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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.

The 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor: A Sailor and his Ship, the USS Arizona

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
On the USS Arizona, sometime between 1936 and De. 7, 1941.  Probably part of ritual of crossing the Equator for the first time.  Photo likely taken by Frank Bernard.

On the USS Arizona, sometime between 1936 and De. 7, 1941. Probably part of ritual of crossing the Equator for the first time. Photo likely taken by Frank Bernard.

You can easily determine the photographers location when he took the above photo by comparing with the following painting. (click to enlarge any illustrations).

Book cover (see referemces below)  The above photograph seems to have been taken on the foredeck of the Arizona.

Book cover (see referemces below) The above photograph seems to have been taken on the foredeck of the Arizona.

I’ve written often about my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Frank Bernard, who perished on board the USS Arizona, Dec. 7, 1941. My reference link with his – and my – story is here.

In todays post, along with personal comments about Pearl Harbor, I revisit two aspects of the USS Arizona that I have not touched on before:
1) The intersection of the lives of Uncle Frank and the USS Arizona; and
2) reflections from a diver who was assigned to visit the Pearl Harbor grave of my Uncle and the 1176 of his shipmates who perished on-board December 7, 1941.
#1 and #2, below, come from a book I’ve had for 25 years: The Battleship Arizona, An Illustrated History, by Paul Stillwell, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD 1991.

The ship and its crew rest in peace. As I write, this date, there are only a very tiny number of survivors of Dec 7, 1941, still alive.

1) TWO LIVES, AS THEY MET AND MESHED: UNCLE FRANK BERNARD, AND THE USS ARIZONA, AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO HAWAII AND PEARL HARBOR:
(Info about 1936 forward from pp 323-332 of the Stillwell book)
24 July 1915 – Frank Bernard born in Grafton, North Dakota
12 October 1916 – USS Arizona commissioned at New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn.

4 September 1935 – Frank Bernard enlisted in U.S. Navy at Minneapolis MN; his home address 103 Wakeman Avenue, Grafton ND.
8 January 1936 – Frank Bernard transferred to the USS Arizona

15 July – 12 August, 1936 – Frank’s first visit to Pearl Harbor. (The Arizona had been to Hawaii, but only on two occasions, both in the 1920s. It’s previous locations were the western hemisphere, earlier primarily coastal U.S. Atlantic and Caribbean areas; in later years primarily west coast U.S. and Pacific, usually on maneuvers of one kind or another.)

1-4 April 1938 – (at Lahaina Roads. The brief link about Lahaina is interesting.)
8 – 21 April 1938 – Pearl Harbor

The Hawaii years, 1940-41.

10 April – 23 October 1940
(Alternated between Pearl Harbor (PH) and Lahaina Roads (LR)
10-25 April LR
26 April – May 13 – PH
14-23 May – LH
24 May – June 9 – PH
18-21 June – LR
22 June- 14 July – PH
15 July p August 1 – LR
2-19 August – PH
19-30 August – LR
30 August – September 5 – PH
5-9 September – LR
13-23 September – PH
(Most of next three months primarily at Bremerton/Puget Sound WA)

1941
3 February – 10 June PH*
* 17 June – 1 July at San Pedro. Reunion of Frank Bernard with the rest of the Bernard family at Long Beach CA June 22, 1941
8 July – 7 December PH

THOUGHTS FROM A DIVER WHO VISITED THE TOMB (from Battleship Arizona, Stillwell, pp 286-289).

“In 1983-84 Navy and National Park Service divers conducted an underwater archaeological survey of the wreck of the Arizona. The project, which was funded by the Arizona Memorial Museum Association, had several objectives…The results of the study have been published in a book [Submerged Cultural Resources Study] edited by Daniel J. Lenihan, principal investigator for the Submerged Cultural Resource Unit of the National Park Service.

U.S.S. Arizona, U.S. Naval Institute Archives

U.S.S. Arizona, U.S. Naval Institute Archives

[Interview by author Stillwell, 5 Mar 1990] One of the divers on the National Park Service team was Jim Delgado, and he was involved in a follow-up phase of the study in 1988. He has dived on a number of sunken ships, including the collection of naval vessels used for the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Despite his considerable experience in the field, he explains that diving on the Arizona was something special. He compares it with being in the Oval Office of the White House or perhaps in Abraham Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater. He says that he and other divers did not want to enter the ship because they felt they would be trespassing in an area where they weren’t supposed to be.

When he was under the water, especially in the area where the Arizona’s galley used to be, he could look up and see the people watching him from the cutouts to the sides of the white memorial. As he swam around the submerged hull, he was reluctant to touch it or to look too closely into it. He had a eerie feeling that someone might look back from inside, even though reason obviously told him otherwise. He looked into a hatch and saw all sorts of marine growth and twisted metal choking the entrance, and he noted that the deck was covered with silt. Unexpectedly, something emerged from a hatch, startling him. When it floated into the light, Delgado saw that it was a globule of fuel oil, freed from the Arizona after nearly fifty years. It rose slowly to the top of the water, then spread out to produce a sheen on the surface.

