Tag Archives: Minnesota

Punk Archaeology Updates

Before getting after some technical writing this morning (only to be later usurped by some Dakota language studies), I thought I’d link to some forthcoming scholarly analyses on the cultural movement of Punk in all of its unadulterated filth and fury. You can read about the soon-to-be-realeased Punk Archaeology anthology here, and about a work of Punk Sociology here. It was great this morning to come across a local story of a proto-punk Jonathan Richman, who is getting ready to play the Aquarium in downtown Fargo, North Dakota this next week too.

On this single-chord punk note, it’s appropriate to mention the passing of one of the first proto-punks, as memorials and obituaries on Lou Reed have been popping up all over the place (here, here, here and here). This shouldn’t eclipse the passing of folk punk hero Phil Chevron (aka, Philip Ryan of The Pogues or The Popes, depending on the year) in early October 2013. A sad reality for sure, and a time for reflection and contemplation.

An October 19, 2013 photo of Modern Times Cafe.

An October 19, 2013 photo of Modern Times Cafe.

And although we are losing our original punk heroes, punk culture continues pushing in a variety of directions today. Here is a photo from some boots-on-the-ground punk (lower case “p”), this coming from the delicious Modern Times cafe in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A couple weeks ago Molly and I had a chance to make a quick jaunt down the I-94 block from Fargo to MSP to visit a couple friends, and the next morning we hit up this cafe. It’s at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and E. 32nd St. in Minneapolis, and everyone should go here. It’s a place where punks either are parents or a place where punks bring their parents to engage in politely brash conversation and society. A couple more photos below, one of the delicious breakfast meal, and below that a photo of a post card from the fine by-and-for establishment. The only thought left was this: “When will Modern Times open up in downtown Fargo and Grand Forks?”

Delicious, sensibly priced breakfast from Modern Times Cafe.

Delicious, sensibly priced breakfast from Modern Times Cafe.

A Modern Times Cafe postcard indicating that this is a place where punks bring their parents.

A Modern Times Cafe postcard indicating that this is a place where punks bring their parents.

At the right, the viewer is informed with the icons that Modern Times is anti-establishment. This includes an anarchist logo, a rainbow with lightning bolts, a pentagram (suggestive of neo-pagan revivalism or acceptance), a phrase that mocks “The All-Mighty Dollar” (strongly suggestive of a counter-capitalist culture), and so on. At the top is a descriptive banner that says, “Where the punks bring their parents; see also: where the punks are parents, where the punks become parents.” Seated in the lower left are two individuals, presumably a mother and her son. Impressionistically, the son is advertising to one and all that he doesn’t care (this indicative of his hoisted left-handed single digit and a “xxx” booze bottle in his right). His mother, like all loving mothers, is just happy to see that her son is engaged in activities of all sorts. She is responding to her son, saying, “That’s interesting honey…”


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.

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Let the Scholars at Your Family and Local History: Swedish Family Photos and Academic Scholarship

Albertina (Mattson) Larson. She eventually took up a farmstead with Hans T. Larson in northeastern Wells County, North Dakota.

Albertina (Mattson) Larson. Originally from Willmar, MN, she took up a farmstead with Hans T. Larson in northeastern Wells County, North Dakota.

Approximately 20 years or more ago, I recall going to a Larson-Mattson family reunion somewhere in Minnesota. It was important to the Mattson side of the family because my dad’s, mother’s, mother (in Swedish, “min far-mor-mor“), Albertina (Mattson) Larson, was indeed a Mattson. I remember at that family reunion being asked who in the room had relations with the Swedish-Minnesota Civil War Col. Hans Mattson, and I was nudged by my late Grandma (Larson-Mattson) Barth to raise my hand.

Now fast-forward to a year or two ago, when I read H. Arnold Barton, A Folk Divided: Homeland Swedes and Swedish Americans, 1840-1940 (Southern Illinois University Press, 1994). Barton notes in his preface that ethnic groups engage in a kind of ethnogenesis. This means the groups develop a collective identity by gathering together and agreeing upon what they do not stand for, and what they do stand for (often times, we define ourselves by what we are not). While reading Barton’s book, though, I didn’t expect to come across Hans Mattson in the beginning of chapter 5. This was the individual I was told about over two decades at the family reunion in Minnesota. Perhaps Barton was in the crowd too. Who knows.

