Memoir writing in recent years has been hand-written in my journals. I lost interest in my blogs. In November 2015, I met Diane Wilson, author of “Spirit Car”, at the Grand Marais Readers and Writers Festival. I asked why I should write my version of her story. My Swede-Norwegian family history includes Southwest Minnesota history, starting less than ten years after the Dakota war of 1862.
A meaningful coincidence is that Diane’s family road trip in the 1990’s, and ours in 2014-15 followed the same South Dakota and Nebraska back roads and highways. She collected oral histories from her Dakota-Lakota families. She knew the voices in storytelling. We saw the boarded up boarding schools.
We visited the Historical Society in Niobrara, Nebraska, where one of our ancestors was an Indian agent who actually did something to help the Lakota and Santee develop South Dakota homesteads in the 1890’s.
Diane said the point of writing this now is to heal. There is noticeable change. An unseen spirit of loving harmony develops when we take action in community with others. One important factor comes out in her story, how Dakota, Lakota, Ojibwe and mixed blood natives began marrying white guys like me in the 1940’s to overcome extreme racial prejudice, and heal the dysfunctional relationships in their own families.
High Speed – Little Marais to Colorado
We try to limit our daily drive to about seven hours. We called ahead to the Holiday Inn Express in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, about ten hours from Little Marais, MN on the North Shore of Lake Superior.
We drove a narrow window through severe weather systems. A mini-tornado touched down, damaging a neighborhood just southeast of Sioux Falls, while we enjoyed evening coffee outside our hotel. We could see the storm clouds to the north, where flash floods plagued the whole Minnesota-South Dakota border region.
The next morning, driving west on South Dakota Highway 44 to Mission, we enjoyed stops in small towns. Lunch at a restaurant in Platte, just east of the Missouri River, was like Our Place Restaurant and Bar in Finland, MN; simple fare, and friendly service.
Winds gusted over forty miles per hour as we stood at the scenic Missouri River overlook. I could imagine explorers scouting the river for Louis and Clark. Oglala were there to help. The terrain turns rugged and hilly near the river crossing, after hundreds of miles of flat plains, occasionally interrupted by smaller river valleys.
We drove south through the Rosebud Reservation into the Sand Hills of Nebraska. Imagine a 160-acre homestead in Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. In the 1890’s the land was taken away from you. Buy it back in the 1930’s and watch it all blow away in billows of black dust. Read the stories in “Spirit Car”.