While he was swimming underwater, Delgado was overcome by a sense of time warp. The world above had changed dramatically since 1941, including the building of the memorial. But the hull of the Arizona was largely the same as it had been after the magazine explosion had ripped her asunder. True, she was corroded and covered with marine growth, but the essence was still there – the same hull that had been built seven decades earlier in Brooklyn. Shining his light in through one porthole, he peered into Admiral Kidd’s cabin, which was largely undamaged. He saw heaps on the deck that could have been furniture. On a bulkhead was a telephone; Admiral Kidd had undoubtedly used it many times. Elsewhere he saw the tiles that had been the deck of the galley. On the deck were pieces of silverware and crockery, obvious evidence of human habitation many years earlier. He saw nothing that looked as if it have once been part of a man, and he was relieved not to.

When he swam near the bow, Delgado saw evidence of the cataclysmic explosion that tore the forward part of the Arizona apart. The decks were rippled. Pieces of steel appeared to have been crumpled as easily as if they had been made of paper. Beams and decks were twisted into grotesque shapes. The ship showed some evidence of damage aft, but the hull was largely intact – certainly in comparison with the bow. By the time he dived on the wreck, no ordnance was visible, although divers had seen some 5-inch projectiles earlier in the decade. Delgado and his fellow divers found no sign of the kind of large hole that a torpedo would have made in the side of the ship. When the Park Service divers/historian emerged from the grave of the Arizona, he was covered with oil and filled with a profound sense of having been close to something he calls a “temporal touchstone” because it has so much value now as part of the American culture….”

Dad visits his brother Dec. 18, 2015, represented by his son, Dick, and the blue t-shirt he used to wear when he went for long walks, and the Collette family reunion t-shirt (his mother was a Collette from Oakwood ND).

Dad visits his brother Dec. 18, 2015, represented by his son, Dick, and the blue t-shirt he used to wear when he went for long walks, and the Collette family reunion t-shirt (his mother was a Collette from Oakwood ND).

A PERSONAL REFLECTION: DECEMBER 7, 2016

This is what I know about my Uncle Frank Bernard: he was 26 years old when he died; he was quite a bit older than his fellow crew members. When he went into the Navy, it was, best of all, a job. It was during the Depression; he had been in Civilian Conservation Corps, and getting in the Navy was a good opportunity. He was a ship-fitter, which I understand was like a welder. He was unmarried, but had met someone, probably in Bremerton WA, who he apparently hoped to marry. She apparently was divorced, but I have never been able to learn who she was. He was a good sailor, from basic training on.

My uncle and the 1176 others who perished with him on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor were, I suppose, peace-time casualties – it wasn’t until the next day that war on Japan would be declared.

The men on the ship would have known about Hitler, and the war in Europe, and almost certainly knew that tensions between the U.S. and Japan had been building for many years. At the same time, it was quite clear that the attack on Pearl Harbor was one which was indeed a surprise, not known till the last minute. (I describe an excellent new book about this topic, here.)

I often think that Frank’s Dad, my Grandpa Henry Bernard, was unwittingly part of the history that led to the death of his son.

In 1898, likely in the fever of patriotism around the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana harbor, Grandpa and others from the Grafton ND area were among the first ND volunteers to enlist for the Spanish-American War. He and his ND Company spent a year, 1898-99, in the Philippines, which became America’s outpost in what the Japanese considered their sphere of influence. While among the first troops to arrive at Manila, the Spanish had basically already been defeated, and most of their time was spent fighting Filipinos who’d just as soon see the U.S. go home. The company lost four men in battle at Pagsanjan Falls, near Paete, Luzon.

Tour over, in 1899, Grandpa and the crew stopped in Yokahama enroute home from Manila (picture at end of this article). It is a picture that speaks a million words.

By late 1941, war planners thought that the Philippines would be a more likely target than Hawaii for the Japanese.

After the attack:

On Dec. 6, 1941, those on the Arizona and elsewhere at Pearl Harbor, would have had no idea about the deadly four years to come; about 50 million dead in WWII, hundreds of thousands of these, Americans; the Holocaust; the Atomic bomb….

The great prospect of peace which came with the founding of the United Nations in 1945; then the endless wars which someone always declares are necessary, but which never really resolve anything. Each war, it seems, provides a pretext for the next war.

In my opinion, for we, the living, is that the next big war, if it comes, carries the prospect of ending civilization as we have come to know it. Nonetheless, someone will be tempted to “pull the trigger”. It matters who leads.

Our nation’s default setting through almost all of its history has been achievement of power through war. War is what basically built our country; and it is war that expanded our empire to an unimaginable and unmanageable extent.

