Prairie Pulse 1326; Christina Weber; Dales of the St. Croix River

Prairie Pulse 1326; Christina Weber; Dales of the St. Croix River


(lively music) – Hello and welcome
to Prairie Pulse. Coming up a little
bit later in the show, we’ll take a tour of the
Dales of the St. Croix River but first, joining me
now is Christina Weber, North Dakota State
University researcher and associate
professor of sociology. Christina, thanks
for joining us today. – Thank you for having me here. – Well, as we start
off, as we always do, tell the folks a little
bit about yourself, your background and maybe where you’re originally from. – Sure, I’ve been in
Fargo working at NDSU for almost 11 years now. I earned my PhD in
Buffalo, New York though, so I was there for a few years but I consider Northern
California home in a lot of ways. Overall, these days
Fargo’s pretty much my home and where I’m from. – There you go. We’re here today to talk
about a grant you’ve received. Can you tell us how
you got the grant we’re going to talk about? – Sure, last summer
this grant application came through, our proposal
request came through for humanities in
the public square so that the National Endowment for the humanities
was doing a call partially in celebration
of their 50th anniversary and they wanted to have
a big set of events over the year that
would highlight the importance of the humanities in the public spaces. So this particular
grant, when I saw both this call and their
emphasis and interest on veteran issues,
I felt this would be a great opportunity
for me to work on some of the material
and research I’ve been doing over
the past number of years but in a way that gets me out of the academic setting
and into the community doing more work with the
Fargo Moorhead community. So I wrote the
grant back in June and it was not until
December of 2015 that I received notice
that I had gotten the grant so we’ve been busy working since about the first
of January through now to get things going on
the grant for the year. – Okay, now my understanding is your research is about
the legacies of war and it’s impact on
North Dakota communities and it’s called Telling
Stories, Creating Community, Understanding the
Legacies of War at Home. – It is, yes. – [Man] So tell us
more about that. So exactly what does that mean? – Yep, we have been
working and in some ways we’ve transitioned
the tittle a bit. We’re calling it
Unpacked because a lot of the things
we’re working on has to do with how
people tell their stories through objects
and how important those objects are
to helping people remember what some
specific event or moment in their lives
and highlighting that, we wanted to use
this opportunity as a way to get folks
to start talking about their experiences with war but also family’s experiences with working with veterans
when they return home. So the grant itself
is focused on various types of
public conversations that we hope to
have over the year. Those conversations will range from public forums to
reading book groups and discussions on
several different books as well as an oral archive
that we’ll be starting and developing over
the course of the year. All of these will be
in the effort to help the Fargo, Moorhead community understand the
challenges that both the veterans and
their family’s face when veterans return
home from war. So we will be kicking
this off on May 13th, actually, when we
have Tim O’Brien who is the author of
The Things They Carried, come and give a talk and lecture at NDSU to the Fargo,
Moorhead community. – With that said,
what’s your timeline? You received notification,
I think you said December or so 2015. So what’s the timeline
for the grant? – We have the full calendar year to do all of our events. We actually have
an event that was on April 25th,
that’s going to be the first book read
event that we have using The Things They Carried. Then, the kick off
event on May 13th will start us off
with a couple of other book read events
over the summer. We’ll have various events
each month through the summer. So June we’re hoping to have
a memoir writing workshop. July we’re going to have a craft and ceramic workshops
that Michael Strand and his colleague Josh
Zias will be overseeing in probably one of the
Renaissance hall building downtown in July and we’ll also be kicking off a bigger push for the oral history
collection in mid July. Then what will happen
is we have a break in August but then we’ll
be picking up again with a new book from Tom Bissell who’s a son of a Vietnam veteran and he wrote a memoir and
his experiences as a child of a Vietnam veteran
and we hope to have everything end in November with hopefully a
celebration of the artwork that a lot of the folks did. A discussion around
the oral history as well as the reading
events to have it end mid, toward the end of November. Our hope is to have
everything tied up by the end of the calendar year. – Well you’ve talked a
little bit about this. How are you going
to collect all these oral comments and histories and will it cover
veterans from all wars? – It will, so we
