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#1266 – Dick Bernard: Comey-Trump, The Sculpture Garden, and 23 and Me

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

1. Comey-Trump: There may be a few people in the U.S. who don’t know or care about the James Comey – Donald Trump matter.

I do.

One of my U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar, sent her e-list a ten minute interview she did on CNN about the matter. You can view it here. This is well worth your time. Sen. Klobuchar took office as U.S. Senator in 2007, previously County attorney in Minnesota’s largest population county (which includes Minneapolis), and (her words) “I’ve known Jim Comey for years (we were law school classmates!) and know him to be someone of great integrity.” She is highly respected and well informed.

Just Above Sunset gives an excellent summary of the last two days here.

2. The Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden opens today at 10 a.m..

Those who follow this blog know I wrote about the Scaffold controversy on May 31, and a followup post on June 2.

There are 22 comments at the May 31 post, the most recent ones (22A and 22B) from myself, brief personal observations about my own perceptions of Native Americans and how they evolved over my own life. The June 1 post includes links about the controversy through June 8.

3. Finding my DNA. After a long period of procrastination, I finally did the DNA test in May. I personally decided to do the 23andMe assessment only because it seemed more comprehensive than Ancestry (which I also feel is fine). Ancestry tends to focus on family tree matters, it seems. I’ve had my family tree for years.

I got my results from 23 and Me this week, and I am very glad that I made the investment. In a later post I will talk more about this. At minimum, the information is a snapshot of me for my descendants. Questions to me about this are welcome. dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom

Dick Bernard: The Scaffold (a Sculpture, a Gallows); with reflections on Whitestone Hill, a 1997 Commemoration at Mankato and other items.

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

June 29, 2017: Recommended by a reader: The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Chief Red Cloud, an American Legend

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POSTNOTE 5:20 p.m. May 31 – A decision was made about the Scaffold today. See comments section below.

POSTNOTE 8:30 a.m. June 1 – This seems an appropriate place/time for a general timeline of historical events impacting on this conversation: FAHF Timeline 001. This two-page document was prepared by the French-American Heritage Foundation in 2016 as a beginning sketch of relationships in Minnesota and surrounding areas.

UPDATE June 2 here

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ORIGINAL POST May 31
If you are around the twin cities and follow the news at all, you’ve heard the controversy about the new proposed exhibit at the refurbished Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden. The tentative decision has been made to remove the Scaffold, and today is the official meeting about it. The issue is of such concern to me that I hand-delivered a letter plus photos to the Executive Director of Walker Center Tuesday afternoon. There has been, and will continue to be, news in Minneapolis Star Tribune, if you wish.

Here’s a photo I took of the sculpture at issue on Sunday:

(click to enlarge)

The Scaffold, from Lyndale Avenue, May 28, 2017.

To begin, here are the positions of the sculptor and the Walker Art Center, as found at the sculptors website (click on the tab “NEWS”). This perspective, probably not seen thus far, helps provide relevant background. In part, from the artist statement: “Scaffold opens the difficult histories of the racial dimension of the criminal justice system in the United States, ranging from lynchings to mass incarceration to capital punishment. In bringing these troubled and complex histories of national importance to the fore, it was my intention not to cause pain or suffering, but to speak against the continued marginalization of these stories and peoples, and to build awareness around their significance.”

Before I visited the above website, I had delivered the following personal letter, along with photos, to Walker Art Center. The letter is presented as sent, with slight additions in brackets to help give additional context. I’d be interested in other perspectives, if you wish.

My letter to Walker Executive Director Olga Viso, May 30, 2017:

“We are members of Basilica of St. Mary. Each time we drive home we pass by the Sculpture Garden heading south on Lyndale.  So it was, Sunday, about 11 a.m. We saw the “Scaffold”, and then read about the controversy in the STrib.  Later that afternoon I went back for a closer look. 

The Scaffold should stay. Its message is powerful and it is needed. This is a complex issue.  In my opinion, both the Walker and the advocates for removal are making a serious mistake in taking down this powerful work. Everyone will be the losers.

To be clear, I’ve long had an interest in the disgrace of December, 1862, in Mankato, and the events which preceded it, and the long history of running the Native Americans off their land, however that has been justified. The existence of the Scaffold is essential to an essential conversation.  Yes, it is stark, as it should be. I am grateful that it was contemplated, completed and installed, and yes, for the controversy which brought it to my attention.

September 21, 1997, I traveled to Mankato for the solemn dedication of the Memorial there, indeed I visited briefly with the Sculptor.

At the Mankato dedication, September 21, 1997.

The Dedication Plaque at Mankato 9/21/1997

Perhaps the Mankato executions drew me because one of my earliest Minnesota ancestors, Samuel Collette of Centerville, was a private in the First Regiment of Mounted Rangers, General Sibley’s command, Oct. 6, 1862 – Nov. 28, 1863, and thus quite possibly he was at Mankato at the time of the executions.  Samuel came to Minnesota in 1857, from Quebec.  Depending on one’s particular point of view, in this instance, he was good or evil.  For a year he was part of the militia which drove the natives west of the Missouri River and on to Reservations. [The official narrative of the Rangers, written about 1890: Mn Mtd Rangers 1862-63001].  

Both my paternal and maternal ancestors have benefited from white settlement taking native lands in northeast and south central North Dakota. My mothers parents had been in North Dakota four years when the monument was set at the site of Whitestone Hill massacre, about 30 miles from their new farm.  As you likely know, the Whitestone monument is to the dead soldiers who had been part of the unit which massacred the Natives encamped there for the annual buffalo hunt. Years later a simple symbol – an unlabeled boulder down the hill from the monument – was placed remembering the slain Native Americans.  I’ve been there many times [most recently a year ago].  More on the deadly encounter here. [Longer articles can be read at Whitestone Hill 1863001, and Whitestone 1863 at 1976002]

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

At Whitestone Hill Aug 1994. Below soldier graves is a plain stone monument to the Indian victims in 1863

Succinctly, I’ve thought a great deal about the Hanging and similar atrocities in our past, and in the world itself…the focus of the Scaffold.

Were I in charge, I’d suggest a timeout of weeks, months or years to talk about what this all means.

Removing the Scaffold, will not destroy it or put it in hiding – I took 19 photos of my own yesterday; removal will do nothing to improve understanding or relationships or anything else.  

Looking at the Scaffold for the first time, Sunday, from the other side of the fence and the protest banners, I thought it would present an excellent focal point for better public understanding of our often inglorious history as a people.  

The Scaffold, with the Basilica of St. Mary in the background, May 28, 2017.

Put the sculpture in its own “prison” if you wish, surrounded even by concertina wire, but do not remove it. Let us see it, with a large plaque explaining what it is; why it was envisioned and commissioned. Let us talk about its meaning, publicly.

There are analogies, though every such event/place/circumstance is unique.

In 2000, we were with a Pilgrimage of Christians and Jews from Basilica of St. Mary and Temple Israel to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other holocaust sites.  

At Birkenau the horrid railroad tracks, examples of the awful barracks, even the remains of the hideous ovens, are kept as permanent reminders of the horrors that happened there.

May 4, 2000. Approaching the entrance to Birkenau death camp, Poland. Photo by Dick Bernard

I have been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. several times.  The memories displayed are not abstract.  There, you are confronted with the reality of the horror.

I am only a citizen….”  

Others at that meeting today in Minneapolis will move towards a decision on what to do. My hope is that the Scaffold remains and becomes a point for us to look at ourselves, reflectively, and work towards a better future.

May 28, 2017. Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden Site.

One of the protest signs at the site, May 28, 2017

Your opinion? My e-mail dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom if you want to share thoughts with me, and with others through this post.

COMMENTS:
1. From Norm: I’m with you Dick. There aren’t enough such things to remind us of our past indiscretions.

2. from Virgil: Your position is well explained. I think you know me well enough that I would be an ally to not forgetting history as it has been lived with its particular circumstances for communities and individuals across the globe.

Thank you for your very clear explanation and for creating a platform for facing issues which should influence our thoughts about the place others should have in a world where dominant stories represent positions of a strength that should be tempered through a call such as you are putting forth.

3. from Jerry: Thanks, Dick, for your response to the new art at Walker Art Museum. I agree with you that the scaffold should remain and reasons for it given. We keep trying to hide the history of our relationship with the Native Americans and so much of it is very painful. I need to get over to see the art piece myself.

4. from Jeff: I agree with you on this.

The recent art display on lynching in America at the Museum of Modern Art in St Paul was excellent. Open wounds need to see sunlight to heal.

I think part of the issue is that native americans were not consulted on the piece. They should have had a seat at the Table.