War brought prosperity; it could as easily bring defeat. There is evil; there will always be war. But we need to guard against war as the first and only solution to problems.

The illusion now sold is that we can again be as we were: the very premise of “Make America Great Again”.

It is a proposition doomed to fail. It can only be achieved at someone else’s expense, which simply ramps up anger and the desire for revenge.

We need to change our national conversation, one conversation at a time.

The solution…or the problem…lies in each one of our hands.

Our future depends on each of us.

Here are a couple of items to possibly help give definition to the years since 1941:
1. A personal compilation of American War Deaths over history: War Deaths U.S.002
2. America at War (from the American Legion magazine): America at War001
(The first is only about American war deaths, simply to help me get some personal definition of the changing problem; but the reality is that we, and many others, now possess the capacity to destabilize and destroy everything…as could have happened had cooler leadership heads not have prevailed in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.)

Also, take 30 minutes to watch the 1971 film entitled Man’s Next Giant Leap. It was produced by my friend Lynn Elling, Naval officer in WWII and businessman, who died some months ago at 94. It can be accessed here. The people who put this film together, business and civic and political leaders, Republican and Democrat, believed in the possibility of peace, and they can be examples for us to follow.

As the hymn goes: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Henry Bernard, middle soldier, in Yokahoma Japan, enroute home1899

Henry Bernard, middle soldier, in Yokahoma Japan, enroute home1899

The family members in the story are, at right: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard.  From left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Whitaker, and Frank Bernard, Henry's parents and siblings, in Long Beach June 22, 1941.

The family members in the story are, at right: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard. From left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Whitaker, and Frank Bernard, Henry’s parents and siblings, in Long Beach June 22, 1941.

COMMENT:
from Annelee: I read Uncle Frank, When will we learn? However, War with Japan and Germany were justifiable.

Response from Dick: There is no question that war was “justifiable” in both instances. However, I do have a couple of points.

First, it has long been my contention that America waited far too long before entering WWII, which began two years before Pearl Harbor. As a country, we were isolationist, and there were other complications such as a – let’s be honest – not terribly friendly attitude towards the Jews, and an otherwise close relationship with Germany in all senses of the word.

Second, I am always interested in when history is deemed to begin. Pearl Harbor didn’t begin our history of relationship with Japan, for instance. We were sowing the seeds long before. My Grandpa and his fellow soldiers enlisted, I’m pretty sure, to support defeating Spain, with the battle cry “Remember the Maine”, but their service was far from Cuba, in the Philippines on the island of Luzon (Manila). The Spanish-American War was Teddy Roosevelt’s war, largely, supported by the Press, and it seems to have been a war of acquisition, not defense. In the end analysis, it really had little to do with Spain, and more to do with American expansion, and in the case of Japan, what became “our” Philippines was within their sphere of influence, and far closer to them than Hawaii. Like us, they apparently had pretenses of power, and we were boxing them in.

Plus, we long had a very dismissive attitude about the Japanese, generally. People my age who grew up in the United States remember things purchased from Japan which were more in the curio class than anything else. “Japan” was a synonym for “cheap”.

Japan and some other places might now be jewels of capitalism, but at what cost in lives in WWII? I think we have a big blindspot in this area, and we’ll find out if we try to “Make America Great Again” the cost of national pride at the expense of others.

A concluding comment: As I write I remember that letter in German written by my Great Uncle in Dubuque IA Feb. 14, 1924 to his relatives in Westphalia (borderland of today’s Netherlands). At the time of his letter, he’d lived in the United States for over 60 years. In a very long sentence, which the translator described as emotion laden, he remembered a slaughter day conversation from perhaps 1850, and comments his grandmother made about the French during the time in the early 1800s when Napoleon had designs on controlling Europe.

He said this: “I will never forget how, each year on slaughter day, as we cut the fat pigs and cows apart, dear grandmother would say if only the dear Lord will let us eat it in peace and good health, and then, each time, she would tell how the French took everything of hers, in addition to all of the oppression they had to endure, and dear grandfather would tell how the French and the Russians took him and his father with (their) horses and wagon to drive under orders for weeks and, how the horses couldn’t go anymore, and how they were then whipped and left by the wayside (to die) and that the Busch’s homestead had been their lawful property but was taken away by the French, no wonder that my father left his home with his sons [for America]. France’s history has always been full of war and revolution for the last three hundred years and Germany was always the oppressed, if they will ever become peaceful?”

The phrase, “you lost, get over it”, takes on new meaning with this very long emotion filled sentence.

#1169 – Dick Bernard: A 175th Birthday in St. Paul; “In the Beginning, there was a Chapel”

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Yesterday, I took a short trip to St. Paul, to a park at the corner of Kellogg Blvd and Minnesota Street, overlooking the Mississippi River.