wanted to keep it open to veterans from any war era. My sense is we’ll get
the largest numbers from the most current
Iraq, Afghanistan war but also the Vietnam era. I know it’s going to
be a little harder with World War II
because those veterans are no longer with
us or most of them are getting into their 90’s
probably at this point. We want to keep it open
to all era’s of service. Another emphasis I
wanted people to know is we really want
family’s and encourage family’s to see the value
in their stories too that they’re telling
because I think often times family’s just defer
to their veteran, which is understandable
but I wanted them to be able to have opportunities
to share their stories and the challenges
of what they face both while the soldier’s gone and when they return back home. We’re doing that. Currently, I’m working
with Angela Smith who’s a public historian
in the history department at NDSU and she has a
class who’s currently doing some preliminary
collections of oral histories and
their also developing a sort of a handbook
that will help us in the future train
folks to help us with further collection
in the summer. We’re going to have, on May 5th, an event at NDSU
where the students and some of the veterans
who participated will participate in that event. That will be in
the Memorial Union. Then what we’ll
do, is in mid July we’ll start up and
the hope is having a room reserved at
the Public Library where we’ll have, I think
about two or three weeks of really condensed time
where we have people volunteer times
and come and talk and give their stories for us. – How interesting. It seems we hear
story’s, especially well, in the last few
years, more and more Iraq and Afghanistan,
soldiers coming home with Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder and will you be looking
for stories like this? – To some degree yes. Our goal really, was
to have stories told that run the gambit of
all types of situations. Whatever the veterans
and their family’s feel comfortable
talking about really. We’re hoping to
get everything from maybe some of the challenging
experiences they had overseas as well as
some of the things they experience coming home. Some of the challenges
or excitement or whatever it might
be that they had when they returned back to
see their families again. I think there’s a
lot of those stories are hidden from us here at home because we just don’t quite know or have connection with
the military itself and all the different processes that they have to
go through both when they’re leaving the country and entering back
into the country. So while some of them will be some challenging
memories, I’m sure, for folks, we hope to also have just day-to-day
mundane experiences. We really think
there’s an importance to collecting the stories
and having a document of what real people go through in these times of war. – In your research, how do
communities deal with war or how have they dealt
with it in the past? – Yeah, it seems likes
it’s changed right? There’s always this
popular understanding that World War II was
the celebratory return of the veteran and then Vietnam was much less so. There was a lot of
feelings that that war was an unpopular
war and there was a lot more challenges
to that return. This war, I think they’ve
tried to remedy that but I think the connection
between all of them is that because here in the US we don’t have war
here necessarily, I think it’s easy for
communities to forget. And part of the
goal of the grant is to help us figure
out ways where we don’t want to keep
picking at old wounds over and over again
but how can we establish a
community that’s okay with having dialogue
around tough issues but also welcome veterans back and really talk
about those things that matter to the veterans
and their family’s. – Can you tell us
about a program, you mentioned about a community will read a book
and then discuss it in terms of legacies of war? – Exactly, so I’m
excited because The Things They Carried,
it’s a great book. It has all the emotional
force of what it’s like for a veteran and
what they deal with over whatever
they’re doing at war but I think it’s
accessible for everybody to read in communities
both young and old. Our goal is to have
this be our spring book and Alison Graham
Bertolini who’s an English faculty member at NDSU, she’s going to be leading
those discussions for us. As I said, the first
one was April 25th but we hope to have a few others that will be after Tim
O’Brien’s actual visit. These will enable us to discuss both the book itself but also encourage veterans
and their families to come and share maybe things they felt they connected
with in the book and differences and all
of those types of things. We hope to get a
good dialogue going about some of the
issues in what family’s and veterans and
the community itself feels about war itself. – You mentioned about
some of these workshops. The writing and ceramics
workshops for veterans and family’s, what about that. What do you hope
that will accomplish? – Well when I was thinking about the writing of the grant, it’s easy for me to think about, I love to write
