I’ve been asked (and privileged) to give a brief, short talk tomorrow in northwestern North Dakota on how to identify stone circles (often called tipi rings) and stone cairns. I will open by chatting about what meaning stone circles and cairns have to my friends, and I’ll probably mention a great friend Dakota Goodhouse, and one of his great-great uncles, Rain-in-the-Face (this is a magnificent attention getter by the way). Unsolicited universal observation: one doesn’t have to be within the halls of the academy or in a college or university to learn and teach. I kind of think of the world as a conversational classroom and lectern. It is only formalized when we’re in said classroom. Okay. That’s all. Carry on.
Tag Archives: Nakota
Just a couple days ago I looked at the blogging stats for a short piece I did on the Welk Homestead, this posted on January 21, 2014. I know that I’m interested in local history the world over, meaning that wherever I go, I want to know what happened before. But I also know that just because I’m interested in something doesn’t mean others are interested in it too. In the case of the Welk Homestead, though, and in the case of this blog (which, at this point in time, has a regular audience of 46), the number of views skyrocketed when I made some historical links between Welk and the German-Russians, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota acquiring the homestead.
Over at NDSU’s Center for Heritage Renewal and the Heritage Trails Facebook page, we’ve been chatting about the styles of various German-Russian vernacular architecture in North Dakota. On January 21, I posted my Welk/German-Russian blog to the Heritage Trails Facebook page, and this generated some feedback. It went like this, a comparative conversation between a German-Russian home north of Kulm, LaMoure County, southeastern North Dakota and that of the Hutmacher Complex just southwest of Killdeer, Dunn County, west-central North Dakota.
Janinne Paulson: “Great photo, Aaron!”
Suzzanne Kelley: “Interesting that this [Kulm] family added the L-porch, as did the Hutmachers [near Killdeer]. We’ve found that the porch corners created problems for maintaining the roof structure; here, they have TWO places for problems with erosion from convergent lines of run-off. Just wondering how that worked for them.”
Aaron Barth: “Was the L-porch used as a separate mud room, and perhaps as the initial entry to keep the cold out of the main home in the winter?”
Suzzanne Kelley: “Yes, which I suppose is what made the addition not only viable but necessary, despite the pitfalls of seaming an addition onto the original structure.”
Aaron Barth: “Not freezing to death is probably better than a leaky roof.”
Tom Isern: “OK, I just now studied this photo, and it’s evident this [Kulm] dwelling has an earthen roof, like the Hutmacher house, except this one uses some milled lumber for rafters. Also, it appears to me the earthen roof is composed of sods. This is different from what we tried with restoration of the Hutmacher roof. Recently we acquired evidence indicating that sods indeed were used in the Hutmacher case. So now we have to explore that further, and, I suspect, recalibrate. Also, I think Suzzanne is being kind, as usual. I think the L built onto the long house is a design mistake, vernacular though it may be, sure to cause water problems eventually.”
Aaron Barth: “We need an NSF grant to let someone live in the Hutmacher and a German-Russian east Missouri River home for a year and a half. I’m only 23% kidding…”
Richard Rothaus: “TV series.”
The temps in North Dakota, while we were (and still are) blogging and social-media-ing about this, have been sustained sub-zero, described by international meteorologists as some kind of Polar Vortexing. We don’t let the weather discourage us. But it does make us think about how 19th century inhabitants of the northern Great Plains survived, perceived of, described and thrived during the winters. Earthen homes are excellent for this, though, whether Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, Mandan-Hidatsa, or German-Russian. Want to learn how folks survived in pre-industrial times? Listen to the local history.
Before I head off to another day of conference papers this morning, I thought I’d do a short recap of the session I attended and presented in yesterday afternoon, representing North Dakota State University and the Center for Heritage Renewal here at the University of Otago, the southern-most university in all the world.
Each presenter has 10-15 minutes to work with, and this is always the challenge of presenting: it’s how to communicate a rather complex idea to an audience — in this case on the other side of the world — using the allotted time parameters. My talk must have resonated with the other attendees and presenters, including George Davis and John Moremon (we chatted a bit after the talk).
I got what I came for, too: my goal was two-fold, the first to present a case-study history on one US-Dakota site of memory and mourning on the northern Great Plains (complete with the history of “official” and counter-official remembrance), and then ask Maori and Kiwi scholars to direct me to various sites of remembrance that resulted from the 19th century British-Maori wars. Of the latter, these conversations are continuing, so I’ll round out this blog post so I can get to those said conversations today.
My presentation was followed by George Davis, who considered the remembrance of ANZAC Day memorials, or how memory groups conceive of the physical and mental landscapes, in this case relative to the First World War. And the final presenter came from Aussie John Moremon, who considered how the Aussie and New Zealand government helped (or didn’t help) WWII veteran Calvin Coghill’s relatives through the grieving processes after finding out that Calvin had been killed in action in the European Theatre. Geoff Watson chaired our panel discussion, dutifully keeping all of us within our time limits.