(click photos to enlarge)

Site of the original church of St. Paul, built October, 1841, the namesake of the City of St. Paul MN.  Located at Kellogg Blvd and Minnesota Street, St. Paul

Site of the original church of St. Paul, built October, 1841, the namesake of the City of St. Paul MN. Located at Kellogg Blvd and Minnesota Street, St. Paul

175 years ago, in October, 1841, eight French-Canadians, migrants from Red River country, built a log chapel overlooking the Mississippi River at the point marked by the above monument, well hidden in plain sight.

The chapel (seen below as painted by Alexis Fournier) was dedicated to St. Paul, and thus the location once known as Pigs Eye, became St. Paul, and some years later became the Capitol city of the new state of Minnesota.

The simple structure was dedicated November 1,1841, 175 years ago.

fournier-chapel

About two weeks from now, Tuesday, November 1, a special event will mark the 175th anniversary of the little Chapel, which named a city, and became the first of four Cathedrals built in St. Paul.

A special program, sponsored by the French-American Heritage Foundation, will celebrate the anniversary (click here for all information about the program and registration.)

There is limited seating. Reserve soon.

If you haven’t been there in awhile, or ever, take a few minutes to visit the place that gave St. Paul its name, directly across Kellogg Boulevard at Minnesota Street in St. Paul.

There is a lot of history at this small place.

One of the four panels at the site of the monument to the chapel of St. Paul

One of the four panels at the site of the monument to the chapel of St. Paul

The monument looking from Minnesota Street towards the Mississippi River.

The monument looking from Minnesota Street towards the Mississippi River.

Also, FAHF has recently published three books about the French in America heritage in Minnesota. One of these is about the birth of the Cathedral, “In the Beginning there was a chapel”. Here is the link to order any of the books.

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Board of FAHF, and responsible for the three volume “Chez Nous”.

The third new book is “They Spoke French”, a primer about the strong but quiet presence of the French in Minnesota.

All of the books are brand new, very recently released. Each would make excellent holiday gifts.

#1152 – Dick Bernard: The Newspaper; Government by Twitter

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Those interested in why I very strongly support Hillary Clinton for President can read my post from Sunday here. The post includes several comments pro and con as well.

Personally, I always find the perspectives of Just Above Sunset informative. The latest is here.

(click on all photos to enlarge)

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

Dubuque paper001

Monday evening came one of those far too infrequent “faceoffs” (as Dad would say) with my cousin and her husband from Winnipeg. We had a too-short but animated visit over dinner in Edina, and covered lots of bases, a small part of which touched U.S. politics, which is a natural point of interest (and concern) for Canadians, who share thousands of miles of border with us.

My relatives, who grew up in the border area just north of the Minnesota/North Dakota border, still speak their native French as first language. At the same time, they are equally fluent in English, and have been dual citizens of the U.S. and Canada for years.

The conversation drifted to Ovila, my Dad’s first cousin, and my cousins father, born in the early 1900s.

How did Ovila learn English in the days before television, living on a farm in a section of Manitoba whose first language has always been French?

The answer to this question is complex, but as I recall, the newspaper was a primary vehicle, and as I recall from my own conversation with him years ago, catalogs, a primary source of information about goods for the farm. He self-taught himself English.

Ovila read every word of the newspaper, as did his neighbors. They were very well informed. Made no difference who wrote what, agree or not, it was consumed.

It caused me to think about my German grandparents, whose now-former farm has been my preoccupation for the last two or three years.

Being male, my focus was on Grandpa. Their country mailbox was full of paper: the weekly newspaper from LaMoure; the Jamestown and Fargo papers; the Farm Journal; catalogs; on an on. And they were religiously read. People like my Mom occasionally contributed a piece of poetry; I have articles Grandpa wrote soliciting membership in the fledgling Farmers Union in 1928. And on and on and on.

Last year, while going through the abundant detritus after my Uncle died, we looked through a well constructed coffin like packing crate obviously used to bring possessions to the North Dakota farm from Wisconsin when Grandma and Grandpa moved there in 1905 (see photos above, and following). Among the precious contents (at the time), Grandma’s wedding dress, and assorted ‘stuff’, then to be saved, now of little interest, except in passing.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

In the box were two crumbling Dubuque newspapers, one in English; the other in my grandparents native German. Probably they had been delivered to the Wisconsin farm, and were handy when they were packing stuff for shipment to ‘Dakota. The articles in the English edition covered the waterfront (photo above); I’m sure the same was true for the German edition. What is certain, every page of each of these newspapers had seen many eyes. (Grandma and Grandpa married Feb. 28, 1905; he, his brother and his cousin came west first to build a house and such; Grandma came about six weeks later. The crate likely carried her belongings.)

Fast forward to today, August 3, 2016.

Those old newspapers, with readers whose education seldom was past 8th grade, were astonishing pieces of literature.

Today’s small town newspapers, like the LaMoure Chronicle, carry on the tradition of the past. They are a treasure to be savored.