In his piece of academic scholarship, though, Barton said Hans Mattson hailed from the southern province of Skåne in Sverige, and he came to the U.S. in 1851 as one of the first northern European Swedish settlers to Minnesota. He served with distinction in the Civil War, and eventually became Minnesota’s Secretary of State. He returned to Sweden in 1868-69 to recruit more settlers and develop a chain-migration from Sweden to Minnesota. It worked. He acted as the Northern Pacific Railroad’s chief emigrant agent from 1871-1876, and the list goes on as to his accomplishments by and for his ethnicity.

Albertina (Mattson) Larson, a Swedish-Minnesotan originally from Willmar, MN.

Albertina (Mattson) Larson, a Swedish-Minnesotan originally from Willmar, MN.

With all that said, here are a couple photos of Albertina (Mattson) Larson, my great grandmother. I never had a chance to meet her in person, as she passed away before I was born. As a girl, she grew up in Willmar, Minnesota. Eventually my great grandfather, Hans T. Larson, got up the nerve to ask her to marry him, and they took up a homestead in northeastern Wells County, North Dakota (just north of the borderline historic archaeological town of Bremen, ND).

I’m sharing photos of Albertina for a couple reasons. The first is to make them accessible to other family members (it’s the worst when people hoard documents and artifacts while simultaneously doing nothing with them). There are unknown benefits, too, as perhaps this blog post will reach other Mattson family members who are interested in the various branches of the family. I do plan on ultimately curating the originals with the State Historical Society of North Dakota (but I’ll wait until the grand expansion is complete). By curating them with the SHSND (or any top-tier public archive), the artifacts will be stored in a safe spot with all sorts of fire-prevention and non-acidic devices (stuff along those lines). They will also be accessible to other family members, at least during SHSND archival hours. And if Swedish-American scholars want to have a look, to analyze and scrutinize them, they will be there. Perhaps they will even incorporate them into some piece of future scholarship. Who knows. Access is key, though.


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…).


Some Anthropology of Concrete

A photo of the dry ash I dumped in the shallow sand pit on the shores of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. It got me thinking about the potential origins of concrete.

A photo of the dry ash (bottom-center) I dumped in a shallow sand pit on the shores of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. It got me thinking about the potential origins of concrete.

A couple days ago I prepped a fire pit on the sandy shores of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. As I shoveled dry ash made from previous fires out of the pit and into a shallow hole in the sand, I imagined myself in pre-Vitruvius days on a Mediterranean coast doing the same thing, or something similar. “Perhaps this is one of the origins of the recipe for concrete?” I thought. I envisioned someone thousands of years ago dumping ash into the sand in a similar way (with lime as well). Maybe it was volcanic ash, or that from a former campfire.

The Romans used this concrete stuff for infinite reasons — from building underwater docks to linear roads to fortifications and infrastructure in general. The architect Vitruvius was the first to scribble down the recipe for concrete. But certainly this knowledge circulated amongst laborers and masons before hand.

One of the concrete secrets is in the texture and quality of the sand. Here is what Vitruvius said in Book 2, Chapter 4: Sand for Concrete Masonry:

In concrete structures one must first inquire into the sand, so that it will be suitable for mixing the mortar and not have any earth mixed in with it. These are the types of excavated sand: black, white, light red, and dark red. Of these the type that crackles when a few grains are rubbed together in the hand will be the best, for earthy sand will not be rough enough. Likewise, if it is thrown onto a white cloth and then shaken off, if it neither dirties the cloth nor leaves behind a residue of earth, it will be suitable.

Thus, keep the soil out of your sand when mixing concrete, this whether you are mixing for a foundation of a tool shed or trying to impose your imperial will on others around you.


Bloody Bull from the Northern Great Plains

A ceremonial bloody bull just 10" to my left.

A ceremonial bloody bull, a Smithwick’s northern Great Plains beer back, and a salty anchovy snack just 10″ to my left.

The following is a morally decent sacrament for St. Patrick’s Day this March 17, 2013. The drink combination is Irish and English in origin, but has northern Great Plains-inspiration. Some years ago I was made aware of the Bloody Bull, or what some folks call the Bull Shot (The New York Times has the former Ben Benson’s Steakhouse Bloody Bull recipe linked to here). For the bloody bull pictured: into the glass goes, approximately, 1.5 ounces of tomato juice, 1.5 ounces of vodka (Ed Phillips & Sons Prairie spirits from Benson, Minnesota), and about 2 ounces of beef broth. Then a dose or two of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce, a couple dashes of Tabasco sauce, a couple lemon wedges, and some ground pepper. The linked to recipes I found insisted on “Campbell’s double-strength beef broth.” But Nash Brother’s Trading Company broth was on sale, so I added that. To substitute the Campbell’s sodium content, I added just a sprinkle or two of Himalayan Pink sea salt.