but not everybody loves to write things down and not everybody wants to talk about their stories
in the same way. But I wanted to cover
a lot of different ways we can talk about
our experiences. So we have the written side. We’re hoping to develop some
memoir writing workshops for those who really want
to write their stories. The oral histories
will enable people who just want to talk
about their experiences and be able to do
so and we develop these craft ceramics workshops as a mechanism for
folks who maybe want more tangible
ways of talking and experiencing the world. They can actually talk through the experience of
creating a cup. Michael and Josh are
developing things where people will
bring in an object that maybe a metal or some other kind of object that reminds them of their father who served
or a person’s own service and then they can talk
and incorporate that into these ceramic pieces
that they are going to make. We’re hoping that
that will provide another interesting
avenue for people to be able to talk
through and share their experiences
with each other. – And you talked some about
the public forums for veterans to actually talk and maybe share with their family’s and
maybe their communities. Can you tell us more about that? – We’re going to probably
have three bigger ones. The Tim O’Brien
one is going to be by far the largest because he is such a well known, he’s
Pulitzer Price wining Author and he’s pretty well
known in this area especially and I
think he’s going to draw a lot of folks here and he’ll be talking
about his experiences and we hope to have
some exchange in that. I am planning a luncheon
where he can talk directly with veterans
and their family’s on the 13th as well
but that’s going to be a much smaller forum
where he can talk through the challenges
of writing about traumatic experiences and such. But then we’ll
have another forum more toward November
where we have another author Tom
Bissell that I mentioned, coming in and he’ll
be talking about those experiences
from the point-of-view of a son of a Vietnam veteran. We hope to have a big one toward the mid or end of
November where we invite the folks who participated
in a lot of the events actually come and talk through and have a dialogue,
a panel discussion around all of the things
that maybe emerged in the conversations
over the year and things we can think
about as we move forward. Because I do want to keep a lot of the momentum
of the grant going as we move out of the
grant funding year and into the years
that come after that. – Well I assume
you’ve reached out to veterans and
communities already, so how is that going? – It’s going pretty well. I haven’t done as much of that as I plan to once
we get everything, we’re still finishing
up organizing ourselves to get out to the
community a bit more. I’ve been working with a
couple of veterans already. Josh Zias, who’s working
with Michael Strand is a veteran himself,
so it’s exciting to have him as an
artist working with us. And I’ve been in contact with a number of people from
the veteran drop-in center and a variety of other places. My plan is to go to
and start talking with a lot of the veteran
groups and family groups that are in the community hoping that they would be interested
and willing to participate in the various events
we’re planning. – Well have you encountered
any hesitancy at all? – Not really and honestly
when some of the students from the oral history
class where doing it, they thought there
would be a lot more hesitancy but they’ve
actually been surprised at how willing people
are to talk about their experiences and
share their stories. If there’s any hesitancy,
as I mentioned, I think it’s sometimes family’s don’t always think
of their stories as being important
but I’m hoping we can build momentum
and help family’s see that they have a
lot to tell us about what the return of
a veteran is like when they come home. – Can veterans or families
contact you to participate? – Yes, definitely
and I encourage that. I would be happy
to hear from folks in the community and
especially if they have more contacts or
places that I might not of been able to reach yet. – And who all will be
helping you on this project? – I have three colleagues
from NDSU helping me which is Angela Smith from
the history department, Michael Strand from visual arts and then Alison Graham Bertolini who’s in the English department. I also have Josh Zias
is the other artist who’s going to be spearheading a lot of the art
side of the work and I’m working with a gentleman Chris Deary who works at the Gladys Ray
Shelter and a variety of other places but
he’s a veteran as well and he’s been very helpful
with outreach and contacts. Then I have several
current and former students who are going to be helping us with a lot of the administration and logistical work
that we need to do to get everything
accomplished in the year. – What gets you interested
in the subject matter? Do you have relatives or
friends that have been to war? – Yeah, my dissertation