But now we’re in the “Twitter Generation”: news by headline. I don’t need to define that any further. We can pick our own particular bias, and pretend that it is not only the only perspective that matters, but that it is the only perspective. We know that’s not true, but…. Our collective narrowness, made possible by infinite organs of “communication”, serve us ill. I think we know that, but it is easy to deny this reality.

Today far too many of us choose, freely, to be uninformed, EXCEPT to confirm our own biases. Our Elders had less means to receive and share communications, but in many ways they were much better informed and prepared to participate in a civil society than we are.

We are not at our best, these days: watch the political polemics. Hopefully we’ll survive our collective and intentional ignorance particularly of other points of view.

.

#1134 – Dick Bernard: Grandpa Bernard’s Can of Pebbles

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Now and again in our growing up years we made it up to Grafton ND to visit Grandma and Grandpa* Bernard, who lived in a tiny house at 738 Cooper Avenue.

Grandpa, 68 when I was born, and 85 when he died, was a most interesting character, starting life in Quebec on a farm, then an asbestos miner at Thetford Mines QC, thence a lumberjack, a carpenter, and finally chief engineer of the Flour Mill in Grafton (he came from a line of probably hundreds of years of millers in France and thence in Quebec. His brother, Joe, was chief miller in Grafton.)

This particular day, Grandpa was sitting on his accustomed perch on the front stoop, basically exactly as shown in the old photo:

(click to enlarge photos)

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

I don’t recall Grandma being there, but we kids were, and at some point Grandpa looked over his shoulder and saw a dog trotting down the sidewalk.

“See that dog?”, he said. Then he picked up his homemade slingshot, and fished a pebble out of the nearby can and made sure the dog saw it.

No word (nor bark) was spoken.

The dog kept coming till some invisible “do not cross” line; at that point, making a hard right, trotting across the street; hard left past Grandpa; and on about whatever business the dog was about that sunny day.

Grandpa loved dogs, best I know, but there was a time and a place for everything, and apparently this neighbor had to be reminded, now and again, of the rules of the road at Grandpa’s house.

The parties understood the rules….

There are endless Grandpa (and Grandma) lessons conveyed to us, as we all know, once past a certain age. Things we just soak up, without realizing it at the time.

Not all the stories were conveyed directly, or even intentionally. For instance, across the alley from the tiny house was the Walsh county yard where things like snowplows and other public machines were kept. And down the street was the Courthouse, and the local Jail….

And there was the annual event at the Courthouse where the last remaining veterans of the Spanish-American War had an annual remembrance of their fallen comrades. It was always impressive and Grandpa was always in it.

There was something else about Grandpa, which you can see in the picture.

He had one leg.

The other he had lost to diabetes in 1946. Since he was a veteran, that leg was amputated at the VA Hospital, in Fargo; as was the second, at the time he died in 1957.

He used to entertain we kids with the stub of the missing leg.

Over time, I’ve come to learn that he lived to entertain us because a government agency, the VA, had saved his life; and Social Security, enacted about the time he turned 65, was what they had for retirement. His source of livelihood, the Flour Mill, had gone out of business on short notice right before the stock market crash in 1929; and at almost exactly the same time, the bank with nearly all their savings, went under due to fraud.

Overnite they went from regular middle class to dependent on others. It was the year Dad graduated from high school, and, of course, his plans on going to the University of North Dakota were dashed.

Of course, if there’s a grandpa, there’s a grandma.

Just yesterday I came across an old photo of my other grandmother, Rosa (Berning) Busch, with the Ladies Aid of Berlin North Dakota in September, 1946 (See below). Grandma is the lady kneeling in the front row at the center of the photo.

There are lots and lots of Grandma stories, as well as Mrs. Busch stories, even to this day.

No extra stories to be conveyed here, but an encouragement to remember your own, about those who came before you.

And to emphasize what is no longer often seen as obvious: we like to think we are, as individuals, in charge of our own universe.

What our ancestors knew, imperfectly, was that we all do better when we all do better.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946.  Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946. Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

* There exists, to my knowledge, a single film clip recording Grandpa Bernard and others “sidewalk superintending” in Grafton ND in 1949, when a crew was paving the Main Street. His moment of fame come at four minutes 15 second mark. You can view it here.

Of course, we all have two sets of grandparents, whether we got to know them or not. And there are all manner of other relationships which would take a long writing to describe in any detail…for each of us in our own lives.

In my own case, Grandpa Bernard died almost exactly on my 17th birthday, in 1957; Grandma Bernard died near my 23rd birthday, in 1963; Grandpa Busch died in 1967, less than two weeks after their 62nd wedding anniversary, coming up the stairs from the basement with some eggs for breakfast; Grandma Busch died in early August, 1972, at 88. Lore has it that she lingered on long enough so that her youngest son, my uncle Art, could make it from Chicago. He did, and she died very soon thereafter.