Also note the Smithwick’s Irish Ale. At least in Minnesota and North Dakota, we refer to this as a “beer back.” When someone puts a beer back in front of you, it is unnecessary to question it, or its origins. Were I writing from the Otto von Bismarck, North Dakota on St. Patrick’s Day, I would have purchased a growler of Laughing Sun’s Irish Red Lager, especially brewed for today. But we sometimes just have to grin and bear it, and take what we can get. Also pictured are King Oscar’s anchovies. These are a good salty snack, and when company is around, you rarely need to concern yourself about having to ever replenish the plate.

Anyhow, back to it on this end. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the northern Great Plains.


Mankato, Minnesota: 150 Years Later

Today, December 26, 2012, marks the 150th year since the largest mass execution in United States history took place in Mankato, Minnesota. This execution has been remembered and suppressed for a variety of reasons, but it seemed reasonable to post and pass on at least two pieces of public history. The first is a story put together by This American Life, entitled, “Little War on the Prairie.” Here is a link to the transcript, and another link to the recorded radio program here. It aired on November 23, 2012, and I first heard it while driving back to Fargo from having Thanksgiving in Bismarck and Valley City.

Photo by David Joles of the Associated Press.

Photo by David Joles of the Associated Press.

What is often missing from stories such as these is a kind of non-discussion about what followed this hanging. For example, it wasn’t just as though the hanging happened, and Governor Ramsey clapped his hands together and said, “Well, that’s taken care of…” Instead, it marked the beginning of annual punitive campaigns that the United States Government launched against the Sioux — against every combatant and non-combatant, or every man, woman, elder and child — throughout Dakota Territory. When we look back on it, the 19th century kind of looks like a racist primer for the industrial genocide that characterized much of the 20th century, at least the first half. The world eventually had a post-WWII convention to consider all of this. It’s sobering to think about.

In the 1860s, Total War campaigns against the Sioux were organized by General John Pope, and he in turn charged generals Henry Sibley and Alfred Sully with carrying them out. Today there are namesakes of “Sibley” and “Sully” scattered all throughout North Dakota. These names were ascribed to the landscape, and they resulted from that earlier US-Dakota War that roared up and down the Minnesota River Valley in August-September of 1862. Below is another piece of public history called “Dakota 38 [+2].” It is excellent, and the documentary was put together in 2008.

This year’s riders are just getting to Mankato, as they do every year. Here is another piece on this from the Mankato Free Press.


Cultural Landscapes on the Northern Great Plains: From 1862 to 2012

This evening while toying around with Google Earth’s image overlay feature, I thought it would be interesting to see what a 2012 map would look like in contrast to the map of the 1860s in Mark Diedrich’s, Mni Wakan Oyate (Spirit Lake Nation): A History of Sisituwan, Wahpeton, Pabaksa, and Other Dakota That Settled at Spirit Lake, North Dakota (Fort Totten, North Dakota: Cankdeska Cikana Community College Publishing, 2007). I was keeping in mind how we — the Royal We — are all born into particular sets of cultural values that we consciously or unconsciously bring to bear on everything we process, do, and see. So in 2012, it’s a given that we can hop Eisenhower’s Interstate 94, lean heavy on the gas peddle, and within 1 to a dozen hours find ourselves anywhere between Minneapolis, Minnesota, Billings, Montana, Omaha, Nebraska, or Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1862, the reality would have required weeks worth of time to cover that amount of space. One hundred fifty years is quite the temporal gap. But Google Earth reconnects us with the spatial, or what we might consider as that sense of place.

Here, for example, is the Diedrich map imported into Google Earth with an approximate transparency of 20-40%. This is laid on top of a 2012 map (some specifics don’t quite line up, but considering that this took 3 minutes to put together, it’s not bad, and the general idea is conveyed).

