Tag Archives: Killdeer Mountains

Humanities Updates from the Northern Great Plains

CHRBefore this morning gets away from me, I thought I’d provide two humanities updates taking place in the great state of North Dakota, central North America. The first is a link-reference to the progress of our Punk Archaeology manuscript; and the second concerns the official press release from NDSU’s Center for Heritage Renewal on our continued Dakota book discussions. Of this latter, the discussions bring together the public and scholars to consider the Dakota Conflict and the subsequent punitive campaigns from 1862-1864, and where we, Native and non-Native relations, are today.

For more details, check out the uploaded hand-bill image to the left. Of this, the most recent discussion took place this Sunday past at the Opera House in Ellendale, Dickey County, North Dakota. This brought out a variety of topics, and the most attentive-grabbing and engaging at all of these events is that of Native historians and knowledge-keepers and scholars. After Tamara St. John, a Native historian and genealogist, spoke at this event, an attendee remarked on how (and I’m paraphrasing) they are starved for this kind of information.

For those of us up to our elbows in the history and historiography of the US-Dakota Conflict and Wars, we understand and often wrestle with accurate and precise and appropriate terminology, definitions, and so on. When we chat about this stuff with non-specialists, one of the most common remarks I have heard is this: “How come we weren’t taught any of this — attempted genocide, attempts at cultural destruction, attempts at forced assimilation — in our public education here in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota?” I’m uncertain. But I do always insist on using attempts and attempted when talking about genocide, cultural destruction and assimilation. I do this because the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota, the Seven Council Fires, are alive and well today. We are pushing ahead as well with these discussions, and every time we have another conversation and chance to talk about this, legitimate history is happening. And if that is happening, so is that large, amorphous thing we call culture and the humanities.

When it comes to the public school systems, I’m sure there are plenty of politics behind all of the curriculum decisions from yesteryear and now. Perhaps that is something we in the future can consider, and perhaps in the future bring before various departments of public instruction in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. That would be at least one long-range goal to consider.

Nonetheless, the next discussion will be held at 2:00PM (CST) on November 10, 2013, at Sitting Bull College,  in the Science and Technology Center Room 120/101, Fort Yates, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota. And here is a photo from the discussion from last Sunday.


The Killdeer Mountain Battlefield Landscape

Basin Killdeer Proposed Route

The Bismarck Tribune’s graphic of the proposed route through what essentially is the Gettysburg of the Northern Great Plains, the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield from 1864. Historical actors involved included Sitting Bull, Inkpaduta, Gall, Sully, among others.

This morning a story broke in The Bismarck Tribune on a proposed transmission line route directly through the core area of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield. North Dakota State University’s Center for Heritage Renewal, led by Professor Tom Isern, responded with the following media release:

Aug. 30, 2013

Media Advisory

The Center for Heritage Renewal at North Dakota State University is preparing a submission for the North Dakota Public Service Commission hearing in Killdeer on Sept. 4. The subject is an electrical power transmission line and substation proposed to be built, by Basin Electric, in the core area of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield. The topic has been covered by North Dakota media, starting yesterday.

The Center for Heritage Renewal was established to identify, preserve and capitalize on the heritage resources of North Dakota and the northern plains. One of the center’s objectives is to assist state agencies, private organizations and the people of the state and region in generating prosperity and quality of life from heritage resources. Another objective is to provide expertise and action in the fields of historic preservation and heritage tourism.

The center recognizes the efforts of Basin Electric to support regional development but is concerned that the environmental impact statement for the project takes no cognizance of the historical significance of Killdeer Mountain. 

The center has signed a contract with the National Park Service to survey and study the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield, which the park service has identified as a significant Civil War-era site in North Dakota. The contract is with the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service.

Killdeer Mountain was the chosen ground on which Dakota and Lakota fighters, including Inkpaduta and Sitting Bull, confronted the Northwest Expedition, commanded by General Alfred Sully, on July 28, 1864. This was the largest military engagement ever to take place on the Great Plains of North America, and a crucial episode in the Dakota War of 1862-1864.

University Distinguished Professor Tom Isern, founding director of the center, observes, “Killdeer Mountain is the Gettysburg of the Plains. It is, arguably, the most significant historic site in all of North Dakota.”

