect the prologue to the American Indian Movement that started in Minneapolis. This ticket is a piece of material culture that represents the white flight from the city to the suburbs. The Federal government, in turn, relocated — or attempted to — Native America (the original Americans) from the reservation to these downtown urban areas.

This leap from a 1961 rain check baseball ticket needs quite a bit more data to give more strength to the AIM connection, but when blogging in the morning, the mind tends to wonder and wander aloud with questions (this, of course, is where scholarship and history begins…).

Gadgets In Edgeley, North Dakota: Visiting Dawn and Theresa Paul

This morning, while reading about Caraher’s physical concerns as a field archaeologist, I took the third slug of coffee from the first home roasted coffee batch. To home roast the coffee, I used a corn/maize air popper, and learned how to do this just over a week ago when Molly and I visited Dawn and Theresa Paul who reside in Edgeley, south-central North Dakota. It works great, and there appears to be a huge body of DIY internet information on this (which, like numerous things, I only now am discovering). Here is what the roasting looked like this morning.

Roasted coffee from this morning. Green coffee beans just above that.

Roasted coffee from this morning. Green coffee beans just above that.

Anyhow, I thought I’d give you some quick backdrop on Dawn and Theresa and then share another project they finished in Edgeley. Dawn and Theresa used to live on St. Croix. When they first said this, I responded with, “You’re talking about the Virgin Islands and not Minnesota, correct?” (When someone says they are from Oslo, I always do the same thing and ask, “Norway and not Minnesota, right?”) Yes, they were talking about the Caribbean. They both lived on the island for quite a time, developing a house and setting themselves into a variety of projects. Eventually, though, they wanted to relocate to the northern Great Plains (I think this in part had to do with Theresa’s family connections to the area). They claim to be “retired,” but after visiting with Dawn for over an hour I balked at this assertion, or at least modified it. I said, “You’re retired, but busy as ever.” He agreed.

Below are photos of a rehabilitated and restored circus conversion van. Dawn and Theresa can give you the details way better than I can, but the short and skinny of it is this: they discovered this vehicle years back, the vehicle having been abandoned or nearly abandoned. It is a motor home that early 20th-century circus people would use while traveling the circus circuit. This particular van was owned by “The Great Arturo” of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus shows. The Great Arturo, I learned, was center ring.

Circus people would often winter down in Florida, and then return to the circus life when things warmed back up. Dawn and Theresa decided to do a complete restore on the vehicle, and you’ll occasionally see them traveling the minor and major roads on the northern Great Plains. Here are some photos:

The cockpit of the sweet circus ride.

The cockpit of the sweet circus ride.

Don entering the sweet ride.

Dawn entering the sweet ride.

The front 1/3 of the sweet circus ride.

The front 1/3 of the sweet circus ride.

An interior shot of the sweet circus ride. Note the stove range to the right; sink to the lower left; toilet further back; and bed at the way back.

An interior shot of the sweet circus ride. Note the stove range to the right; dresser just behind that; sink to the lower left; toilet further back; and bed at the way back.

Jessica Christy’s Art This Saturday in Fargo, North Dakota

Jessica ChristyThis Saturday, Jessica Christy (an artist who also happens to be one of my cousins) will be showing her work at DK Gallery in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

This is a copy of the official handbill she is circulating. I figured since she is doing these spectacular Warhol-Factory-esque prints of the USDA’s finest canned beef w/ juices, then it would be okay for me to copy the handbill and post it on my blog.

According to the USDA description, canned beef with juices (USDA item #110),

…consists of coarse ground beef cooked in its own juices for use in a variety of applications, including barbecue beef, pizza, soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, vegetable stir-fry, casseroles, and similar items.

That does sound juicy.

One might make the argument that we, as an increasingly hybridized digital corporate-nation, are becoming a bit disconnected from where our stuff comes from, food included. This in turn is problematic because a government is, as laid down by our founders, a nation by the people, for the people, whereas a corporation is beholden to do one thing and one thing only: make money for the shareholders. I of course would not make this argument, and I would advise against bringing up the idea in polite company. But if someone else wanted to, they certainly could.

Never mind all of that, though. We need to move product here, folks, so let’s get to it. See you Saturday! Don’t forget to bring your Andrew Jacksons!

Prairie Turnips

A prairie turnip.

A cluster of prairie turnips.

Where some see a prairie-scape of oblivion, others see a culinary buffet. Just last night I was cruising around in some old digital photos on the desktop, and I came across a couple shots of prairie turnips. I photographed them a couple years ago in the kitchen of a downtown Bismarck apartment I used to live in (the historic Mason Building), I think around 2008 or 2009.

During those summers, Tim Mentz, Jr., of Standing Rock, showed me on the northern Great Plains how to identify the prairie turnip. You can read the landscape for prairie turnips in July. This is when the vegetation sprouts above ground, making them visible. They also grow in certain areas on a hill (it may or may not have something to do with the ph levels of the soil — I’m in the humanities, folks). This, of course, leads to the idea that if you have two different people look at the same landscape, they will see it in a variety of different ways. I like listening to what others have to say about the landscape. Tim Mentz, Jr. always had my ear. We would often joke, too — when a bull was once staring at us and uprooting the topsoil with his front hoof, I asked Tim, “What does that mean?” Tim responded with, “That means we give him distance.”

It is customary to braid the turnips by the root ends, and then hang them to dry. Just like mushrooms (and other dried goods), they will reconstitute in liquid or water. I made turnip soup out of this batch.

With the husk pulled back, this is what the edible flesh of a prairie turnip looks like.

With the husk pulled back, this is what the edible flesh of a prairie turnip looks like.