5. from Bill: Dick, as an 8 year old child I had a very personal experience with this 1863 Indian uprising when my neighbors took me to the 75th anniversary of the uprising in Mankato in 1938. I approached a very elderly Indian man and made a comment to him about how bad the Indians were and he responded to me “Little boy, remember there are two sides to every story!” I have never forgotten that wisdom when ever there were sides being proposed in an argument.

As an adult I have read about the circumstances that led to the Indian uprising and have come to the conclusion that the Indians had been betrayed by the White politicians of the day in their promising that land along the Minnesota River would be set aside for Indian settlements only to have much of these lands taken over by the flood of European immigrants occurring about that time. Just one more broken promises of the White Man to the Indians.

6. from Greg: I must confess to being a contributor to [the Scaffold] controversy, albeit unintentionally. I remember attending the Lunch with [my City Councilperson] at which Olga Viso, the Walker Executive Director, described the artwork being added to the garden.

For some sad reason this controversy potential escaped my thought process. Thus, I failed to speak privately with her to politely express my strong opinion the Walker was making a major mistake in proceeding with the installation in the manner they had chosen, apparently without first meeting and speaking with members of the Native American community.

I agree that The Scaffold should ultimately remain. I also understand the reaction of the people who oppose The Scaffold, but this reaction does not seem to be acknowledging the valuable educational value of this art work, and that the Native American community will benefit from such educational value, as will we all.

7. from Jermitt: Thank you once again for your thoughtful and inspiring commentary. As a Nation we continue to fail in our commitments to the Native American Communities. And we continue to cover up our faults. Only through lessons from the past can we prevent similar atrocities in the future. Thank you, my friend.

8. from Janice: Powerful blog. Thank you for forwarding. You articulated my views—although with quite a personal history to back it up. I think it can be a powerful and important part of our city. I hope they can reconcile all the parties. Already, look at all of us who now know of this history, who were ignorant before (me included!)

9. from Johnathan: Beautifully written and expressed – US owns its share of national shame. Sunlight heals wounds. Native American voices must express their perspective on The Scadfold. Asking forgiveness is a means of educating future generations to the worst and best of the human condition. Thank you for sharing a great example of balanced and mindful view of facts…and the realities continued to be faced by Native Americans – and all human beings.

10. from Catherine: I too would like to see the sculpture remain, but I would stipulate that it be under the curatorship of the artist along with the local tribes of wherever it’s being displayed. It’s their history and they have never had proper control over it in the history books or the art world. The scaffold itself is painful — that’s the point — but unless it’s exhibited as a teaching tool and a public apology, it could be downgraded easily by trivial popular culture. That has to be avoided. Years ago the Mpls Art Institute had a controversial show on the costumes of the Native Americans for a secret religious ritual. Out of respect they worked closely with the local native population and had the galleries blessed by one of their elders. Even so there were complaints but overall that gesture was appreciated. I think the Walker meant well but went about it wrong.

11. from Catherine, 4:43 p.m., 8 minutes after preceding: Looks like we’re all too late. It will be dismantled by the Dakota and burned at Fort Snelling. That will be impactful at the moment, but what will remain of the many lessons learned?

11A. from Dick: Thank you, Catherine. I heard the same news at 5:10 p.m. on the news. I’m glad I made the effort, and I think burning the symbol will not be as effective as it being used as a long-term learning tool. But…the decision is made, apparently.

12.from Florence: Recently the daughter-in-law of friends of ours had a painting displayed at an art gallery in NYC. The subject was of a 14-year old boy who had been mutilated and hung to die, accused of raping a white woman, in the 1940’s. Yes, he was black. There was a huge out-cry from the African American community and a demand that the painting be removed and destroyed for dishonoring them. I supported their sentiments in my heart, as I support the sentiments of the Native American community against the Scaffold sculpture. Both artists had good intentions, but failed to talk with people from the injured communities. Those injuries don’t go away with time. We need to “walk a mile in their shoes.” I understand that the Walker Art Center has reached an agreement with the Native American community to remove and burn the sculpture/playground. I’m grateful.

13. from Paul: Dick, I, too, have been pondering this “Scaffold” incident. However, I have a very different conclusion than you.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

You seem to argue that the sculpture, “Scaffold” has good intent. And I can agree it has spurred a meaningful and perhaps eventually productive discussion and long deserved public attention to the history of injustice represented by government conducted executions.

However, another view of the sculpture and its prominent display at the Walker Sculpture Garden is to see it as an example of cultural appropriation by a white artist and the white dominated Walker Art Center.

Mostly we see cultural appropriation when the dominant culture uses artistic or cultural characteristics from a minority race or nationality. Sometimes these are displayed in offensive ways such as a tomahawk or headdress used by a sports team. Other times they seem more benign such as using in a new way some hot sauce borrowed from Mexican style cooking. I think back to when white hippies wore afro hair styles – clearly cultural appropriation. When is it wrong? Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it is not so wrong at all.

But what about the “Scaffold” is cultural appropriation? The indigenous people and other groups who have suffered the long-term trauma of past aggressions against their ancestors have a primary claim of ownership to the use and remediation of that trauma in our white dominated culture. The artist and the Walker failed to recognize that claim. While attempting to stimulate the healing dialog that is so needed, they failed. The did not even realize that the people who most need to have the power over the remediation of their cultural trauma were being ignored in the creation and the installation of this sculpture. From their point of view, it is white domination all over again. Just another example of the white power players deciding what is good for them, what is the best way to confront their trauma, what is the best way to start the healing.

At the very least, the artist when he first conceived the sculpture a few years ago, owed to the descendants of the victims for whom he had so much sympathy the opportunity to be part of the creation of the sculpture and it’s presentation. The Walker Art Center likewise owed those same people a chance to know about the sculpture and weigh in on its merits and the way it should be displayed (or not displayed).

Good intentions do not excuse colossal blunders. There is a reason that quote at the start of my thoughts is famous.

Now it is time for the next steps to be taken in concert with the people who are the victimized cultures. The Walker, the artist, other institutions have this responsibility. They should provide opportunity for these steps. They are not the leaders in this. They should be the followers. They can apply their resources to the cause and help facilitate.

14. from Fred: A very thoughtful piece on a terribly complex subject. Your family and personal history makes you well qualified to consider the topic. I hadn’t considered the situation in Minneapolis in the light of the German decision to preserve evidence of the Holocaust. The Mankato scaffold and what it represents should be burned into the minds of Minnesotans and their fellow countrymen.

15. from Dick: Here is the official report of the result of the Mediation which will remove the art work. I will next comment after the structure is burned.

16. from Maryellen: Thank you for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking post on the controversy over the artwork called the scaffold. I read through all the comments with great interest.

The hangings of Dec. 26, 1862 are a haunting thing. It will take a lot more than this artwork to put these ghosts to rest.

This parallel lacks some exactness, but I bring it up for painful contrast: the scaffold is a form of execution and so was the cross. How would the early Christians have reacted to a ‘Cross’ created as a Roman work of art? Even with the intention of reminding everyone of its horror?

And yet, it is true that this ‘Scaffold’ may help, if only by reminding us all.

17. from Barbara: Dick – This is the best response I have heard. And I agree with you.

18. from a boyhood friend in ND: Interesting reading. There have been, and still are, some very horrible people living on this planet. We have talked about the book that I am trying to write about religion and the difficulty that I have on the issue of morality because of how hypocritical people are. I don’t know whether there is an afterlife with a heaven and hell, but if there is a hell, it will be full of folks like our founding fathers for what they did to the Native Americans and their enslavement of other humans. It would also be filled with the Europeans that were responsible for not only for the invasion of North America, but also the invasions of South America, Africa, Australia, and portions of Asia during their colonization movements, and what they did to the native populations.

One thing that I am always curious about is the big deal that the world makes about the German Holocaust. There were more Iranians killed in the Iranian Holocaust that we were partially responsible for, and far more Native Americans, and possibly Armenians at the hands of the Turks. So why do we all make a big deal just about the Jews. Hitler killed more Christians than Jews. Where are all the monuments and museums commemorating the deaths of all those Christians. And what about the hundreds of Christians that have been killed by Israel in Gaza? Over 400 in just the 2014 attack on the UN shelter in place facilities. Don’t they count? I could go on and on, but to no avail. It is unfortunate though that historically evil has generally trumped good.

And thanks for that bible atlas that you got from your friend. I will take good care of it and will return it if Joe wants it back. I got a kick out of your notion that this is a hand-me-down from a Jew to a Catholic, to a Muslim. I would have thought that you would know that to be a Jew, Christian, Muslim or any other of the Abrahamic sects, a prime requirement is that you worship the Earth God of Abraham, and that from our previous discussions of my book, I do not believe that the Earth God of Abraham exists, like so many others that are pursuing a set of beliefs that are more consistent with our current knowledge base. I am what is called a freelance monotheist. That was a term coined by a lady back in the 1990s, whose name I cannot remember. [Karen Armstrong]

19. from George: Being from MN and from a southern MN family I immediately related the scaffolding to Mankato. I see it as an item of horror not of art. Just as I see Kathy Griffin’s attention grabbing ploy to not be comic “art” but in poor taste, and definitely not a threat.