Here on the northern Great Plains, we are increasingly considering what the Dakota Wars from 150 years ago meant then and what it means today. A piece of scholarship I stumbled across while visiting the bookstore of Pompey’s Pillar in eastern Montana (where, famously, an Anglo-American incised his graffiti on some tall rock) is Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (Harvard University Press, 2006). Lear uses the historical documents from Plenty Coups, a Crow leader who helped his people navigate the turn of the 19th century. What makes Lear’s monograph interesting is how he uses his training in philosophy and ethics to approach a previously unexplored topic of the Crow.
Throughout this book, the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota are mentioned, and how they and the Crow were ferocious enemies in the 19th century. Lear looks at this philosophically, though, and says,
One of the ironies that comes to light is that groups of people can be bitterest of enemies in real life, yet ontologically they are on the same side; and a real-life ally can turn out to be one’s ontological nemesis. The Crow and Sioux were bitterest of enemies… Still, their standoff sustained a world in which battles, planting coup-sticks, and counting coups all made sense. One has only to read Chief Sitting Bull’s pictorial autobiography to see that he was every bit as much concerned with counting coups as Plenty Coups was. And yet, with the United States as an ally — a questionable and unfaithful one to be sure, but still an ally in many ways — the Crow moved into a position in which their world fell apart. (Lear, 2006: 50-51)
The rearrangement of this way of life came to an end due to the advanced encroachment of Euro-Americans who, among other things, obliterated the bison food source of the Plains indigenes. Lear doesn’t just stop with the known history of how the bison were wiped out, though. Instead, he expands and explains how the bison food source was a serious component of the Crow’s cultural and ethical telos. Bison had been incorporated into nearly every element of the Crow way of life, and Lear gives excellent examples by unpacking phrases that Crow used for dinner. For example, Lear notes that there was no such thing as simply cooking a meal. Instead, the cooking of a meal had a greater social-psychology behind it. The phrase cooking and eating dinner was inextricably bound to “the cooking-of-a-meal-so-that-those-who-ate-it-would-be-healthy-to-hunt-and-fight.” (Lear, 2006: 40) See how the telos — the psychological extension of an immediate act providing a base for the future — is connected to the food, and that the food comes largely from the bison? Yes, of course. And so when Euro-Americans — whether Sully at Whitestone Hill, or Euro-American riflemen — obliterated the bison, it struck not only at that food source, but at the very culture of Plains indigenes. In short, read this book.
This sunny afternoon, I’ve had a chance to make some reading lists and also take a closer look at two pieces of scholarship, including Paul Beck’s, Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and The Punitive Expeditions, 1863-1864 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013) and Clifford Canku (pronounced Chan-ku), Nicolette Knudson and Jody Snow, Tokaheya Dakota Iapi Kin: Beginning Dakota (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2011).
Here are three thoughts that struck me in bouncing Beck’s contribution to the existing body of knowledge of General Pope’s punitive campaigns in the Dakotas, circa the American Civil War, off of the work by Canku et al. Note: Ancient Historian friends sometimes ask me to clarify which Civil War when I say, “The Civil War…” For someone versed in The Battle of Actium and the Peloponnesian Wars and all that other Ancient Mediterranean stuff, the phrase “civil war” — which are wars that are never civil — can mean any number of things:
- As Beck says in his introductory remarks, this is a Euro-Ameri-centric work from the bottom-up, soldiering perspective. What this means is that Beck worked all sorts of data from soldiers on these punitive campaigns into this 2013 history. When thinking about this, it’s interesting to consider how the professionally-trained soldier perceived of their duties and the Dakota they were charged with campaigning against vs. how the volunteer soldiers mustered in locally from Minnesota and the area perceived the Dakota.
- With this known, readers shouldn’t get upset that this is, well, another Euro-Ameri-centric work of the punitive campaigns (also a Euro-Ameri-centric phrase) in Dakota Territory.
- Even though the NCAA banned the use of the word “Sioux,” (and as a North Dakotan, I am fine with that) Beck and the editorial staff at the University of Oklahoma Press have not. I suppose the title is reflective of the view this history takes. Some thoughts on that below.
As Canku and company point out in Tokaheya Dakota Iapi Kin, and as more and more increasingly become aware of, the word Sioux was developed by the Algonquian to the east. As the French were making their way around the Great Lakes region, they encountered these Algonquian, and when the said Algonquian were asked, “Hey, who is to the west of you?” they responded with the Algonquian name for the Dakota, which was “Sioux.” The definition of Sioux is “those who live near the snaking river.” More pejorative variations on this have taken the name of “Snake in the grass.” But the problem of the word “Sioux” in and of itself is that it has been elevated to the known name of a people who did not author it as their known name. It’d be akin to asking a Russian what you call folks in the region of Poland vs. asking Poles what they call themselves.
For the sake of identity (which is the important stuff of being human, having and developing character and a constructive and collective image of oneself and the world) it’s important to keep hammering away that the Sioux are not in fact “Sioux.” Rather they are Dakota, Lakota and Nakota. More specifically, the Dakota are composed of the Mdewakantonwan, the Wahpekute, the Wahpetonwan, and the Sisitonwan (this is where the namesake Wahpeton, North Dakota comes from, also the hometown of the Erdrich family, among others). The Lakota are the Ti’tonwan, and the Nakota are the Ihanktonwan and the Ihanktonwanna (where the name Yankton comes from). The word Dakota means ally or friend.