Isern is available to discuss this issue. He can be reached at 701-799-2942

More to come…

The North Dakota NAYS against the History and Archaeology of the Killdeer Mountains

In the last couple months, Killdeer Mountain land owners, professional historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, tribal historians, Native elders and biologists spent a good deal of time at the capitol in North Dakota to inform the legislature on the importance of being a bit more deliberate than usual when it comes to drilling for oil on Killdeer Mountains in western North Dakota. Ultimately, SB 2341 was created but voted down with moderate rather than extreme impunity by North Dakota’s 63rd legislature. Sigh…

The YEAS and NAYS for SB 2341, a bill that would have appropriated moneys to fund an archaeological and historical study on Killdeer Mountains.

The YEAS and NAYS for SB 2341, a bill that would have appropriated moneys to fund an archaeological and historical study on the Killdeer Mountains in western ND.

Earlier this morning I started to wonder about who voted against the bill. The results are linked to here, and the image is a copy of who voted against SB 2341. I have yet to chat with all the individuals who voted “NAY” on this bill, at least to garner an understanding as to what motivated them to do what they did.

Had the bill passed, it would have allowed moneys for the State Historical Society of North Dakota and North Dakota State University students, and professors of history and archaeology, to conduct an archaeological survey of Killdeer Mountains. I’m thinking I didn’t do a good enough job communicating that message to fellow North Dakotans who happen to be senators. Maybe next time around.

Killdeer Mountain SB 2341 Post-Hearing Report

Rob Sand, a landowner local to Killdeer Mountains, testifies in support of SB 2341.

Rob Sand, a landowner immediate and local to the Killdeer Mountains, testifies in support of SB 2341.

A follow up to today’s hearing today at the capitol in Bismarck on Senate Bill 2341, spear-headed by North Dakota Senator Rich Wardner, and co-sponsored by a host of legislators. Individual archaeologists, Native historians, historians and local Killdeer Mountain land owners that testified in support of this bill included Tamara St. John, Dakota Goodhouse, Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, Waste Win Young, Tom Isern, Richard Rothaus, Kimball Banks, Rob Sand, Fern Swenson, Merl Paaverud, Tim Reed, and Mary Hoff (and I also testified, the synopsis of my testimony here). Private land owner issues mentioned in this article linked here are being addressed. Amy Dalrymple brings a more balanced angle to what happened here today linked here. Our conversation afterwards re-emphasized how private land owner rights are and continue to be protected throughout North Dakota, and our dutiful legislators said it may be a good idea to re-emphasize this in the bill. So there you have it. Props to all who came out today (there were many more in the crowd), and props to all of those that were there in spirit.

Killdeer Mountains 150 Years Later: Rescuing the Fallen and Forgotten Veterans from the Past

North Dakota State Capitol meeting room locations. Missouri River Room is #16, bottom-center of map.

North Dakota State Capitol meeting room locations. Missouri River Room is #16, bottom-center of map.

Tomorrow, Thursday, February 7, 2013, at 1400 hours (CST), North Dakota Senator Connie Triplett (District 18, Grand Forks) will collaboratively sponsor SB 2341, a bill that seeks to carry out an archaeological and historic-archaeological study on the Killdeer Mountains in Dunn County, western North Dakota. I’ll be attending this hearing (it will take place before the Senate Government & Veteran’s Affairs Committee in the Missouri River Room), and Triplett has circulated an e-mail asking historians, landowners, archaeologists, Natives and others for testimonies to support this bill. The Killdeer Mountains figure into our nation’s history and the US-Dakota Wars that spanned from 1862 in the Minnesota River Valley, and carried on through 1864 at Killdeer Mountains in western North Dakota.

Taken from the cover of Robert W. Larson, "Gall: Lakota War Chief" (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007).

Taken from the cover of Robert W. Larson, “Gall: Lakota War Chief” (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007).

What we know right now about Killdeer from 1864 is limited (the State Historical Society of North Dakota has a nice and thoughtful write up of it here), and further archaeological and historical research is needed. It was an action between the Union Army and various Dakota nations, and some key players involved were Sitting Bull, Inkpaduta, Gall (among others), and General Alfred Sully and his Union soldiers. In many ways, just as this nation recognizes and respects fallen Union and Confederate combatants and non-combatants, this nation owes it to honor the Dakota soldiers and non-combatants killed in Dakota Territory during the Civil War. To extend this honor requires and necessitates a deliberate and culturally sensitive systematic archaeological and historical study like the one proposed in SB 2341. We understandably honor Americans that have fought and died in 21st century warfare, and we ought to also be honoring and rescuing those fallen and forgotten from the Killdeer Mountains from July 1864.