19A. Response from Dick: One of the most interesting comments so far has been from Maryellen (above): “It will take a lot more than this artwork to put these ghosts to rest.

This parallel lacks some exactness, but I bring it up for painful contrast: the scaffold is a form of execution and so was the cross. How would the early Christians have reacted to a ‘Cross’ created as a Roman work of art? Even with the intention of reminding everyone of its horror?”

I happen to be lifelong Catholic. I hadn’t thought of the cross piece before. There is hardly a more ubiquitous piece of art than the cross, including in church art. I’d guess Christians would consider the crucifixion on a cross as a “horror”, but nonetheless it seems acceptable as art. The question is a difficult one, I’ll say. Which makes the conversation even more important.

20. from Stacy: I liked your article and the perspective you have on this. It would be a shame to sweep this under the rug when it is such a opportunity for conversation and reflection.

21. from Sandy:
Good and meaningful thoughts Dick! You certainly can speak with great knowledge on historical events and issues. thanks

22. from Rebecca: Because of your interest: Re: the Walker Art Center sculpture, I want to recommend to you the book An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, in paperback this year from Beacon Pr. It won the 2015 American book award. After reading this book last month, I contacted the author, a now 77 year old white/Indian woman scholar of American history who lives in California and is emeritus from one of the California universities. I contacted her just before the Walker art museum scandal had happened. I have invited her to come to the Twin Cities to speak and I will hopefully have an announcement about it at the MAP delegate meeting June 13th.

22A. Response from Dick: Thank you, Rebecca. Re “Because of your interest”, I’d like to share a few thoughts about what brought me to this particular place in my own history awareness and position on the sculpture issue. I’m North Dakotan, living there through college (1940-61). We lived, and thus I grew up, in a succession of tiny towns throughout the state. Basically, I’d say, the towns were Catholic; or Lutheran; there were Germans from Russia (mostly), and Scandinavians. That was our notion of “ethnic diversity”. This was back in the days when Catholics and Protestants had little to do with each other, to the point of outright hostility. There were others: Jews, Moslems, but they were rare and very unusual. It was not an enlightened time.

My mother grew up on a farm, which became very much like my “hometown”, as it was a consistent place in my life. My Dad grew up in a town of a few thousand, and his Dad was chief engineer in a flour mill.

I have said publicly as far back as the 1980s that “Indians” to us were about the same as “Negroes” in the south, even less fairly treated. Indeed, the situation for the Native Americans was probably worse, as they were on Reservations. My earliest memories, experienced, not spoken, were between 1945 and 1951 when, on occasion, we drove through the Ft. Totten Reservation near Devils Lake ND. I say “through”, it may have been beside – I don’t know for sure. What I am sure of is the sense I had as a kid that this was where the Indians lived, and it wasn’t a place you’d want your car to break down.

A few years later we lived a few miles west of Wahpeton ND, and I attended a tiny rural school and I was on the high school basketball team. At least twice we played basketball against the “Wahpeton Indian School” team out at the School of Science gymnasium. I remember the “Indian” ball players as very quick. I think that this was the same school, at about the same time, that author Louise Erdrich‘s father was superintendent. My Dad was school superintendent then at our tiny school. Both times we played on the Indian Schools court. Again, there was nothing spoken. The Indians were in their place, and it wasn’t with the rest of us.

Until the air bases and missile facilities of the late 1950s, there were few if any Negroes in ND.

I read somebodies memories of growing up in northeast North Dakota in the 1880s, and she remembered her French-Canadian mothers admonishment to the children: “Don’t trust the Indians or the Norwegians”!

I don’t have any Native-American ancestry – I’m half French-Canadian (Dad) and German (Mom) but I know of relatives of my French-Canadian grandparents generation who had strong native American ancestry. It is not at all unknown to me.

I first took a very active interest in Native Issues perhaps in the 1980s; in Whitestone Hill in the early 1990s. I am guessing the 1990s was the first time I knew of Whitestone (since it is remote – you need to be going there to really know it exists), and I’m also guessing it was a trip from the rural ND farm the 35 or so miles to see it. It is an impactful place, remote, alone, in its way beautiful. Rarely have I been there with any other visitors on the grounds. If one wishes an opportunity to meditate, Whitestone is a good choice.

My intention is to write more about this issue as time goes on, probably after the lumber is burned.

For certain, feel free to pass this along to the author you mentioned.

Thank you again.

22B. POSTNOTE, DICK June 9, 2017 The Scaffold has been disappeared from the news, replaced in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune by a long piece in the Variety Section, “Something to crow about”. Where the Scaffold was would have been the first sculpture seen as visitors entered at the “New Entry. It has been disappeared.

The culminating event, the burning of the pieces of the Scaffold, has been postponed.

Personally, I think the apparent leadership of the Native American community and its allies missed a major opportunity for dialogue and reconciliation, and possibly they recognize this now, and too late. The Walker doesn’t distinguish itself either. One can only imagine the behind the curtain discussions, and debate, within both camps.

I may wander down to see the new Garden June 10. At some later date, when/if it is decided to burn the pieces of the scaffold, in one ceremony or in many, I will try to cover that story as best I can, if I am privy to information about it.

I’m satisfied that I did what I could.

The photo below is of artifacts found over many years at the North Dakota farm of my ancestors, probably from plowing. Their home was three miles “as the crow flies” from the James River.

May a path be found to Peace. The June 2 post contains updates as I have found them over the last two weeks.

(click to enlarge)

from the North Dakota farm, found sometime after 1905.

23. from Norm: Thanks for your commentaries on the scaffold as well as your remembrances of growing up in the vicinity or the Fort Totten reservation and/or at least driving through it.

I grew up just a few miles from a reservation in Carlton County occupied by the Native Americans who now operate the successful casino located at I-35 and H-210 west of Carlton and south of Cloquet.

The conventional wisdom when I was growing up as well is that you did not want to have car trouble while driving through the reservation, especially around Sawyer which is on H-210 west of Carlton.

The Native Americans were seen in the same light as were negroes in the south and other parts of the country as well just as you said was the case in the state that you grew up in and where I was stationed for eighteen-months at the Minot AFB until being shipped to Thailand.

To this day, many of the residents of my home town and the surrounding area especially those near the ditch-bank areas northeast of town, continue to hold the Native Americans responsible for the lack of deer in the area because “they can hunt at anytime regardless of the season” and so on. They also hold them responsible for any thefts or damage that occurs to property and residences just outside of the reservation.

I had the good fortune to work with many dedicated Native Americans when I was the chief of EMS for the Minnesota Department of Health for several years. We utilized several talented folks from the Red Lake reservation and others as part of our testing crews as well as for the ambulance transportation services in the Red Lake area and on the White Earth reservation as well…and other places beyond that .

It was a privilege to work with them just as it was to work with all number of committed volunteers all across the state who provided basic emergency medical response services to their communities.

The fact that an Native American couple did come off of the reservation to a home just northeast of Cromwell a few years ago and kill a young couple and then stole their new truck that they later tried to burn on the reservation did add fuel to the fire of that perception no matter that the couple was later tried, found guilty and placed in prison.

Thanks again, Dick.

23A. Response from Dick: Thank you. Re your last paragraph “The fact…in prison”, I always pay attention to how such incidents are treated if by “people like us” versus “other”. A dramatic pre-9-11-01 example was Oklahoma City, where initially the suspect was somebody who apparently looked middle eastern. When it became known that it was two white anti-government guys, the conversation seemed to change, immediately.

We have a very long way to go….

(click to enlarge)

June 11, 2017, about 11 a.m. at southwest corner of the space formerly occupied by the Scaffold.

24. Dick Bernard: I returned to the site again this morning (June 11). A quick storm had passed through, refreshing the space. At the corner of the site of the former Scaffold location, I saw the flag and flower shown above. I don’t know who put it there, what their intention was, how long it will remain…. It was definitely put there on purpose, as would such symbols be seen at the Vietnam Wall in D.C. or elsewhere.

I want to comment briefly on my forbears role in this story, which I hope will continue long after “the ink dries” on these words.

Shortly after Whitestone Hill (1863), the final Treaty transferring Indian Lands to the United States was concluded at Huot Crossing in northwest Minnesota, at the Red Lake River (Huot Old Crossing 1863003). It was to the Treaty land that my French-Canadian ancestors came in 1878, and a number still remain to this day. They settled in Dakota Territory, not far west of the Red River. North Dakota became a state in 1889.