1862 sans 2012 Geopolitic

Note the non-existence of the 2012 place names. We get the large type of Dakota in the east, Nakota in central Dakota Territory, and the Lakota primarily west of the Missouri River. Imbedded within that are several sub-national sets, including the Ihanktuwana, Sisituwan, Pabaksa, Assiniboin, Mandan (“Gros Ventre”), Arikara, and Blackfeet Lakota. It might be worthwhile to filter our 2012 mindsets through an 1862 landscape in the same way that we would consider today’s landscape in Central Asia, western Europe, or eastern Asia. To an outsider, “it all looks the same.” But try telling someone who hails from Hong Kong that Bangkok and Ulaanbaatar are just the same. Or try telling someone from Tashkent that they’ve experienced something similar because they once saw a picture of Moscow, they talked to a guy who visited Kabul, or they heard about the cultural mecca of St. Petersburg. Or try telling a Parisian that Germany is just like Italy. Or try… yes, the idea is conveyed. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the dynamics of Africa, Australia and so on.

In 1862, North Dakota was northern Dakota Territory to Abraham Lincoln, Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey, and any immigrant Euro-American back east (many of our great- or great-great grandparents included). The names of Bismarck, Williston, Dickinson, Jamestown, Fargo, Casselton, Valley City, Grand Forks, Watford City, New Town, Devils Lake, Minot, Ellendale and so on wouldn’t have been on anyone’s cultural radar. Between the 1860s and today, though, several generations have come and gone. And through this amount of time, our perception of the landscape has altered as well. This Google Earth gadget is amazing in that regard. Here is Diedrich’s map with Eisenhower’s Interstate System and the industrial Geopolitics imposed on the landscape:

1862 and 2012

Above, the 49th parallel is quite pronounced, as is our national (or international) system of highways and byways. Today’s 2012 I-94 blasts east-west through former Native America. You can travel from Minneapolis through the 1860s Dakota (Red River Valley now), Nakota, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara (upper Missouri River) and Lakota country (now the Bakken Oil Fields) to Billings in about 20 hours (I cannot recommend any more efficient time). In North Dakota, we can sail past these 1862 landscapes at no less than 75 miles an hour, thermostat pumped full tilt, iPods routed through the speakers. This is the push and the pull between culture and landscape throughout time. I think that’s all I have for now.


Sadness in Little Falls, Minnesota

Last evening and this morning I came across a story unfolding out of Little Falls, Minnesota, the headline reading, “Little Falls teen shooting deaths called ‘cold-blooded’,” reported by Curt Brown of the Star Tribune here.

Upon hearing about and reading this, the first thing to rattle itself through my mind was a speech Al Carlson gave on the floor of the North Dakota legislature mid-February 2007, on behalf of a “Castle Bill.” State law enforcement officials opposed this bill that Al was supporting. And Dave Thompson of Prairie Public news reported on that story here.

Carlson, who is the sitting house majority leader of North Dakota, said in 2007 that if a person broke into his house, and I quote,

“I’d tell you what would happen in my house — I would shoot that intruder, and I would shoot him enough times that I knew he wasn’t going to do any danger to me and my family. He’d leak like a watering can when I was done with him.”

To be fair to Carlson, when asked to comment on the 2012 incident in Little Falls, Minnesota, Carlson said, “That was way excessive,” and “That was never the intention of the law.”

Still, Little Falls, Minnesota is left in November 2012 with two dead teenagers who were killed, literally execution style, after they got into mischief and broke into a home (or a couple homes). I read this, and can’t stop thinking of how a leading public official said what he did in 2007, and how he may have composed himself and his speech quite a bit better on the floor of my government (by the people, for the people, folks) back in my hometown of Bismarck in my home state of North Dakota.

We have strong reason and evidence to believe that we do not live in feudal times anymore. Carrying this logic forward, this means we also do not live in castles (or only a few of us do, but they were born into more money than you and I would know what to do with, so they don’t really count). Following this line of thought even further, this means we do not need Castle legislation, or public officials who make Quixotic speeches on the floor of our government. We live in the first decade of the 21st-century, which means we live in homes rather than castles. If you want to be Quixotic and chivalric, open the door for your wife. Do this instead of saying insane things on my government’s floor.

In considering the recent 2012 cold blooded murders in Little Falls, Minnesota, I am now bowing and shaking my head at Al, and his absurd remarks from 2007. Al, use better judgement with your words next time. Stop with the paranoia, please. It ends up spreading, and there’s a good chance it’ll drop into the ear of someone who is just looking for an excuse to do what they did in Little Falls, Minnesota. This is all just so sad.