#1114 – Dick Bernard: Bienvenue Canada, the Trudeaus & French-Canadians

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

Much more information about the French in Minnesota available here and here.

What is your heritage? What is your story? Comment/Questions/Stories are welcome: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. (For many more stories, simply put the words Collette or Bernard in the search box of this blog.)

Octave Collette and Clotilde Blondeau - 1868 - Minneapolis MN

Octave Collette and Clotilde Blondeau – 1868 – Minneapolis MN

I’m in the midst of updating the index of a small French-Canadian newsletter, Chez Nous, which I edited for 16 years for midwest French-Canadians from the mid-1980s through 1990s.

And four of us from the French-American Heritage Foundation are at mid-point in a four week workshop presentation on our shared French-Canadian heritage.

So the visit of Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his spouse to the Obama’s in the White House this week is a good reminder of the very long connection between French-Canadians and the United States; and a good time for a brief “seminar” on a branch of the French-Canadian family tree very familiar to me: my own family.

It did surprise me to learn that the last such state visit between the two heads of state was about 20 years ago. After all, Canada, the French in Canada and the U.S.have a very long history in North America, going back to the founding of Quebec City in 1608.

Collette Reunion t-shirt, Dayton MN 2002.

Collette Reunion t-shirt, Dayton MN 2002.

My Dad, Henry Bernard, was 100% French-Canadian, born in Grafton, North Dakota, Dec. 1907; graduating from high school there. His father was Honore (always known as Henry) Bernard, immigrant from Quebec ca 1894, carpenter, then flour mill chief engineer; his mother was Josephine Collette, born in 1881 at what was then called St. Andrews, Dakota Territory, where the Park enters the Red River of the North, baptized, and growing up on a farm, near tiny Oakwood.

They married at Oakwood ND’s Sacred Heart Parish in June, 1901. (You can access the Sacred Heart Parish Centennial book here. It is chock-full of French-Canadians. (See Part 2, page 27 upper left corner for “my” Collette’s). Oakwood is “suburban” Grafton – about four miles east.)

*

There is plenty of French-Canadian blood in the veins of Minnesotans and midwesterners. The 1980 U.S. census – the last to record such data – showed 7.9% of Minnesotans to have French descent (Wisconsin 7.3%, Michigan 10%).

At minimum, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans carry some French or French-Canadian lineage.

French-Canadians were true non-native pioneers here, though often unrecognized. Ours seems always to have been a quiet heritage. Yes, there is a story about that, too…for another time. (In the Chez Nous index project I re-noted an article written by University of Minnesota professor William Rogers for an Adult Education journal in 1975. You can read it here: Fr. in MN 1975001)

*

Thirteen years ago, members of the Collette family staged a reunion at the historic French-Canadian parish of St. John the Baptist in Dayton MN, and event organizer Vernon Sell of the Minneapolis Collette’s designed the t-shirt pictured in part above.

Every family story is different. The Collette story in some ways is representative of the migration from Quebec to this area; and integration of the French-Canadians in this area.

Briefly: The first Collette came to St. Paul from St. Lambert QC in about 1857; my great-grandmother Clotilde Blondeau and her parents and siblings came to Dayton MN, probably from Ottawa Ont area, sometime shortly after 1850.

Most of the rest of the Collette’s, seven boys and one girl, came to then-St. Anthony, and settled near what is now the St. Anthony Main end of the Stone Arch bridge in Minneapolis about the time the Civil War ended. Octave Collette and Clotilde Blondeau (photo below) married at then-St. Anthony of Padua Parish in then-St. Anthony in 1869.

In 1875 the family moved to the Dayton-Otsego area, where they lived till about 1878, when the first of the group walked to the Red river Valley to take homesteads. Two other girls, by now married, had moved to the area of Oakwood from Quebec. About a dozen Collettes from Quebec had transplanted to Dakota Territory before North Dakota became a state (1889).

(click to enlarge photos)

The Collette men in Oakwood ND 1887 likely after the death and burial of their wife and mother Mathilde.  Dad is front left; the Priest is at front right.

The Collette men in Oakwood ND 1887 likely after the death and burial of their wife and mother Mathilde. Dad is front left; the Priest is at front right.

Visitors from Winnipeg to the Henry and Josephine Bernard home in Grafton in the 1920s.  The 1901 Oldsmobile still exists, in a Pennsylvania museum.

Visitors from Winnipeg to the Henry and Josephine Bernard home in Grafton in the 1920s. The 1901 Oldsmobile still exists, in a Pennsylvania museum.

1954 photo,Unlabelled photo summer lunch in the farmyard of the homeplace at Oakwood.  Apparent identities as known.  At right: Bonnie and Maurice Collette; from left Beatrice and Alcide Collette; at end of the table Josephine and Henry Bernard.  The others are not known, and the photo is not labelled.