In 1904, my German ancestors came to North Dakota, taking virgin prairie south of Jamestown, perhaps 35 miles from Whitestone Hill, which with hardly any doubt they had never heard about. Whitestone had occurred over 40 years earlier – like the late 1970s compares to today. Indeed, they came across Indian artifacts such as the hammerheads shown above. These were turned over in plowing the prairie. Their farmstead was about three miles from the important James River, and on a rise in the surrounding countryside. Most likely it was a good vantage point in native days, as it is, still.

I doubt that either group, nor any of the ordinary settlers, had any notion of having stolen someone elses land. But, maybe they did?

What we’re left with is the present, over 150 years and many generations after the fact.

It has occurred to me that an appropriate resolution at the Sculpture Garden might be to have a mutually agreed to and designed nature garden (common on the Sculpture Garden grounds) placed at the exact site where the scaffold stood for those few days. That is just a suggestion.

Leaving the garden this morning I decided to take a closer look at what I called the “Chime Tree” yesterday. I was most intrigued by the story accompanying it. Both are pictured below.

The Cottonwood at the Sculpture Garden, June 11, 2017

Explanation of the history of the Cottonwood Tree

I wasn’t sure what kind of tree it was, yesterday, but when I saw the word “Cottonwood”, I thought of a story I had written some years ago about another Cottonwood on the North Dakota farm. Here it is.

Let us keep working towards reconciliation, no matter how long or hard the road.

25. from Mary Ellen: I read everything. So much to process. So many important perspectives. I was stunned by the choice of memorial placed where the scaffold stood so briefly– an American flag and a white carnation. What does that mean?
Yes, keep this going!
Right now I have nothing to add. Still thinking.

25A. from Dick, June 18: I was over to the Sculpture Garden today. The flag and white carnation were no longer there. A mystery perhaps no one else will notice or care about. For me, the Sculpture Garden has taken on greater significance than it ever had before.

Anne Dunn: “Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, from her book, “Fire in the Village”

Monday, May 8th, 2017

(click to enlarge)


Note: Anne has honored this space with her work on a number of occasions. With her permission, I present this story from her wonderful book Fire in the Village. Ordering information at end of this post. Regarding the photo, see note at the end of this post.

Grandmother died suddenly, as so many had during those difficult days. For that reason, her eldest granddaughter began to clean th old woman’s small tar-papered house by the big lake.

If Grandmother had sold the valuable lakeshore property she would have been a rich woman. But she’d held on to the land so she could leave something for her surviving children. Eventually, however, the land had been divided and bit by bit, it would be lost.

But today her orphaned granddaughter, Rose, would discover an old mystery carefully wrapped and packed in the bottom of a wooden barrel. The barrel was full of rug rags, colorful yarn and remnants of fabrics the old woman had been saving for quilts.

So it was that Rose found herself holding an exquisite bowl. After turning it around several times to admire the shape and design, she looked inside. She was startled to find a long braid of human hair coiled in the bottom of the bowl. It was an old braid from an old person. The braid had been tied at the ends with faded red ribbons. Rose wondered whose hair it was and what her obligations were now that she had become the keeper of the hair bowl.

Thoughtfully she put the bowl and its mysterious contents into a box of things she would keep for herself. Then she went on sorting the rags and folding the fabrics in neat stacks for the giveaway, which would celebrate Grandmother’s life one year from the day of her death.

After the four-day wake and burial, Rose turned her attention to the hair bowl. She fully recognized her responsibility to the hair and decided to seek counsel on the matter.

On a bright spring morning Rose made a bundle of several carefully chosen items from Grandmother’s possessions, put the hair bowl in a bag and went to visit Maggie Sore Eyes.

After a warm greeting followed by three cups of maple-sweetened wild mint tea and four fig cookies, Rose placed the bundle on the table between them. Maggied opened the bundle and found a tin of tobacco, a pair of blanket slippers, an embroidered apron and three skeins of yarn. She smiled at Rose and thanked her.

When the gift had been accepted, Rose showed her the hair bowl. The elder woman lifted the braid and held it in her hands for several long minutes. Then she laid the hair on the table, opened a nearby chest and removed several items.

She placed a large abalone shell, a bundle of sage and a sweetgrass braid on the table. Prayerfully she prepared and lit a cleansing smudge. The women sat together in silence as the shadows of the tall trees crept across the yard.

At last Maggie spoke. “We will be visited in our dreams. After you dream, you must come to me with the hair bowl. I will be waiting for my dream, too. When we receive instructions we will know what we must do.”

Rose was greatly relieved as she walked home late that afternoon.

That night she had her dream. An elder woman, whom she’d never seen before, came to her and said she wanted to give her a gift. Reaching up, the elder cut off one of her braids with a stone blade and held it out to Rose.

When she woke up she dressed quickly and hurried to Maggie’s small house. After sipping a cup of hot coffee, Rose told her dream. The elder woman listened the told her dream to Rose.

Maggie lit the smudge. Together the women prayed for guidance and understanding. Afterwards, they discussed what must be done. They decided to create a ceremony of compassion, burn the hair in a nearby balsam grove and wait.

It took several days to gather everything they needed for the ceremony. When all was ready they went to the grove, performed the ceremony and waited. At last, another woman joined them. Rose recognized her as the woman in her dream. Her braid had been restored and she was pleased. Now she could continue her journey.

For many years Rose kept her own hair in the bowl. She burned the hair under a full moon several times a year.

Eventually she became the mother of several children and her eldest son was married. Tanya, the young bride, was interested in the ceremonies of women.

But before the newlyweds could celebrate their first anniversary, Tanya became ill and Rose prepared a cleansing ceremony for her healing. She also decided to give Tanya the hair bowl. So she presented the gift with a braid of sweet grass inside. Tanya looked into the bowl for a long time. Then she said, ‘I must tell you my dream.”

The young woman spoke softly: “An elder woman came to me. She said she wanted to give me a gift. Then reaching up, she cut off one of her braids and held it out to me.”

Rose was overcome with emotion and turned toward the window to hide her feelings. Then it was that she saw four women standing in the yard. They were her mother, her grandmother, Mattie and the elder woman she had seen in the balsam grove so many years before. The women smiled at Rose, then looked beyond her at Tanya who smiled back. Slowly the four women faded into another dimension and were gone.

Tanya reached across the table to hold Rose’s hand. They sat together in the gathering darkness and thanked the visitors for coming.

Sharing the same dream would enrich their long relationship. The women would enjoy several good years together and many times they would be asked to make ceremonies for the healing, cleansing and guidance of other women and their children.

POST NOTE FROM DICK BERNARD: Anne, longtime friend, sent Fire in the Village to me as a gift a few months ago. Its contents are 75 stories similar to the above.

“Keeper of the Hair Bowl”, at page 195-97, spoke to me immediately. Anne won’t know, till she reads this post, that in the possessions of my last surviving elder from my mothers side, I found in a trunk at the former family farm in North Dakota the container pictured at the beginning of this story. It was a possession that spoke to me, profoundly, but what does one do with a can full of old hair? It has been safely stored in our garage for the past two years.

I took the photograph, without embellishment, on May 8, 2017. For the first time I disturbed the contents to see what was within.

There are no labels with the various cuttings of human hair.

Almost without any question, they were collected by my grandmother, as her children were born and grew up on the North Dakota prairie. From 1907-27, nine children were born in that farmhouse, and they all grew up there as well. The first five children were girls, then a boy, then two more girls, then two boys. Among them they had 28 children, one of whom was me.

Of course, I have read the story, and it brought tears to my eyes as I read it now.

For any reader who wishes, how would you advise about the future of this can full of hair?

It is one of those treasures without price or money value. Just some old hair…but much, much more than that.

Anne, need I mention my grandmothers name: Rose Busch.

And one of her granddaughters: Tonya….

COMMENTS
from Kathy:
My thoughts about the hair-
Many of us who sew or make quilts, save old scraps in hopes of piecing these remnants together someday. Often these scraps get relegated to the back of a closet or put away into boxes or plastic tubs and are soon forgotten in life’s whirlwind.

The hair scraps made me think of the antique hair wreaths I’ve seen in museums. My friend also has a tatted hair wreath displayed in an ornate frame, passed down in her family from the 1800s – bits of hair from family members…a sort of tapestry of family dna samples.

I suspect that’s why your bucket of hair was being saved – a treasure.

