Friday, October 30, 2009

1948 Signing of the Garrison Dam Agreement

On June 11, 1953, the United States dedicated the Garrison Dam. For the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, the anniversary is not one to be celebrated.
In creating the dam, the federal government flooded 156,000 acres of tribal land, including the tribe's capital. More than 300 families and 1,700 residents -- 80 percent of the tribal membership at the time -- were forced to relocate, prompting the loss of an entire way of life, tribal members say.

The Mandan people -- who call themselves Nueta -- moved to an area called Twin Buttes. The language was slow to follow, its memory now nearly as flooded as the tribe's sacred sites. Tribal leaders opposed the project, suggesting alternatives to limit the impact. But it moved forward anyway, and George Gillette, the tribe's chairman at the time, reluctantly signed an agreement to give up one-quarter of the Fort Berthold Reservation.

"We will sign this contract with a heavy heart," he said in 1948. "With a few scratches of the pen, we will sell the best part of our reservation. Right now the future doesn't look too good to us."

Gillette can be seen crying in a photo taken at the event.

Along with the flooding of Elbowoods, the capital, the reservation's Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital there was destroyed. That brought Tex Hall, the tribe's chairman, and Fred Baker, chairman of the tribe's elders organization, to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on June 11, 2003, to ask the government to fulfill a 50-year-old promise to replace the hospital. Without a new facility, they said, lives are in danger.
"I blame diabetes on the dam," Hall said, quoting a tribal elder. "I blame cancer on the dam." Hall's grandfather was vice-chairman at the time of the 1948 signing and is also seen in the photo.

The sentiments were echoed by others at the hearing, held to consider a bill that would authorize $20 million for a new clinic. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), chairman of the committee and one of the sponsors, said the "confiscation" of the tribe's land was one of the most "disheartening episodes" in history.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), another sponsor, called the dam a "bitter chapter of history that forever changed" the tribe. "That is something that is desperately needed," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) of the clinic. "It is something that is owed to the tribe."

Fred Baker, whose grandfather and uncle were at the 1948 signing, was born at the Elbowoods hospital. As one of the few remaining speakers of the Hidatsa language, he said it was a place where tribal members could go and feel welcome.

"With the advent of the Garrison Dam, our hospital at Elbowoods was closed, and we were forced to seek care at hospitals where we knew no one, everything was strange and different, and sometimes we were not treated very well," he said in his written testimony. "As a result, many of us, especially our elders refused to seek medical care and many died at home, rather than seek care at such a foreign place."
. . .

I believe the following information is current: In 2003, fifty years after the dam construction and flooding of the land, authorization was signed to provide a healthcare facility to replace the demolished Elbowoods hospital. The Minne-Tohe Health Center serves the members of the Three Affiliated Tribes. The two-physician center is four miles from New Town, ND. The center is an outpatient facility with specialty and dental clinics. Inpatient patient care is provided by contract with local hospitals including the Minot hospital. The tribes have a contract to operate two health stations, one in Mandaree and one in White Shield, which are staffed by a physician's assistant from Fort Berthold. The tribes also operate a Health Care Satellite Clinic in Twin Buttes which is staffed by a nurse practitioner.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Drac' is back!
Bram Stoker's great grand-nephew has published a sequel to the hair-raising classic DRACULA, first published in 1897. That's about when I read it the first time also! My sister and I took turns reading aloud from the book, cover to cover, when I was a pre-teen and she was a young teen.

Dacre Stoker's new book is titled Dracula the Undead. (I don't know how you pronouce the name Dacre; maybe we'll find out later.) Apparently this sequel takes up 25 years after the end of the original story, and looks like Count Dracula wasn't as dead as we all thought. Well, he crumbled into green dust! That looked pretty final to me.

That's Dacre with the bats.

So now we have something new to read, just in time for Halloween!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who Knows Why I Read This?

I just finished reading The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw, originally published in 1948. The insightful book, written from the viewpoint of three soldiers: Christian Diestl, a German soldier, Noah Ackerman, an American soldier who is a Jew, and Michael Whiteacre, American actor turned soldier, brings to life the harsh reality of war.

I had seen the movie about a hundred years ago, but remembered very little about it. I remembered Marlon Brando as the character Christian Diestl, a German soldier who, in the novel, starts out as a pretty unextraordinary guy and ends up a dreadful and heartless product of the Nazi regime.

While reading the book, I suddenly remembered Montgomery Clift as Noah Ackerman, a shy and gentle American Jewish boy from California who joins the army, leaving his just-married wife whom he cherishes. Having Montgomery Clift mooning around as the fine and sensitive discriminated-against Jewish guy, who just wants to do the right thing then get back to his family, is all you need for a truly heart-breaking movie.

The film also stars Dean Martin as the play-boy actor, Michael Whiteacre, who describes himself as "a likable coward," and befriends the intriguing Noah Ackerman.

Now that I've read the book, I think I'd like to see the movie again, since it has been many years and many lifetimes since I first saw it.

This is a very good book, and very long, and very bloody, being about World War II, with shocking details of war, slaughter, and concentration camps. As with many books that I read nowadays, I decided to read it when I happened across it on the library bookshelf. As with most realistic accounts of war, it's very eye-opening, leaving the reader to wonder how anyone survived the battle field.

Almost forgot to add, one of my favorite things about the book is a song that pops up from time to time, sometimes in a happy way and sometimes very poignant. The song is Are You Making Any Money? written by Herman Hupfield.

You make time, and you make love dandy
You make swell molasses candy
But, honey, are you making any money?
That's all I want to know.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Books I Have Read & Recommend

Oil! by Upton Sinclair

Anyone who enjoys reading a vivid, first-hand account of Southern California life in the 1920's will love this novel. This is historical fiction at its finest.

Written in 1927, the plot follows the idealogical clash between an oil developer and his son.
Typical of Sinclair, there are undertones here of socialism and sympathy for the common worker. The novel basically shows how a self-made California oil baron, James Arnold Ross, and his son Bunny Ross are up against insurmountable odds in the oil business, with corruption all around, in the era of the Warren G. Harding/ Teapot Dome scandal. Sinclair's solution was dramatic: for him socialism was the answer; capitalism was too corrupt.

A film very loosely based on the novel was released under the title There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis. I found the movie to be perplexing, mostly boring and thoroughly dreary, although beautifully filmed. There is a visual clarity that would have been wonderful if the screen play had just followed the book. There is very little similarity between the characters in the movie and those in the novel.

Here's Upton Sinclair, writer, politician, journalistic crusader.
Oil! is a truly enjoyable, interesting and worthwhile novel.