1954 photo,Unlabelled photo summer lunch in the farmyard of the homeplace at Oakwood. Apparent identities as known. At right: Bonnie and Maurice Collette; from left Beatrice and Alcide Collette; at end of the table Josephine and Henry Bernard. The others are not known, and the photo is not labelled.

As happens in families, in time one of the boys, Vernon Sells Grandpa, married, and returned to the Dayton MN area to live the rest of his life with his family in what is now Otsego, between Dayton and the present day Albertville Outlet Mall.

One of the brothers, and two sons of another brother, in the early 1900s, headed north into southern Manitoba to take available land between Ste. Elisabeth and Morris MB.

Another brother moved back across the Red river to Argyle MN. Others moved to other places like the west coast.

So it happened over the years that this family, like so many others, blended into both the United States and Canada, all now speaking English, but the Canadian cousins likely speaking French as their first language at home.

*

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau comes from the French-Canadian tradition, as does his first lady.

Yes, I’m very proud of this heritage.

What are your stories? Check in with us at FAHFminn.org, consider joining our mission to preserve the French in Middle West heritage. Write me at dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom.

#1089 – Dick Bernard: December 7, 2015, “War” to Peace: Changing the Conversation.

Monday, December 7th, 2015
Grandpa's Flag, 1957

Grandpa’s Flag, 1957

Today is Pearl Harbor Day.

Anyone who knows me, knows my Uncle Frank Bernard went down with the USS Arizona Dec 7, 1941.

A year ago, Dec. 7, 2014, was especially emotional. I was given an opportunity to speak publicly about my Uncle at the December 7 observance at Landmark Center in St. Paul.

The talk was easy to prepare – I know great deal about my Uncle’s life and death, and I have no trouble in front of people – but actually speaking the words was very emotional for me that day.

(My notes for that talk, and a few added photos can be seen here: Uncle Frank Dec 7 14001).

*

Fast forward to two days ago.

I noted the box labelled “Henry Bernard Artifacts” in the garage.

Henry, my Dad, died 18 years ago.

I hadn’t looked inside the box for years, and on a whim, Saturday, decided to take a look.

There were two artifacts: one an empty hand-made box, likely made by my Grandpa Bernard, Frank Bernard’s Dad.

The other was the flag (above) which covered Grandpa’s casket when he died in 1957. Grandpa Bernard earned his flag as a veteran of the Spanish-American War, 1898-99 in the Philippines. The flag, used but rarely, has 48 stars.

Grandpa died at 85, before Hawaii and Alaska entered the U.S. as states.

Henry Bernard, upper left, at Presidio San Francisco, Summer 1898; his future wife's cousin, Alfred Collette, is at lower right.

Henry Bernard, upper left, at Presidio San Francisco, Summer 1898; his future wife’s cousin, Alfred Collette, is at lower right.


*

Revisiting history.

We are headed for Hawaii on Dec. 17, and the first weekend we’ll take Grandson Ryan, 16, out to Pearl Harbor, and Uncle Frank’s tomb on the USS Arizona. I plan to take the flag along, symbolically bringing a family back together.

*

War to Peace, Changing the Conversation

My family, like many others, has “War” imprinted in its DNA. I can directly “trace” my own families history with war back 200 years, to the days of Napoleon’s dreams of conquering Europe and Russia. My relative who gives me my last name came to Quebec from France 285 years ago, likely connected with militia.

There are common elements to all wars; the uncommon element is that War is ever more deadly in each succeeding rendition.

We are not fighting with “swords” any more.

*

The 9-11-01 Generation

Our response to 9-11-01 brought our nation into a “war” mood, bringing us into what has become a permanent state of war…on “Terror”, with attempts to make that word synonymous with a major world religion.

But away from the media and political spotlight, something has been changing in our national mood, rarely public, but very evident.

You won’t see it on the news, but there seems a basically more rational response among our populace to tragedy. Rather than demanding more war, or more and deadlier guns to kill each other, hideously easy to acquire, and division as a default response to any disagreement, the vast majority of us, nationally, person to person, seem to be embracing decent relationships among peoples as the highest value.

*

A reality.

There will always be evil in our world, including among our own citizens.

Incidents, a Roseburg, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, must be confronted.

But we don’t need to make things infinitely worse, as we’ve done after 9-11-01, in the process becoming birth parents, almost literally, to ISIS or whatever radical groups are called; and going insane over alleged “rights” to weaponize ourselves.

Collectively, everywhere, common citizens of the world seem to get this. But we can’t implement a firmer peace and more rational gun policy without working together towards them, including being willing to accept incremental improvements, rather than insisting on instant peacefulness.

Let’s learn from the endless series of mistakes that have led so many, combatants and civilians, to premature deaths and dislocation everywhere. Let’s deal with issues as issues.

*

Looking back to the day before 9-11-01

I close with a single sheet from a file of about 2000 sheets of paper generated by myself and others between the time of 9-11-01 and the end of November 2003*.

