Friday, February 22, 2013

An Experience of Traditional Storytelling

S.D. Nelson's "The Star People." Get your copy of this beautifully illustrated book.
An Experience Of Traditional Storytelling
Star Stories Told In The Days Of Winter 
By Dakota Wind
FORT YATES, N.D. - The Lakota people call the month of February Čhaŋnápĥopa Wi (The Moon of Popping Trees) or Thiyŏĥeyunka Wi (The Moon of Frost in The Lodge). These are names to articulate the coldest months of Waniyetu (Winter) when Makĥoče (Grandmother Earth) was at rest.

The needle dropped below zero and the only news the wind carried was that more cold was on the way. Over a hundred people gathered together over the course of two evenings at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, ND in the heart of winter, to hear a Lakota visitor, an elder from South Dakota, share the Lakota Creation Story and Lakota Star Knowledge.

The room was filled with the murmur of raucous laughter, playful teasing and the cries of hungry babies when an assuming man entered the room and quietly prepared at a table near the front of the room. His name, Rick Two Dogs.

Two Dogs, an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation, began the first evening with a little exposition that the stories he was going to share were told in the lodges around the campfire long ago. These were the kind of stories that were shared by the Lala and Uŋči (Grandfathers and Grandmothers) and one can feel the weight of centuries and tradition echo in Two Dogs’ tranquil voice when he began the evening with a prayer of Whŏpila, Thanksgiving.

The attention and quiet in the room which followed was like the crack of a whip, sudden and sharp, and even the youngest of children quickly stood in quiet respect when prayer was invoked.

When the prayer concluded, a traditional horseman named Jon reiterated to the mass what many already know, that elders eat first, then visitors before the rest. Young women dashed off to the front of the line to prepare bowls of bapa soup, a traditional soup made with corn and jerked meat, wŏžapi, a type of pudding traditionally made with chokecherries but for these two evenings is made with blueberries, fresh fried bread and steaming black coffee for the elders. Everyone else formed a line and the jocular murmur of laughter and teasing among friends returned.

When hunger was satiated and thirst was slaked, Jon introduced Two Dogs in Lakota and English. Two Dogs isn’t just unassuming, he’s self-deprecating, and is quick to attribute or credit others for the stories he shared, his Lala especially, who witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn when he was ten years old.

Two Dogs recalled his Lala fondly. He took his meals seated on the floor, speared his food with his knife and refused the aid of a fork. He would look askance at anyone who offered him a napkin, and wiped his hands on his braids. During the long winter nights, his Lala put a few sprigs of cedar on the wood-burning stove, the kerosene lamps were doused, and firelight lit the home.

When Two Dogs opened the floor to field questions, one man asked, “Why are these stories told only in the winter?” Two Dogs replied that he once asked the Lakota scholar Albert White Hat the same thing and was told that if the stories were told out of season, one would get a hairy butt crack, but quickly reminded the crowd too, that the stories were shared when the world was at rest.

The following night, Two Dogs and his wife asked everyone to imagine the room as though it were one great lodge with one entrance. They divided the room between the sexes with men on the left half of the lodge and the women on the right. Between the men and women they explained was a path, a path of wisdom. The men sat in descending order from eldest to youngest going left from the path, just as the women sat in descending age from eldest to youngest, only they sat in order right from the path. It was an exercise in tradition and order.

Two Dogs’ stories are the traditional stories of the people, and should best be listened to in person, on a cold winter night, after supper, in the natural dark.

Haŋhépi čhaŋečela héčhuŋpi (This was done only at night).

Waniyetu čhaŋečela héčhuŋpi (This was done only in the winter).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Preserving The Story Of Killdeer Mountain

An image of a soldier engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a warrior. The image is engraved upon the elevator doors on the ground floor and main floor. 
Preserving The Story Of Killdeer Mountain
Public Hearing: Energy Development At Site
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. – The polished hall outside the Missouri Room of the Bismarck State Capital building gradually filled with archaeologists, historians, tribal representatives and land owners from around Killdeer Mountain, all from different disciplines and walks of life, all concerned citizens of a proud state.

The study area of the Killdeer Mountain Conflict within the purple boundary.

The citizenry gathered in little groups here and there to introduce themselves and exchange greetings. It seemed like a fellowship of near universal concerns that brought everyone together, and life is like that. Sometimes it takes one thing to bring people together who might not have met in another situation.