Note: according to Sioux County Veterans Service Officer Roster, today in 2013 Standing Rock has a veteran population of 357.

The Killdeer Mountains: Living History and Sacredness

Individuals concerned about what happens to the Killdeer Mountains chat before the public hearing at the Bismarck capitol on January 24, 2013.

Individuals concerned about what happens to the Killdeer Mountains chat before the public hearing at the Bismarck capitol on January 24, 2013.

The Killdeer Mountains in Dunn County, western North Dakota have been getting a lot of attention lately, especially after the North Dakota Industrial Commission decided to, well, industrialize the area, and allow the Hess Corporation to follow through with signed leases and drill and frack for oil there. The Grand Forks Herald reported on it here, and The Bismarck Tribune here. The Industrial Commission is composed of three individuals, including Jack Dalrymple, Wayne Stenehjem, and Doug Goehring. They have scheduled meetings with the Department of Mineral Resources and Lynn Helms, the sitting Director. It is important to remember that this was a public hearing, and at public hearings the public ought not to be shy about attending. This experiment America has going, our Democratic-Republic, necessitates these local meetings that have global implications.

On January 24, 2013, at 1:00pm (CST) the public hearing for the Killdeer Mountains was held in the capitol of Bismarck, North Dakota. It was Industrial Commission Case Number 18618 concerning sections 25 & 36, T. 146 N., R. 97 W, this about 30-35 miles north of Dickinson, North Dakota. Originally the hearing was scheduled in the Governor’s meeting room, a rather closed-off and secluded place. Because of the public turn-out, though, the hearing was relocated to the larger Brynhild Haugland room in the western wing of the capitol. I drove over from Fargo to Bismarck to attend the meeting, and while there scribbled down some notes and took some audio-video as well. The high-points, I thought, were in capturing two Native voices from two disparate cultures.

The first is a video from Theodora Birdbear of Mandaree, North Dakota (Mandaree is Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara territory). The microphone on my Canon PowerShot SX260 HS captured the audio a bit, and just in case there are those of us hard-of-hearing, I provided transcript of Theodora’s testimony below.


…and he expressed the impact of oil and gas development, the industrialization of an area, which impacts the quality of that spiritual experience. I guess it’s kind of equivalent to having an oil well right beside your Catholic church or something. It’s parallel to that. So I wanted the commission to know that Fort Berthold does have a living connection to that area, and to consider that in your decision making. As people have said prior to this, technology is evolving, and to keep it [oil] in the ground is not wasting it. They are going to be after it in the future. What’s the rush? The rush is quick decisions, unplanned decisions, and unplanned impacts. So I just wanted to make a comment about our relationship with that area. It is still living today.

North Dakota Industrial Commissioners listen to Natives speak about the sacredness and history of the Killdeer Mountains.

North Dakota Industrial Commissioners listen to Natives speak about the sacredness and history of the Killdeer Mountains.

Theodora remarks on how the Killdeer Mountains are a sanctuary, as sacred and sacrosanct as a Catholic Church, and to carry the analogy further, as a Lutheran or protestant church, a Synagogue, a Mosque, a Buddhist monastery, a Hindu temple, a Confucian temple, and so on. These spaces are sacrosanct in the sense that when an individual goes to the area to pray, they are really interested in having it as quiet. A library could also be considered a sacred space by this definition (libraries carry on that monastic-academic tradition of the deliberate contemplation of texts — this is arguably the antithesis of our hyper-industrial, full-throttle, 21st century world).

The other Native voice captured came by way of Dakota Goodhouse, who originally hails from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in south-central North Dakota (he shares the namesake of the state, which in English means ally or friend). Dakota gives some backdrop about the history of Killdeer Mountains as it pertains to the US-Dakota Wars, specifically the punitive campaigns carried out by General Alfred Sully west of the Missouri River circa 1864.

For some video context, Dakota is speaking and Lynn Helms is seated at the right. In this video excerpt, Dakota is remarking on how the encampment and battle boundaries are much larger and broader than what is delineated now (as of 01/25/2013), and how they need to be re-considered.