#1119 – Dick Bernard: The Armenian Genocide, 1915-23

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

(click to enlarge photos. This post includes two parts, with information from Lou Ann Matossian and Peter Balakian Updated May 9, 2016_

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

The internet brought an announcement of “A presentation and discussion led by Lou Ann Matossian on “Armenian Genocide Education and the Community.” I went to the presentation at the University of Minnesota last Wednesday evening, and learned a great deal about the delayed but active Minnesota response to the horrible Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during a year beginning in Spring 1915.

Here are some maps relating to the Armenian Genocide from the Genocide Museum in Armenia.

(click to enlarge)

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Ms Matossian’s talk emphasized the relationship of the Armenians to Minnesota and the Congregational Church in particular. You can read, here, the results of extensive research she did of Minnesota newspaper coverage of the Genocide in 1915.

I didn’t know, till Ms Matossian’s talk, of the historical Christian and Minnesota connection with Armenia.

I’ve long been aware of the genocide, but it is like numerous issues: I didn’t give it close attention…Wednesday it came to life.

When I left the gathering, I found myself thinking not only about the Armenian Genocide but other atrocities, including America’s own shameful record with people we in the olden days generically termed as “Indians”: a successful genocide at least from the standpoint of we beneficiaries, the descendants of the ancestors who got the land and won all the rights and privileges, guilt free.

Back home after the session I took out a 1912 public school geography textbook I had found on my ancestral farm in south central North Dakota. Was there anything about Armenia?

You can see parts of two maps from that book, above and below, which say a great deal. No question that there was a place called Armenia, more a question about its status, then, as a distinct state.

The wikipedia entry about Armenia gave further help. From the article: “Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In between the late 3rd century to early years of the 4th century, the state became the first Christian nation. The official date of state adoption of Christianity is 301 AD”.

A good general reference about the Armenian Genocide may be this one

The website of the St. Sahag Armenian Ch. in St. Paul gives some basics of the genocide.

*

April 14, 2016, I attended a second most enlightening talk about the Armenian genocide, by Prof. Peter Balakian of Colgate University. (Subsequent to the session, I learned that Balakian won a 2016 Pulitzer Prize.)

The photo which leads this post, of Armenian Churches existing, later destroyed, at the time of the genocide is from Balakian’s presentation.

Some comments which supplement Dr. Matossian’s:

Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in Totally Unofficial defined the word genocide based on what happened in Christian Armenia, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Hitler used societies tendency to historical amnesia about the Armenian genocide to at least partially justify what he felt was the political low risk of eliminating the Jews: “after all, who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians.”

Balakian divided genocide into two general categories: “Barbarism” is the killing of people; “Vandalism” is the destruction of an entire culture, things like differing religious beliefs, churches, art and the like.

He further differentiated between destruction of cultures in the times of territorial expansion, more or less before 1900, and what he called the “modern modality”. I could see his point; however, indiscriminate destruction of some “other” is destruction nonetheless, regardless of rationale.

I found myself thinking about the possibility that the internet in particular has created a new, equally evil, post-modern modality. In this modern day, we don’t kill people physically, we assassinate them, particularly leaders at times of elections, such as the period we are now in. This is an enhanced form of “cyber-bullying”. “Truth” in this post-modern modality is completely irrelevant. The target lives, physically, but is nonetheless the motive is to destroy the target.

I had come into Prof. Balakian’s session early, and even preceding me, in the back row, were seated two women who very much fit the appearance of Muslims. They sat there quietly. The room filled, and I heard one man, in some apparent official capacity, come past me right before the event started and say: “I think I see trouble in the back row”. (It is hardly a risk to infer that he was referring to the women I reference.)

When I left, the two women were still there. There had been no incidents of any kind. But I did notice.

There exists, I think, a great opportunity for dialogue. I wish those two women, and that man, and others, could come together, just to talk.

*

Wherever there are people, there are opportunities for genocide in the hands of evil. Rwanda and Darfur are but two examples in recent history. But we need look no further than some of the present political rhetoric of U.S. Presidential politics where deliberate ginning up of hatred for others who are somehow different is effective. We have to be constantly vigilant and outspoken within our own circles in American society. The spectre of evil is always there.

The essential conversation continues: for more about Armenian Genocide, see April 14th program announcement here, the website of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

*

How bad was the Armenian Genocide?

I always try to put events in some sort of context, to try to better understand what led to/results from such events.

Of course, a post like this hardly is a pin-prick on a piece of paper about our awful history as supposedly civilized people.

“Our”, here, largely means those descended from European colonizers.

See this data set about the bitter fruits of people against people, generally, in the last 150 years.

The 150 years between 1860 and 2010 seem to be the deadliest era in human caused death and destruction from war. The Armenian genocide comes at about mid-point in this deadly era. It is one of many tragedies.

In the case of Armenia and the Ottoman Turks, the ancient and deadly Christian Crusades to control the Holy Land may well serve as a prelude – I’ve heard it argued that the Crusades essentially “birthed” the Ottoman Turks*.

The arbitrary carving up of the Middle East as spoils to the European victors in WWI is a postlude, which very significantly contributes to the chaos in the Middle East up to the present day (ISIS and the now global “war on terror”).

Scroll down in the above referenced data set to the “1.5” in the left hand column. You’ll find reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenian deaths between 1915 and 1923, the “First Genocide of the 20th Century committed by the Ottoman Government on Armenian Civilians.” Scroll down a bit further, to .75 (750,000) Greek deaths in the same time period for the same reason, and .275 (275,000) Assyrian deaths in Mesopotamia (now the general area of Iraq and Syria – places like Mosul, now ISIS territory.)

And there is more perspective in the chart: scroll up to the second entry in Genocides, and there is the estimate of 55 million deaths of native people in the Americas due to conquest and colonization between 1492 and 1691. As is noted there, there are wildly disparate estimates of the actual death toll then, 8.4 to 138 million, the actual number “which might actually never be determined”.

This genocide came at the hands of my people, white Europeans, in all the assorted ways we have heard from one time to another, the history slanted towards the winners, of course.

*

About 35 miles from that south central ND farm in which I found the old geography book with the maps shown here, is the Whitestone Hill Battlefield at which a large number of peaceful Indians on their annual buffalo hunt were massacred by American military in 1863. Twenty soldiers died; it is impossible to find a definitive number from among the several thousand Indians who were there*. The official story is vague.

I have visited that site often (two photos above and below), and today, as always since the early 1900s, the visible monument there is to the soldiers who died, with scarce evidence of a much later, very simple unadorned stone monument to the Indians who were on their annual buffalo hunt, killed in the deadly skirmish.

I mention this fact as Ms Matossian noted that today there are no apparent monuments in Turkey to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey, in 1862 officially called for either moving out or exterminating the Sioux Indians from Minnesota – a statement repudiated by Ramsey’s successor, Gov. Mark Dayton, in 2013. It is common to dehumanize the adversary. In such situations, this scenario is common.

One of my first Minnesota relatives, Samuel Collette, was part of Henry Hastings Sibley’s Minnesota unit in the 1863 war, reaching what was to become Bismarck ND in August 1863, “mission accomplished”. Their unit wasn’t at Whitestone Hill but that was only an accident of history. Nebraska and Iowa were at Whitestone.

*

If I am correct, that 1860-2010 was a particularly gruesome “round” of people destroying other people; can I hope that the next 150 years, from 2010-2160, can be, truly, a time of awakening that we are all family, together, on an ever more fragile earth.

We all need each other.

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

* – The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. There is plenty of blame to go around. A winner in one round becomes the loser in another, and on we go.

** – A well researched article about the battle from the North Dakota Historical Society is “The Battle of Whitestone Hill“, by Clair Jacobson, North Dakota History Journal of the Northern Plains, Vol 44, No. 3 Summer, 1977.

COMMENTS:
from Larry:
Thanks, Dick – excellent, informative article. I particularly saved this line: The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. That is SO true!

from David: Nice piece. There are so many important events in history that we have, at best, a dim memory of hearing about them.

from Flo: I remember praying rosaries for the starving Armenians, and being reminded of their plight when we fussed over the food served us at home [1950s]. I don’t remember any conversations about just who the Armenians were or why they needed our prayers. Do you?

from Bill: Great article, Dick. There was a secretary at 3M that was the daughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide. The world has never been able to get the Turks to acknowledge their role in this genocide.The USA has stopped doing so since we depend on our military bases in Turkey. I did read once that the Turks hated the Armenians for siding with Russia when Russia was attacking Turkey some years before World War I.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED.
I enjoy international topics, and often write my own impressions on international happenings.
Jan. 1, 2015, I posted a blog about the 70th anniversary of the United Nations here.. Much to my surprise, by the end of 2015 I had posted 55 commentaries about international issues. They are all linked at the post.