An alarming amount of existing wells and proposed wells within the Killdeer Mountain Conflict area.

The hearing was scheduled at 2:00 PM CST and the fellowship exchanged the hall of polished stone and brass for the quiet cell of the Missouri River Room. A coterie of archaeologists clustered together in one corner, the tribal representatives quietly moved themselves to a corner close to the front, and historians scattered amongst the throng. Chit chat grew to a loud buzz, and though the Government and Veteran Affairs Committee was delayed an hour the motley collection of citizens didn't seem to grow impatient.

This is North Dakota, and sometimes things happen when they’re scheduled to, and other times things happen when they should. Farmers might call it natural time, Indians would agree.

Senator Triplett explains that next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Killdeer Mountain Conflict. "Its an opportunity for the state to reflect on the tragedy that shaped our statehood and include the story that has been under represented these long years," said Triplett, or something like that - my pen could not move fast enough.

The good people who made up the committee apologized for their unexpected delay and things quickly got started when Chairman Dever (Dist. 32, Bismarck) brought the gavel down with great ceremony and authority.  The hearing was to hear Senate Bill 2341, a proposal by senators on either end of the political spectrum, introduced by Sen. Wardner (Dist. 37, Dickinson) but the voice of the bill was provided by Senator Triplett (Dist. 18, Grand Forks).

Senate Bill 2341 proposed to appropriate $250,000 to do an archaeological and historical survey of the Killdeer Mountain conflict study area. A packed room of about forty-five people, including the good senators, heard testimony from several individuals representing various entities, and a few who spoke as private citizens.

Paaverud maintained an impeccable composure of respect for the committee as he endorsed the Heritage Center's support of the bill.

Mr. Merlan Paaverud and Ms. Fern Swenson represented the interests of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and voiced the SHSND’s endorsement of this bill. Ms. Swenson offered that the Killdeer Mountain study area consists of 17,433 acres or about 23 square miles, a core area of about 5,421 acres and only about 569 acres has been surveyed. Swenson also shared that the site has had a continual cultural occupation for the past 3,000 years.

Dr. Isern addresses the committee. He said his piece in about five minutes or less and gave some handouts with points explaining the nature of heritage preservation. 

Dr. Tom Isern, Director of the Institute for RegionalStudies, rendered a concise and wonderful explanation of the intrinsic value of Killdeer Mountain as a heritage site and acknowledged the attraction of the site to hikers and lovers of history and nature who would be drawn to this site, as many like-minded visitors have in the past. Dr. Isern expressed his institute’s support of the bill.

An immaculately groomed Aaron Barth (looking at the camera) visited with Mr. Jepson of Killdeer.

A few concerned citizens took to offering their support of this bill. Mr. Aaron Barth, founding writer of The Edge Of The Village, shared the need to survey and catalogue the Killdeer Mountain as a start to preserve the story of the site, if the natural integrity of the site is to be developed. “There’s a story to tell, and we must do all we can to share it,” as he compared the need to tell the stories of all combatants, like the American Civil War.

Without waver or hesitation, Young shared a resolution regarding sacred places from the National Congress of American Indians.

Ms. Waště'Wiŋ Young, Standing Rock Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, took the stand and pointedly stated that “the Indian voice has yet to be heard.” Young boldly shared with the committee a resolution adopted by the National Congress of American Indians in October of 2012 regarding the protection and preservation of sacred places. She read the whole thing, expressed her office’s support of Senate Bill 2341, and quietly departed.

Bravebull-Allard representing Standing Rock Tourism supports this bill.

Ms. LaDonna Bravebull-Allard, Director of Standing RockTourism, shared her lineage going back to survivors who were at Killdeer Mountain when General Sully forced his command on the Yanktonai Dakota, Hunkpapa Lakota and Santee Dakota. Bravebull-Allard spoke about how Killdeer Mountain was a sacred site, not just to the Dakota and Lakota people, but the Mandan, Hidatsa, Chippewa and Assiniboine. With practiced confidence of a story-teller she shared that the site was where Sun Dreamer ascended Killdeer Mountain in 1625. Bravebull-Allard’s office supports this bill.

St. John spoke with dignified authority, less than two minutes, and left many of the committee nodding their heads in approval of her gracious support.