It is a simple family letter I wrote on September 10, 2001, the day before 9-11-01: Here it is: Sep 10, 2001001. It is nothing special, just a family letter on an ordinary day, the day before we chose a violent path.

Most of us have some memory of that day prior to “The War on Terror”. Why not take a moment to recall your own memories of that ordinary day in September, 2001, when life was going on without war. Here it is, again: Sep 10, 2001001

A better world is possible. It is up to us.

I wish us peace.

March 15, 2013

March 15, 2013

Grandpa's flag, being raised at the Apartment Community, Our Lady of the Snow IL, Memorial Day, 1998.

Grandpa’s flag, being raised at the Apartment Community, Our Lady of the Snow IL, Memorial Day, 1998.

POSTNOTE:
1. President Obama’s Speech on Sunday Evening
2. A summary of 2016 Presidential candidates response to the speech.

* – The 2000 sheets referred to above are being submitted to the Minnesota Historical Society on Tuesday, as a hoped for addition to the archives of an important time in history.

#1067 – Dick Bernard: French-Canadian Special Event on Genealogy, Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Oct 2, 2015

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Friday evening, October 2, the French-American Heritage Foundation (FAHF) hosts a special event focusing on genealogy in Maple Grove MN. All details are here. Time is short, so check this now, if interested*.

The event venue is in the heart of what used to be one of the French-Canadian rural settlement centers in what is now the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Note photo below (which is also in pdf form, here: Dayton MN 1873001)

(click to enlarge photo)

The French-Canadian presence in Dayton MN 1873

The French-Canadian presence in Dayton MN 1873

This map, though unpolished, gives an interesting look at a “nest” of L’Heritage Tranquille, the French-Canadian presence in a single township in the Twin Cities area. Otsego, to the immediate west (between Rogers and Elk River), also had significant French-Canadian presence; as did Osseo to the east, and Corcoran township to the south, and many other places (Little Canada, Centerville & Hugo, pre-Minneapolis St. Anthony et al).

(On the map, Simon and Adelaide Blondeau are my great-grandparents, who came to Dayton from Canada in the early 1850s.)

A mysterious and intriguing presence, by virtue of ownership of a piece of land just west of present day Dehn’s, is Thomas L. Grace, who happens to have been the second Bishop of what is now the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. (Scroll down to the para beginnng “After the death of Bishop Cretin…”) The story of that piece of land is one yet to be told….)

As late as the 1980 census – the last to ask the question – nearly 8% of Minnesotans recognized their French ancestry. Fr-Can in U.S. 1980001 Of course, this ancestry carries on, though the French surnames are less often recognizable as identifying people of French ancestry, masquerading their heritage (two French words, by the way) behind surnames of other ethnic groups, or, common back in 1873, behind French names that were anglicized: “Roy” became “King”, and infinite other examples.

But, back to Friday, October 2. Check us out. Stop by. Let others know.

*

About the sponsoring group, French-American Heritage Foundation (FAHF):

FAHF (full disclosure: I am current vice-president) is the latest in a line of groups seeking to preserve the French heritage in the midwest.

In the twin cities, in recent history, FAHF was immediately preceded by La Societe Canadienne-Francaise du Minnesota (LSCF) which existed from 1979-2002, and whose founder was legendary Franco American John Rivard, native of the Range-Somerset WI area also well known as the popular Father John of St Anne’s in Somerset. . LSCF lives on at the FAHF website in Chez Nous, its “kitchen table” produced newsletter, all of whose near 1000 pages, indexed, can be found under the tab “library”.

(Mr. Rivard retired before the internet age, thus no URL links were found about him for this article; though much can be read by him within Chez Nous. He died in 2005 at age 94.) Below is the jacket of the video produced for his memorial service in 2005.

John Rivard 2005001

September 28-30, 2012, another well known and passionate Minnesota French-Canadian, Dr. Virgil Benoit of Red Lake Falls MN envisioned and put together an event, Franco-Fete, in Minneapolis. This event followed several predecessor events at Grand Forks, Turtle Mountain (Belcourt) ND, Bismarck and Fargo, ND.

The 2012 event was very successful, but not without considerable stress. Three days prior to Franco-Fete, Dr. Benoit was in a serious car accident, and spent Franco-Fete and many days after in a hospital in Grand Forks. A dozen or so of us who had volunteered to help, were thrust into completely unanticipated leadership roles.

After Franco-Fete, in November, 2012, a core group in the Twin Cities met to debrief Franco-Fete, and an outgrowth of that meeting came FAHF, which has formal 501(c)3 standing, and is now completing its third year of existence.

We have weathered the birthpangs of any new organization, and look forward to a long future.

We invite you to join us as we continue the task of helping to preserve the French in America presence in Minnesota and surrounding areas. Membership information here.

* – Questions? Call Dick Bernard at 651 334 5744

#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.

#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.