International related posts at this space since Jan. 1, 2016:
1. Jan. 22, 2016: Global Climate Issue
2. Feb. 14, 2016: Lynn Elling, Warrior for Peace
3. Feb. 29, 2016: The 3rd (12th) anniversary of the Haiti coup, Feb. 29, 2004.
4. Mar. 4, 2016: Green Card Voices
5. Mar. 6, 2016: Welcoming Refugees
6. Mar. 12, 2016: Canada PM Justin Trudeau visits the White House
7. Mar. 20, 2016. The 13th anniversary of the Iraq War.
8. Mar. 22, 2016 The Two Wolves…President Obama Visits Cuba
9. Mar. 23, 2016 The Two Wolves, Deux. Brussels

#1104 – Dick Bernard: Revisiting “The Bones of Plenty”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s Reflective Testimony to Ourselves and Coming Generations: “Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now”.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

UPDATE May 1, 2016: The official Lois Phillips Hudson website is here.

UPDATE Feb. 27, 2016: Six pages from North Dakota State University (Fargo) Archives, Feb. 23, 2016. Hudson NDSU Arch001Mrs. Hudson taught at NDSU 1967-69.
*
In 1962, Lois Phillips Hudson published “The Bones of Plenty”.

A New York Times Book Review commentary said this about the book: “It is possible…that literary historians of the future will decide that The Bones of Plenty was the farm novel of the Great Drought of the 1920s and 1930s and the Great Depression. Better than any other novel of the period with which I am familiar, Lois Phillips Hudson’s story presents, with intelligence and rare understanding, the frightful disaster that closed thousands of rural banks and drove farmers off their farms, the hopes and savings of a lifetime in ruins about them.”

While I grew up a North Dakotan, I missed the book at the time of publication.

In early Jan. 1962, freshly graduated from college (Valley City (ND) State Teachers College), I entered the United States Army, spending two years playing war in the rattle-snake infested foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Ft. Carson, Colorado and other places, like Hanford Firing Range, Washington.

After the Army, life interfered with things like recreational reading; I don’t recall ever hearing about “The Bones of Plenty”.

In fact, it wasn’t until my friend, Nancy Erickson, told me about the The Bones of Plenty a few years ago, that I took the time to read it, and it spoke to me, very personally. It was my people she was talking about: rural North Dakotans who had lived through and survived the awful years of the 1930s, “The Great Depression”.

The “Bones of Plenty” is set in rural Stutsman County North Dakota in 1934, set primarily in Jamestown and rural Cleveland ND (photos which follow are of Cleveland ND* taken January 27, 2016).

(click to enlarge)

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the  main street.

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the main street.

At the time I was introduced to “The Bones of Plenty” by Nancy, I was spending more and more time with my Uncle Vincent and Aunt Edithe in LaMoure, a town little more than an hours drive from Cleveland.

When I’d ask Vincent, a lifelong rural Berlin ND farmer, about the Depression, he would always reply that 1934, the year he was nine, was the worst. (He was 2 1/2 years older than Lois Phillips, then living on the rural Cleveland ND tenant farm, not far away).

I can attest, having shouldered the task of closing down the 110 year old farm, that the family never recovered from the trauma of the 30s.

And they weren’t unusual: being trapped in years of uncertainty has its impact. “The folks”, their siblings and many others lived in the shadow of the 30s their whole lives. “The Bones of Plenty” put “meat” on those bones for me. It helped me understand why they lived as carefully as they did.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016. Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

Jan. 27, 2016. Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

*

Fast forward.

January 6, 2016, one of those occasional unusual e-mails came to my e-screen.

A person named Cynthia Anthony introduced herself: “I’m seeking permission to post links to your posts, numbers 490**, 499**, and 565**, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson. I am the director of the Lois Phillips Hudson Project, and run a website dedicated to preserving her legacy – you can view [the site] here.”

As we began our chat, I found that Cynthia lives in western New York state, I am in Minnesota (but North Dakotan to the core). She had come to be custodian of Ms Hudson’s boxes of archival material after Ms Hudson’s death in 2010, in part, I gathered, because of her involvement in something called the Rural Lit Rally. She said the boxes had yielded little about Lois’ 8 years in ND, nor about her parents and their kin. She knew a lot about most of the rest of Lois’ life, beginning about 1937, mostly in Washington State, most around Redmond.

Redmond, among other things, is the headquarters of Microsoft.

I agreed to help Cynthia sort out the North Dakota connection of Ms Phillips Hudson (and invite the reader of this blog to do the same. Here is the portal for submitting comments, etc., to her.)

Included in the many boxes was a manuscript of a nearly completed book, Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now (click on the title for ordering information). Ms Hudson had apparently been working on the book from about 2000 till near her death; roughly the decade of her 70s.

On careful review, a decision was finally made to publish the 390 page book as it had been left by Ms Hudson, including occasional typos and notations about incomplete verification of sources.

*

I have read Unrestorable Habitat, and I recommend it without any qualification whatsoever. It is powerful, and it is uncomfortable.

In many ways “Unrestorable Habitat…” is autobiographical and about the world of Lois Phillips Hudson, from youth forward. It weaves personal recollections and direct observations of contemporary life, as seen by a young girl, then by a woman who ultimately retired as a college professor in 1992, about the desperately poor rural North Dakota of the 1930s, and country village, thence city of Redmond, Washington, from the 1930s to the end of her life.

The book offers the reader a great deal of food for thought about our present technological age.

No reader who cares about the future of our planet will be comfortable reading Ms Hudsons observations. We are all complicit in the deteriorating state of our planet. Start with myself, writing this post on a computer in a comfortable room, soon to be transmitted to who-knows-where by internet….

As I read Unrestorable Habitat, I have to ask myself, how do I fit into this narrative of squandering our future for the comfort of today? What can I, as an individual, do to make the future hospitable or at least survivable for the generations which follow, as well as for other living species?

The problem to solve is not someone elses: it is mine, and all of ours.

This book would be a great one for book clubs. I recommend it highly.

* – In 1920, the first census of Cleveland showed a population of 341; in 1930, 273; 1940, 246; 1950, 181…the current population is estimated as 82.

** – The references to The Bones of Plenty in previous blogs are found in #490; 499 and #565

Jan. 27, 2016.  The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment.  Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

Jan. 27, 2016. The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment. Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

COMMENTS
from Jermitt: Thanks for sharing information on Lois Phillips Hudson book “The Bones of Plenty”. There are two books about the dust storms of the Great Plains and depression of the late twenties and early 1930 that I really like. They are The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, The Great Plains by Ian Frazier and Pioneer Woman of the West, by Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson. I just finished my book “Memories of a Grateful Past” Stories of Family and Friends from the Heart 1830-1985. The book has 470 pages of stories about family, friends, and my work as a teacher and eighteen years of working with the Wisconsin Education Association (1968-1985). The book also includes family stories from South Dakota during the depression and drought. It has gotten wonderful reviews, so I’m pretty excited about it. The books will be printed and sent to me by April 1.

from Curtis: As a history guy is it just on ND? Just finished Eva’s Story by Eva Schloss. Story of a survivor of the death camps of WWII. After the war her mother married Otto Frank. Tough read about what humans did to other humans.

Response to Curtis: Bones of Plenty is 100% about Stutsman County ND, basically rural Cleveland and Jamestown in 1934. Unrestorable Habitat is mostly about Redmond (suburban Seattle) in the 2000s, but includes lots of autobiographical flashbacks to Hudson’s growing up on the ND farm.

from Lynn: Thanks Dick, This reminds me that when I worked for the North Dakota Farmers Union we were privileged to have Lois speak to a youth group, I think in 1968. Very memorable experience!

from JoAnn: Thanks for all your interesting discussions. I can remember receiving a copy of “Bones of Plenty”, I believe from my mother. My brother and I enjoyed the incongruity of the lovely title. I totally enjoyed the book. I was not old enough to participate in the actual worst periods of those times, but i certainly lived through the after effects of those years. My grand father lost his bank in Wheatland in spite of my mother donating her $5000 inheritance from an uncle in the vain attempt at saving the bank. (Quite a chunk in those days.) I can remember many conversations (this would have to be early 40s as I was born in late 39) in which my father would end with the phrase, “Well, we can always move to the Ozarks.” I guess that was his escape plan if we couldn’t stick. My husband and I have recently moved and while unloading and sorting and selecting books to keep, I actually handled BONES OF PLENTY today. I acquired along the way somewhere, a book entitled, REAPERS OF THE DUST, a prairie chronicle also by Hudson. More recently I found THE WORST HARD TIME by Timothy Egan, which, as my brother would say,”Another miserable book”. This I took to mean another book about a miserable time. Egan’s book is not about our local area but covers the horror of the dust that covered the earth of the high plains during those “dirty thirties.” The descriptions were unbelievable. Perhaps you’ve read this book already. Anyway, thanks for directing my thoughts back to those memories. You do great work with your blog. Cheers!

from Emily: Great article! Thank you for sharing! I hope you are well.

from Debbie: Thanks for this info, Dick. I love reading books about Dakota. I do believe I read Bone of Plenty way back when. Will look for the other.

from Christina: I googled for some information on those two books. I think they both might be very interesting especially “Unrestorable Habitat.” I like John Grisham’s books. I am now reading Gray Mountain. I know it’s fiction but based on true situations. This one is about the coal companies strip mining the mountains, miners with black lung diseases,the water being polluted from the coal slush & waste being dumped into the valleys etc. The coal companies have the lawyers pretty well sewed up . I am thankful how Gov. Link got that reclamation project passed. Many object to the EPA but thankfully some one is watching out for our environment. Thanks for the book recommendations.

from Kathleen: Thanks very much. Our library system has it. I look forward to reading it when I return from CA.

#1057 – Dick Bernard: More thoughts from Anne Dunn. “The next seven generations”

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

My friend, Anne Dunn*, is always worth paying attention to. She has great wisdom, from life.

Today came two items, one from Anne, the other about something which Anne said. The sources were different, and, well, you can read them in the same sequence that I did.

I believe Gull Lake is the prominent resort lake just north of Brainerd MN, though I might be wrong. I believe the Treaty of 1855 referred to in the commentary is this one**, though at this writing I am not sure.

First, from Anne’s Facebook post this afternoon: “Water Walkers are those who are still strong enough to make long walks and those who are dedicated to making the future a better place for the next seven generations. They make many steps across the land and every step is a prayer. Together they are engaged in a sacred dance.It requires a commitment of time and energy. In many cases these young women leave their children behind because they believe this is what must be done to accomplish their vision of a better tomorrow.They also are prepared to endure the hardship of deprivation and extreme weather conditions. Sometimes they might face derisive comments from those who do not understand that they walk for the lives of all nations.They carry the water as women have been doing for centuries. They remember that their children are born of water. They recognize that water is vital to the lives of those nations that depend on it for survival.Water walkers raise awareness. They are hard to ignore as they go along the highways and byways and skyways in their skirts and shawls.What do such women do at the end of their walk? They return to their homes and teach those who will listen. They educate the young and those not so young but newly aware of their special place in creation.We cannot live without water and the water walker is a messenger of that fact. She is also one who helps seek real solutions to the real problems of the growing pollution around us. Water walkers take the steps for those who stay at home because of ignorance, financial restraints, physical limitations or apathy.”

Later I was reading today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, and in a column “Indian fishing and wild-rice harvesting, in context” recalls a conversation Anne Dunn had with him about water (the reference is about one-third of the way down).

There is no need to add anything to either Anne’s commentary, or Michael McNally’s column. There is much “food for thought” in both.

Thanks Anne, and Michael.

* Anne Dunn appears often on these pages. Simply enter her name in the search box for other columns at other times.

** – here is a story of the final Minnesota treaty, at Huot Crossing, October 1863. Huot Crossing Trtyt 1863001

#1051 – Anne Dunn: Meeting Billy Mills

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

The item which follows from Anne Dunn*, was forwarded to me by my sister, Flo, June 8, 2015. We had been trying to decide on an appropriate Native American recipient of a financial gift in honor of our Aunt Edithe. Edithe had been especially attentive to Native American fundraising appeals.

Anne’s commentary was originally on her Facebook page, and is forwarded with her permission. It helped Flo and I decide that Billy Mills organization “Running Strong“, was a good recipient for a family gift in memory of Aunt Edithe.

Possibly Aunt Edithe's introduction to Running Strong, a Date Book.  This one had no website.  The 2004 edition includes a website.

Possibly Aunt Edithe’s introduction to Running Strong, a Date Book. This one had no website. The 2004 edition includes a website.

*

I HAVE BEEN TOLD
Anne Dunn

Billy Mills, Running Strong

Billy Mills is the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. Jim Thorpe had won two gold medals in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. Mills ran the 10,000 -meter competition at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to become the only American to ever win the gold in this event. His victory has been considered one of the greatest Olympic upsets.

A former United States Marine, he is a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. He was born (June 30, 1938) in Pine Ridge, South Dakota He was orphaned at age 12 and raised on the reservation by his grandmother. He took up running while attending the Haskell Institute (Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence Kansas.

After he graduated he joined the USMC. He was a First Lieutenant in the Marine reserves when he competed in the 1964 Olympics.

He later set US records for 10,000 m (28:17.6) and the three-mile run, and had a 5,000 m best of 13:41.4. In 1965 he and Gerry Lindgren both broke the world record for the six-mile run. They finished in a tie at AAU National Championships, running 27:11.6.

On February 15, 2013, Mills met with President Obama at the White House to receive the Presidential Citizens Award for his work with Running Strong for American Indian Youth. His broad based nonprofit humanitarian organization has international ties. The medal is the nation’s second highest civilian award

In 1983 a movie was made of his life. “Running Brave” features Robby Benson in the starring role.

I met Billy Mills many years ago. We were standing over a garbage can at a school picnic on the Red Lake reservation. I was working for the Bemidji school district and had been asked to chaperone a group of Native American students that had been invited to the event.

He was disposing of his paper plate, plastic utensils and milk carton when I asked him for his (already been used) spoon. He was a bit unnerved by the unusual request but he put the spoon into my waiting hand. Then I asked for his milk carton, too. Now he was curious.

“Why do you want these things?”

“I will donate the carton to the school athletic department,” I told him. “I’ll ask that it be displayed in the trophy case. The spoon I will keep for a memento of the day I met Billy Mills.”

I suppose he was mildly flattered for he smiled and asked my name. Then he shook my hand and walked away.

The milk carton was accepted and placed in the trophy case where it stood for several years. Then, one day it disappeared! I suppose it looked like old garbage and someone had tossed it into the trash.

At first, I showed the spoon to everyone. But almost no one believed my story. The problem was that it looked like a hundred billion other plastic spoons. So one day I put it in my jewelry box and didn’t take it out for several years.

Then Florence Hedeen called to tell me that Billy Mills was going to speak at the school in Park Rapids. I decided to attend and to take the spoon with me. My friend LeRoy Chief, also from Pine Ridge, said he would ask Mills to autograph the unremarkable spoon.

The next problem was… would Billy Mills remember? Would he think I was just some old groupie trying to get his attention?

I arrived at the high school to find several friends waiting. They had saved a front row seat for me. Afterwards I approached the world-renowned speaker and asked if he would sign my spoon? He smiled and greeted me like an old friend! I took the spoon from my pocket. He whipped out his sharpie and wrote: “Billy Mills Olympic 10 K Gold.”

The event made front page news! There we were above the fold! A blurry black and white image of me with Billy Mills and the remarkable plastic spoon!
Years later he would visit the Bugonaygeshig School and run with students and staff. My daughter Annie was working there at that time. They were both former marines and ran together. After a few minutes she asked if he remembered her mother and the plastic spoon. He stopped in his tracks and gasped, “That woman is your mother?”

Mills, also known as Makata Taka Hela, lives in Fair Oaks, California, but still travels for his non-profit agency as an inspirational speaker.

I met him again when I attended a wellness conference for seniors at the Black Bear Casino Hotel (June 2010). Marlene Stately and I were sharing room 339. When I saw Billy Mills eating alone in the dining room, I dragged Marlene to his booth and introduced us.

He was so gracious! He pretended to remember me but was actually quite baffled until I mentioned my Marine daughter and the plastic spoon. Then he offered us a hearty smile and invited us to sit with him.

We sat with him for about 30 minutes and we spoke of many things. It was exciting to hear this famous man speaking with passion about helping his fellow Native Americans.

He likes to quote his father: “Follow your dreams. Every dream has a passion. Every passion has its destiny.”

His father also told him, “Know yourself and find your desire.” With desire comes self-motivation. Then comes work. With work comes success.

He ran a 5k fun run on New Year’s Eve about three years ago. Not only his daughters but his wife beat him! He saw them waiting for him to come in. I’m sure he thought about his glory days.

When had he become an old man with bad knees?

Let me leave you with more encouraging words from my hero, Billy Mills:

“God has given me the ability. The rest is up to me. Believe. Believe. Believe.”

“My life is a gift from my Creator. What I do with my life is my gift back to Creator.”

“What I took from the Olympic Games was not winning an Olympic gold medal but an understanding of global unity through dignity of character and pride of global diversity. And global unity through global diversity is also the future of mankind.”

“The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself to the greatest extent possible. When you do that, you have dignity. You have the pride. You can walk about with character and pride no matter in what place you happen to finish.”