Ms. Tamara St. John, Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, eloquently and briefly echoed Young’s and Bravebull-Allard’s sentiments of protecting a special site like Killdeer Mountain and her office’s support of the bill.

Sand called for the state to move carefully and deliberately to preserve North Dakota's heritage sites.

Mr. Rob Sand, a representative of the Killdeer MountainAlliance, a tall gentleman with the gait of a lifelong rancher took to the podium briefly and passionately encouraged oil development to wait. Sand offered the support of the Killdeer Mountain Alliance in favor of the bill.

Rothaus, self-described hard-boiled skeptic, put the bill on a scale but explained the overwhelming need to preserve as much of the story of Killdeer as possible and endorsed the bill.

Dr. Richard Rothaus, founder and director of TrefoilCultural and Natural, drove like a mad man from his office in Sauk Rapids, MN to render cold and succinct explanation of the Killdeer Mountain conflict’s standing in US military history as one of the largest, if not the single largest, Indian-White conflict in the west and why North Dakota needs to preserve as much of the conflict site and stories as possible. A former university professor, Rothaus came across brutally blunt but also exceptionally honest. He also endorsed his support of the bill.

Dvirnak proudly wore a Fighting Sioux windbreaker to the hearing. 

Lastly, Mr. Bryan Dvirnak, a lifelong rancher on family-owned and managed land at Killdeer Mountain, shared his family’s generations-long commitment to the preserving the cultural and historic integrity of the conflict site. “No one has done more to preserve and protect the site. We’re all for preserving the property,” said Dvirnak in a moving testimony to the committee. Dvirnak expressed that his brother could best articulate how their family has forged relationships with various Indian communities in state and  into Canada. The Dvirnaks have graciously allowed traditional ceremonies and prayers to be conducted on their land throughout the years.

Dvirnak, regardless of his family’s openness to the American Indian presence on his family’s land, managed to convey his open skepticism of the bill. “What will the [archaeological] study do?” he wondered aloud. Dvirnak conveyed his disillusionment with the bill, the sharpest point of his argument manifested itself in his question about what the bill would mandate him to do on his own land.

The bill doesn’t mandate anyone to do anything on their own private land. In fact, the bill mandates that the archaeologists who conduct the investigation must acquire the permissions of all landowners in the study and core areas of the Killdeer Mountain conflict. Senator Dever, the chairman of the Government and Veterans Committee, understood Mr. Dvirnak’s position and told Sen. Triplett to include language in Senate Bill 2341 that expressly and clearly articulates a mandate for archaeologists to acquire permission of landowners to survey on their land.

Mr. Dvirnak and his family have the best intentions, a family mission taken to heart, passed down from father to sons, to preserve the heritage of Killdeer Mountain. They opened their lands in the past to the Indian communities. They also donated a tidy collection of artifacts from the KilldeerMountain conflict to Dickinson State University.

They did this because there’s a story that needs to be preserved and shared, and that’s something that everyone who testified can agree. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fallen & Forgotten Veterans Of The Killdeer Mountain Conflict

A painting of the Killdeer Mountain Conflict of 1864 by Carl Boeckman.
1863 Killdeer Mountain: 150 Years Later
Fallen & Forgotten Veterans From The Past

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

Sitting Bull, great Hunkpapa Lakota leader, was present at Killdeer Mountain when General Sully decided to attack. The Hunkpapa had nothing to do with the Minnesota Dakota Conflict of 1862. Sitting Bull was among the leaders who took the Lakota west into Elk River country (Little Missouri today) in an attempt to escape an unwarrented attack. He never forgave the Union for the needless death of innocent women and children.

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

Pizi, or Chief Gall, led the Dakota and Lakota in a running battle from General Sibley at the conflicts of Dead Buffalo Lake, Stoney Lake and the Conflict at Apple Creek in 1863. Gall was present at the Killdeer Mountain Conflict and assisted the Lakota in a run west to Elk River (Little Missouri River) to escape Sully's advances.

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

Note: It is estimated that perhaps 150 Dakota and Lakota lost their lives at the Killdeer Mountain Conflict. The Dakota and Lakota would say, "Wokiksuya lo," "Remember This."