research was on children of Vietnam veterans and my dad is a Vietnam veteran and I was always
very interested in, my life was very much
shaped by that war and my dad was very
effected by the war so I find that
doing that research has been a very exciting,
cathartic and rewarding direction for me and
I’ve done that work as a graduate student. I brought it back here
when I first came to NDSU doing work with both the North Dakota National
Guard Family Program and I’ve done research
on women veterans, comparing current
women’s experiences with experiences in the past. A lot of my research hones
in on those experiences and how they effect our
American culture and society. – Have you done
any interviews yet that moved you or your other
colleagues have done any? – I haven’t myself. The students have been
doing them in the class and I haven’t been
to talk directly with all of them
post because I think they’re in the middle
of still finishing some of theirs but I do know that they were excited
about having the moment to see how veterans wanted to
talk about these experiences. I think they were
a little nervous about what to expect
or what they would hear but they were excited
to see how generous folks have been
so far in sharing their experiences with them. – What do you hope
and what will you get, I think you said
a paper I think. What do you hope comes out
of the project in the end? – In the end? Well, over the
year, like I said, I really hope that
there’s just more dialogue about war and what
goes on for folks and that there’s people
here struggling still and how can we, as communities, be supportive of those
folks when they return. I hope to have
challenging dialogues to because I know not
everybody agrees about war itself but how
can we come together still even if we have differences
around war issues but still support veteran issues and family’s of veteran issues. So a lot of community awareness is one of my biggest goals. The other one is really
having a thriving oral history that I can sustain after
the year project is up because I do want it to be
an ongoing collection process so we can keep adding
to it over time. That’s my other big goal. It will be researched
for me down the road. This year though and the
way the grant is structured, it’s very much about
public programming and outreach so this
year is really my focus is how many conversations
I can have with people about the impact of war
so that’s going to be happening for me
constantly, I think, over the next year but those are probably the big
goals with, I hope, a lot of ongoing work afterward both with my collaboration’s
with the artists on the project as well as the
oral history archive itself. – Of course we said paper but
are you recording all these? – Yes, we’re going
to be recording them and depending on the
permission’s we get from the participants,
we’d like to have them digitally on our
web site for people to be able to listen
to and then also the transcripts to read and
have them archived for people if they want to do
research in the future, those things will
be there for them. – Do you have number picked out that you want to get
to so many people or is it just as
many as you can. – As many as I can
but I have to say, I probably wrote in
a number way higher than my colleague,
the oral historian, about had a heart attack. I think I said 90. If I could get 50 to 70
I would be super excited in this year and then keep moving forward
with those numbers. – If people want to
get more information or find out about the project, where can they go,
who can they contact. – I would say contact me. My email address is
[email protected] and then there will
be a website up for them to be able to look at and hopefully it
will be a fun website for them to explore as well. – Well good luck with
the project Christina. – Great, well thank you and
thank you for having me. – Thank you. Stay tuned for more. (lively music) The rugged beauty of the Dales of the St. Croix River
which straddles the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin had drawn visitors even
as far back as the 1860’s. But in 1895, when the
beloved tourist destination was threatened
with plans to grind the cliffs for gravel,
Minnesota and Wisconsin galvanized to
establish the first two cooperative State
parks in the country in order to preserve
the unique landscape for generations to come. – We are at Wisconsin
Interstate Park in St. Croix Falls in Wisconsin. This is Wisconsin’s
oldest state park. It was established
in the year 1900. – We are at
Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls Minnesota. This state park has
history that spans back to 1895 when it
was first created. (soft music) – A lot had been happening
in the river valley leading up to the establishment of the interstate
parks including beaver and fur trapping and trading. A long logging history. Excavation of the
rock in this area and already the
start of tourism. So citizens thought it would
be in their best interest of both communities, to
preserve the scenic beauty of the Dales of the
St. Croix river. – Specifically to protect