* – Anne M. Dunn is a long-time and wonderful friend, an Anishinabe-Ojibwe grandmother storyteller and published author. She makes her home in rural Deer River, MN, on the Leech Lake Reservation. She can be reached at twigfigsATyahooDOTcom. She has several previous posts at Outside the Walls. You can read them all here.

A personal story about Red Lake, experienced in August, 1988, can also be found here.

#1034 – Dick Bernard: Virgil Benoit on Minnesota’s Metis and French-Canadians

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

May 19, a jam-packed room of us were treated to a one-hour presentation by Dr. Virgil Benoit, a man who needs no introduction to those with background as Metis or French-Canadian.

The below photos are from the session (click to enlarge). Here is a one hour podcast of Dr. Benoit’s talk. It speaks for itself.

Dr. Virgil Benoit May 19, 2014, Rice Street Library, St. Paul MN

Dr. Virgil Benoit May 19, 2014, Rice Street Library, St. Paul MN

Some of the Audience at Dr. Benoit's talk.

Some of the Audience at Dr. Benoit’s talk.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

NOTE: I have known Dr. Benoit personally since 1985, and participated in many of his events in the Red Lake Falls area of Minnesota, and into North Dakota, particularly at Turtle Mountain. I wrote personal impressions of him some years ago. You can find that here.

I am also a member of the French-American Heritage Foundation, as is Dr. Benoit. Give us a look. Beginning Friday, June 4, 10:30-noon, for four successive Fridays, several of us will present a personal look at our heritage: “Minnesota History with a French Accent”. The series that will be presented at Washburn Library, located at 5244 Lyndale Ave South, Minneapolis on Friday, June 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Registration is free. Several of us from French-American Heritage Foundation are conducting these classes. We did the first series in April and early May, and will again be presenting them in the Fall.

For those with an interest, there is a fascinating story of Fr. Goiffon going on a Buffalo Hunt with the Pembina area Metis about 1860. You can find it here at pages 451-59 and 466. Also note the index relating to Fr. Goiffon.

#1030 – Dick Bernard: Memorial Day 2015 Thoughts about the War About War

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

We’re out of state on Memorial Day so this year, for the first time in many years, I won’t be at the annual Vets for Peace gathering on the Minnesota State Capitol Grounds. Of course, the event doesn’t need me to go on. Here’s the info about Monday in St. Paul. This is always a meaningful event, of, by and for veterans.

Memorial Day with the Veterans for Peace
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Minnesota State Capitol grounds)
Monday, 9:30 AM
Music, poetry, speeches,
solemn ringing of bells,
and the reading of the names
of the Minnesota casualties
of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

(click to enlarge photo)

Entasham (at left) interviewing Native American author and Vietnam War vet Jim Northrup at the MN Vietnam Memorial Vets for Peace event, Memorial Day, 2014.  Cameraman fellow Pakistani, Suhail.  See Postnote

Entasham (at left) interviewing Native American author and Vietnam War vet Jim Northrup at the MN Vietnam Memorial Vets for Peace event, Memorial Day, 2014. Cameraman fellow Pakistani, Suhail. See Postnote

There are many thoughts this Memorial Day, particularly when politicians are attempting to justify war and blame someone else for it.

I’m going to propose taking some time to watch and read the items which follow. They will take some of your time, but you might find them both interesting and instructive.

Personally, I am a military veteran, from a family of veterans. I’m a long time member of the American Legion and Veterans for Peace. I have a grandson who’s in Air Force ROTC in high school, and I consider it a positive experience for him in many ways. This does not make me, or him, pro-war. It is helping him grow up. And he, too, is proud of his service.

My focus this weekend will be on a person I never met, the brother of my good friend, Jim, who died this year from the lingering and severe effects of exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam. His suffering is over. Our national confusion continues.

All this makes me a complicated individual when it comes to a conversation about this annual Memorial Day which is interpreted in so many ways (the Legion post in the town we’re visiting this weekend will be having a fish fry on Saturday night). Not all is somber on this day remembering death (though many victims of war are very much alive, though suffering PTSD or other long-term effects of war).

Here’s my recommendations:
1. March 20 I and many others listened to seven persons tell seven stories of the Vietnam War from their perspective. The film is excellent and runs for about 90 minutes. You can watch it here. I was there. It is a somber and thought-provoking presentation.

2. In recent months, out at the family farm in North Dakota, I have come across some very interesting and historical documents about World War II BEFORE Pearl Harbor. The American Legion has helpfully provided its summary history of American Wars. You can read these in the first section “POSTNOTE” here.

3. This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. On June 1 will be what appears to be a very interesting webcast of talks by many experts which at minimum I’d like you to be aware of. You can access the information here. Another perspective, by my friend and UN expert Dr. Joe Schwartzberg can be read at the end of this post from Jan. 1, 2015.

My friend, Lynn Elling, is fond of the mantra that we are in “an open moment in history” to change course.

I agree with his assessment, but even more so.

We will, collectively, decide on global progress towards peace; or continuing on a death-spiral for our entire planet through war, lack of attention to crises like man-induced climate change, etc.

We cannot pretend that the past is present; that simple belief about this or that suffices; or that there is a rosy future without deep and painful changes in our behaviors.

The mantra of the energy industry, for instance, pronounced over and over on TV ads, that we are energy independent and will be (it is suggested) okay for the next 100 years is very dangerous.

My grandparents were married 110 years ago, long ago, but a blip in human history. Who will be around 110 years from today who will remember us fondly?

It is long past time to wake up.

POSTNOTE: A year ago, this time of year, it was my privilege to meet Ehtasham Anwar, a Pakistani civil official in one of Pakistan’s largest city – as big as the Twin Cities. Ehtasham was completing a year as a Humphrey/Fulbright Fellow at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School.

We talked about many things in the month we worked together on his year-end project, on the issue of peace. And one memory is vivid in my mind, since he mentioned it to me more than once.

Paraphrasing what I remember, he said this: “Throughout this year in Minnesota I have been so impressed with how friendly and peace-loving American people are. Why is it that American foreign policy towards others in other parts of the world is so negative and dominating?”

Difficult question.

I gave him my answer, what I thought was our national problem. Hint: it is every one of us, our disinterest and lack of engagement in the greater questions of who we are with the rest of the world, even with our fellow Americans. We are individualists. Too many of us have had it far too well, for far too long. We feel we are entitled to what some call our “exceptionalism”.

What is yours?, I ask you.

Ironically, overnight came a personal commentary remembered from a fifteen years ago conversation in Paris by my favorite blogger, Just Above Sunset. You can read it here. Remember, this is from near 15 YEARS ago. While at this blog space, the previous several posts have summarized the last couple of weeks of posturing by presumptive U.S. presidential candidates for 2016 on the issue of war. The other columns are very well worth your time.

#1025 – Dick Bernard: Camp Buell, Dakota Territory, July, 1863

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

On my frequent trips to LaMoure ND, I’ve always passed by a road-side historical marker on the edge of Milnor (about 40 miles west of Wahpeton on Highway 13).

Markers like these are “magnets” for me, but this one I would always pass by – enroute, and too tired – though I think I read it back in the late 1980s, before it had any context for me.

Here’s a photo of the marker, weather beaten but readable. Click to enlarge it.

Milnor ND May 6, 2015

Milnor ND May 6, 2015

This marker had, it turns out, personal meaning to me: back in 1863 my ancestor, Samuel Collette, was a private in the very unit that camped here, part of Co G of the First Minnesota Mounted Rangers, on their mission to remove the Indians from territory about to be settled, part of the Indian War (now called Dakota Conflict) of 1862-63.

There is no need, here, to either justify or condemn that long ago action. It could be argued either way, and has been, and likely will be. It was a part of history.

The marker itself is now over 50 years old, and it would be interesting to discuss how its contents might be changed, if at all, at this time in history.

Five years ago as part of my French-Canadian family history I included a few pages about this campaign. A portion of those pages can be read here: Sibley Expedition 1863*001

The North Dakota Historical Society has an interesting weblink which describes, briefly, the circumstances and experiences at each of the camps on the Sibley Expedition. You can read it here. Simply use the drop-down menu on the page to find any of the camps, including Camp Buell.

No photos exist of Samuel Collette. Apparently they were all lost in a house fire somewhere years ago. He was an interesting character, coming from Quebec to what is now Centerville in suburban St. Paul in 1857.

In 1862, for reasons unknown, he became part of the First Minnesota Mounted Rangers, thus becoming part of the historical narrative of this part of the midwest.

* – Pages three and four of this link are from a newsletter, Chez Nous, which endeavored to keep alive aspects of French-Canadian history in the midwest. The entirety of Chez Nous can now be read on-line, and is indexed. Go here, click on Library, click on Chez Nous to access both index and newsletter entries.