Time To Survey The Killdeer Conflict Site

A map of General Sully's movements as he advanced and then fired on the Yanktonai Dakota and Hunkpapa Lakota at the Killdeer Mountain conflict site.
Time To Survey Killdeer Mountain
Civil War Battle Site In North Dakota
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. - I received the following from Ms. Connie Triplett, ND State Senator, District 18, Grand Forks, N.D.:

SB 2341 proposes to appropriate $250,000 to do an archaeological survey within the Killdeer Mountain battlefield study area. I am one of the co-sponsors of this bill. I am looking for people who may be willing and able to testify on the bill.

The bill will come up for hearing on Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. before the Senate Government & Veteran's Affairs Committee in the Missouri River Room.

"The 8th Minn Infantry Mounted in the Battle of Ta Ha Kouty" by Carl Ludwig Boeckmann

I have two reasons for supporting this bill. First, the State is intending to celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2014. That year is also the 150th anniversary of the incident on Killdeer Mountain (battle or massacre, depending on one's perspective). It seems to me that the State has an obligation to understand what happened there, as much as can be ascertained at this late date, and to make an effort to join with the affected tribes in commemorate the incident before it celebrates statehood yet again. I think it's important that people understand how the land we now call North Dakota came to be available for settlement and to acknowledge that it involved displacing others who had called the area home for a long time. I believe that knowledge and acknowledgment can bring understanding and healing.

About fifty North Dakota citizens, native and non-native, showed up for the public hearing held by the ND Industrial Commission in January.

The second reason for supporting an archaeological study at this point in time is the imminent encroachment of oil development within the study area. There are already a number of wells on Killdeer Mountain and another has recently been sited on the edge of the study area defined by an earlier American Battlefield Protection study.

Whether the study proposed by this bill actually happens will depend in large part on the willingness of private landowners to allow archaeologists on their land, of course. I am hoping that at least some of them may be more willing to have this study completed now than they might have been in the past because of their own concerns about the encroachment of oil development. (Rob, please forward this email to other landowners on the mountain, especially those within the defined study area.)

From the south looking north to one part of Killdeer Mountain, compare to Carl Ludwig Boeckman's painting of Sully's advance above. Boeckman stayed remarkably true to the landscape.

In a recent ND Industrial Commission hearing, Gov. Dalrymple said it would be nice if there was some way that the members of the Industrial Commission could know in advance where the sensitive areas are. This bill would provide that information, at least for this one historically significant area (and it's good wildlife habitat, too!)

I understand that there may be hesitation on the part of tribal members to be supportive of this initiative for fear of disrupting tribal burial sites or other sacred sites. It is my hope that this work, if approved by the legislature, will be done in a manner that is sensitive to those concerns. Your presence at the hearing can help to define or limit the study as appropriate.

Medicine Hole is at the top of the eastern half of the Killdeer Mountain plateau. Women and children made a mad scramble up the plateau to escape artillery rounds.

I also know that Tom Isern has an application pending with the American Battlefield Protection Program to better define the exterior boundaries of the area. It is my hope that the work supported by this bill would be done in close concert with Tom's work, if his grant applicaton is approved.

I would respectfully request that everyone who receives this email forward it promptly to others who may be interested in attending the hearing. If you know for sure that you will be able to attend, please let me know. 

Thank you.

Connie Triplett
ND State Senator
District 18, Grand Forks

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Artiste Makes Me A Sandwich

I stepped out of my office, a renovated section of the ol’ JC Penny building, and enjoyed a brisk walk down the street lined with grungy half-melted snow. Traffic kicked up brown spittle and I took great care not to step too close to the curb.

It was grey outside, but not un-enjoyable. A slight breeze carried the smells of food from the restaurants in Downtown Bismarck. Grilled meat seemed to be the dominant smell and I imagined a cadre of carnivorous cave men grunting in JL Beers, thumping their forks and knives on the tables in impatient anticipation.

A little cakery sits on Broadway. It changes names and handlers it seems every other month. They serve specialty sandwiches and soups of the day. I’ve stopped in there a few times, and its like a hen house. By hen, I mean, testosterone impaired. The clucks of the women-folk are accompanied by the clinks of freshly-brewed coffee, expensive tea, and forks used to delicately peck at their special sandwiches.

I walk past the man-cave and the hen house towards Caffé Aroma. You read that right, two effs. It’s a nice little coffee and sandwich joint tucked away inside a building. The owners liken it to having “a warm, friendly, family atmosphere.” I liken it to a library that you can eat and drink in and that’s comfortable to me.