some of the salt cliffs along that river way
that have been here for over a billion years. One of the treats is to explore what was carved into
those basalt cliffs many years later and those
are glacier pot holes. – We talk a lot
about the ice age here at Interstate Park. Melt water from
that Lake Superior lobe of ice had formed
a lake at the ice margin called Glacial Lake Duluth. That melt water
had no where to go and that melt water
began crashing down
through this valley. This river was
moving so quickly, that in backwaters or in eddies the current would begin so
swirl forming whirlpools. And glacial debris
that had been picked up by the moving ice
of the glacier, would get trapped in
the swirling water of the whirlpools
and that debris would begin to swirl
around and around forming a liquid drill
which would actually begin to drill into the
solid basalt below leaving behind, eventually,
some very smooth sided, round holes in the rock. These are known as
glacial potholes. – And those are a real treat. You can walk above
them, around them, there’s even a pot hole
that you can walk inside of. – When you come here
to Interstate Park, you immediately see
these stone structures. – And you just get that feel
of the history of the park and those big blocky structures and the big log
beams really feel like you’re transporting
back in time a little bit. – It was the civilian
conservation corp and the men of Camp Interstate that developed Interstate Park and made it available
to park users. – The CCC workers
that we had here on the Minnesota
Interstate State Park side were coming from the
camp based out of the Wisconsin Interstate
State Park side. – There charge was
to establish the park without harming any of
the natural scenery. So they didn’t use
bobcats and back hoes and large dump
trucks and things, they did the work by hand. – The stone that was used
in all of these buildings is the natural basalt
rock that we have in this area along
the St. Croix River. – They learned from some
of the Native American method of removing this rock. Here they would start
a fire on the rock, they would keep
that fire burning for perhaps 24 or 48 hours. Once that rock was good and hot, they had a bucket
brigade of men. They would actually pass buckets of cold water from either
our lake of the Dales here in the park or from
the St. Croix River. They would dash it
on the hot rock, it would shatter the rock enough so that they could pry it apart using crowbars and
other hand tools, they would remove that
rock from the path. Then they would bring
in crushed trap rock to line the trail and
then, in areas where erosion might be a problem
or safety might be a concern, they would place
stone stairs using the same basalt
rock and I’m told that some of these stone stairs weighed up to two tons. So a tremendous amount of work that we’re still enjoying today. – The St. Croix River valley
is a very diverse place. If you’re here in
the springtime, we have a wonderful
show of wildflowers. We have a lot of spring warblers that migrate through at
that time of the year. If you’re here in the fall, the fall color display
is absolutely beautiful. The scenery from
those basalt cliffs at the north end of the
park is just stunning. It’s a beautiful place
to take pictures. If you go to the south
entrance of our park, we have 37 campsites
so camping is fun here. We also have a large picnic area and about 4 1/2 miles of
trails to explore and enjoy. There is so much to see and do in a very small package here. Interstate Park started
out 1/2 an acre in size. It’s grown to
almost 1,400 acres. People come to Wisconsin
Interstate Park and they are surprised
by the rocky terrain that we have here
by the river gorge, referred to as the
Dales of the St. Croix. There’s opportunities
for camping. We have about 85
family campsites. There are picnic areas, nine miles of hiking trails. There’s a lake,
Lake O’The Dalles that provides an
opportunity for swimming. There’s canoeing opportunities, boating opportunities,
fishing on both the St. Croix River
and Lake O’The Dalles. As far as the wild life,
what you might expect to find here you will. White tail deer, some
black bear, coyotes, foxes. As far as birds,
we have probably 250 different species of birds that will be here at
one time or another. Perhaps migrating through along the St. Croix River
corridor or nesting or over wintering here. It’s a unique
partnership that we have. We’re all working towards
the same common goal, hoping to invite visitors here and educate them about this area and instill in them
an appreciation of the very unique
area that can be found right here in the St.
Croix River valley. – Well that’s all we have on
Prairie Pulse for this week and as always,
thanks for watching. (lively music) – [Voiceover] Funding for
Minnesota Legacy Programs are provided by a grant from the Minnesota Arts and
Cultural Heritage Fund. With money from the vote
of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008. And by the members
of Prairie Public. (lively music)

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