A wooden carving of a cowboy greets patrons with a real red kerchief tied around his neck. It’s cracked with age and because it’s dry. Terribly dry. It could probably turn to ash in a minute with a Miyagi friction rub – you know, the rub that Master Miyagi does to heal Danielson’s charlie horse – and the thing is dusty as hell. Not the kind of dust that’s earned out in the field rustlin’ ponies, but the sickening kind of dust that’s more of a build up of dead skin.

I order a cold turkey sandwich to go and because I’m feeling healthy I order it on wheat. I over-pronounce the “wh” in wheat like Stewie Griffin accompanied by an arching brow. The sandwich artiste looks at like she wants to laugh but isn’t sure that she should laugh because I might be serious.

 It takes a few minutes to prepare so I nonchalantly peruse the place. I pick a magazine from the bottom of a neat stack of National Geographics and casually make non-committal remarks, “hmmm,” and “mmm-mmmm,” before setting it down on the corner of the table.

My sandwich is ready in a jiff. I feel a little guilty with leaving the magazines disheveled so I reach in to my wallet and pull out two bucks for a tip – I always leave a tip whether I’m feeling saucy, artsey, or convivial. Then I beat a hasty retreat back to work.

Upon my return I crack open the Styrofoam box and waiting for me inside is a great sandwich. I asked for a turkey on wheat. The artiste must have been feeling generous today. Inside lay a thick warm slice of twelve grain wheat – that’s wwhheat – bread, on which lay about four delicate turkey slices, fresh thick cut provolone cheese, and about eight rashers of crispy bacon, topped again with that wonderful warm wwhheet bread.

Let me just share with you I don’t have any great love for twelve-grain bread. My bread shouldn’t crunch without being toasted, God damn it. Perhaps it was the artistic presentation of the sandwich, or the cold gray day, or my sanctum of an office away from man-caves and hen-houses, but it almost melted in my mouth.

I rarely visit Caffé Aroma, but the few times I’ve been there, I’ve requested bacon with my sandwich. I didn’t ask for it this time, but these people KNOW their patrons. I ate every bite of my sandwich and bacon that I didn’t realize I wanted until the anonymous artiste remembered for me. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Watering My Pony In The Winter

Interstate 94 in North Dakota in the heart of winter.
Watering My Pony In The Winter
Concurrent Lives Throughout Time
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, N.D. - Sometimes when I’m doing simple mundane things in my car I like to imagine instances of myself in another time. For instance, yesterday was bitterly cold, the kind of cold that numbs your face and mouth making it difficult to talk, like your mouth is full of cotton, that you can’t pronounce anything correctly, almost like you’re unintentionally doing an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Godfather impression. It’s that cold. I digress.

So I was filling my car, and I imagined for a moment, myself in a field of snow and frozen grass on a day as cold as the Godfather, with a horse. A grey pony, because my car is grey, prancing in an earnest attempt to keep himself warm in the bracing cold, and instead of gassing my car up I’m breaking ice down by the river so that my pony can get water. I’m watering my pony.

 Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins. Interesting movie.

Say that I have an active imagination. I like to tell my boys that I wanted to give them names like Magneto, Wolverine and X, or Mayhem, Maverick and Havok, or Han, Anakin and Lando. I like to tell them stories about how I found one in a field in a smoldering crater, another was a government experiment thrust into my wife’s arms to raise but one day The Man will come to collect, or that the youngest was a vampire named Barnabas Collins.

Maybe I’m a reincarnated brave from the days of warriors. Maybe I’m a soldier from the French and Indian War. I can’t say with any certainty that I believe in reincarnation, but I dream of long ago battles, long ago love, and long ago death. Maybe dreams transcend time and I’m living multiple lives concurrently throughout history.

In the days of tradition, a good hunter could bring down a bison with five arrows. A braggart would say that he brought one down with three. 

When I came back to reality, shivering from watering my pony, I replaced the fuel nozzle and twisted the gas cap back on. The warrior from long ago would have patted his pony, threw his bison robe over his shoulders and adjusted it for maximum warmth before mounting up – I turned my ignition and adjusted the heat to blast my windows and feet. I to go work to sit at my computer, and the warrior goes on his hunt.

What makes for an interesting twist here with my curious imaginings is that a few weeks ago my youngest son told my beloved bride that he dreamt I was riding horse and hunting bison.

It made me smile. I’m in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing.