Category Archives: Sisseton

Hearing Naomi’s Story- What A Privilege

naomiShe served her country as a medic during the Korean War, raised four children, worked in law enforcement and volunteered as a Scout leader. I had the privilege of interviewing Naomi during my recent visit to Sisseton, South Dakota.
Naomi was born on the Sisseton Wahpeton reservation in 1930 and attended two different residential schools as well as the local public school in Sisseton. She had both positive and negative experiences during her residential school days. Naomi’s father died when she was only two months old and her Mom worked hard to provide for her eight children as a single parent during the depression. Near the end of Naomi’s senior year of high school her mother died, so Naomi decided to leave South Dakota and joined the army. She was stationed in Japan caring for wounded soldiers as they were evacuated from the fighting in Korea.
Naomi married a career serviceman from California after the war. They had four children, the oldest born while they were stationed in Germany. During her husband’s successive tours of duty in Vietnam, Naomi remained at home in Washington State with their children. After her kids were in school she got a job with the local police force helping with cases involving women, especially those suffering from mental illness, and she volunteered as a Scout leader.

 naomi's quiltEventually difficult personal circumstances led Naomi back to the reservation in Sisseton with her younger children and her oldest son followed later.  Sadly Naomi’s three younger children have all passed away. She says the Christian faith in which her mother raised her has been a comfort as she grieves for her children. She is confident she will see them again someday. Naomi had a Bible on her coffee table and told me she attends the local Lutheran church.   She remains close to her one living son and his family. She has regular contact with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She has made hand stitched quilts for them all and was working on another one during my visit. 

me and naomiNaomi told me she was not allowed to speak the Dakota language at residential school. She is happy her great-grandchildren are learning to speak Dakota in their school.  She is also happy they are participating in pow wows, learning traditional dances and wearing traditional costumes.  She never learned to make dishes like hominy and fry bread but she says it’s nice to see young people taking an interest in preparing the foods of their culture. Naomi’s mother did not give her a Dakota name but tells me how pleased she is that parents do that for their children now. 

Naomi has seen many changes since returning to the reservation. When she graduated from high school there were few jobs for young people. That’s one of the reasons she left. Now there is a casino that employs many, and there are  local businesses run by Sisseton Wahpeton people. Naomi thinks that’s great and she tries to patronize their establishments. 

I was honored that Naomi allowed me to interview her and trusted me to share her story.  She is 86 but still active, articulate and positive.  She asked me to keep in touch with her and suggested that one of her quilts might be coming my way. Lucky me!

Other posts about Sisseton…….

Walking in A Haunted Forest

Of Giant Cabbages and Sheep Fertility

Down on the Farm

Blown Away in South Dakota

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Walking in A Haunted Forest

trail of the spirits sissetonWe walked through a haunted forest!  Sica Hollow State Park was named by the Dakota people. ‘Sica’ means bad or evil. On our recent visit to Sisseton South Dakota we hiked The Trail of Spirits through the hollow. 

hollow log sica hollow sissetonAccording to legend,  an evil white man named Hand visited a First Nations camp in the hollow and turned the young boys into cold-blooded killers. A medicine man asked the Great Spirit for help. A messenger named Thunderer arrived causing torrential rains.  Thunderer trapped Hand in vines, filled his mouth with water and gouged out his eyes. The heavy rains caused by Thunderer, flooded the hollow. Everyone in the camp except one girl named Fawn drowned.  The ghosts of Hand, Fawn and Thunderer are said to still haunt Sica Hollow.  

dave sica national parkAs white settlers came to the area its legend as a haunted spot grew. People said they’d spotted huge bears and a beast that looked like a giant man.   Fears were rekindled in the 1970s when several people disappeared at Sica Hollow. Parts of Sica Hollow contain quicksand. Some ravines in the area drop several hundred vertical feet. hollow tree sica hollow parkBecause people refused to live in Sica Hollow it eventually became a state park. Apparently if you walk The Trail of Spirits in the park at night swamp gases and stumps glow in the dark. People who have stayed overnight in the park claim to have heard chanting, whooping, drumming and a few have even reported sighting ghosts.

bridge sica hollow parkOur hike through Sica Hollow wasn’t as eventful as I’d hoped it would be.  I was looking for exciting material for my novel. flowers sick hollowActually I found the hollow a place of beauty. The only thing that was the least bit troubling on our walk were some mosquitoes.

Other posts……..

Haunted Great House

Winnipeg’s Haunted Millenium Centre

A Haunted Island

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Of Giant Cabbages and Sheep Fertility

Mr. G.S. Horton presented the editor of this paper with a cabbage of excellent quality weighing twenty pounds. It is just one of the fifteen hundred heads of cabbage of similar size and quality which Mr. Horton has raised on his quarter acre of land this year.

A chicken pot pie supper was served in the Opera house last Friday by the ladies of the Methodist church. The attendance was good and the supper excellent. 

The marriage of Reuben Davidson 19 and Lucy Goodyear 45 took place a few weeks ago. We wish the couple a long and prosperous life. 

That was some of the local news featured in The Roberts County Banner in October of 1903.  I was reading through old issues of the paper in the Sisseton Public Library in South Dakota recently while doing some research. 
throughbreds a sporting novelThe front page of every edition of the paper featured a few chapters from a novel. In October of 1903 they were running excerpts from a novel called Thoroughbreds by W.A. Fraser. I looked it up online and sure enough the book was published in 1903 and first editions can be purchased online for around $65.  

One issue of the weekly paper contained a long list of everyone in the county who had been delinquent in paying their taxes in October. Another feature was a list of all students in the county who had managed not to be tardy or absent from school in the past month. 

There were agricultural articles like Make A Handy Rope Halter for Your Horse, Sheep Fertility and Timely Swine Notes.  

A section in every issue of the paper labeled Aphorisms offered quotes with advice like The only way to have a friend is to be one and Hope says to us at every moment “go on” and leads us thus to the grave. 

richard wagner statueThere was international news, including this announcement that a giant statue of Richard Wagner had been erected in Germany. There were also national news items.  One was about the execution of the three Van Wormer brothers in New York who had been found guilty of murdering their uncle on Christmas Eve in 1901.

Good Girl wanted for kitchen work at $3.00 a week was one of the featured ads in the paper along with many testimonials for various kinds of medications like Miss Alice Smith’s assurance that Pinkham’s vegetable compound would alleviate women’s monthly suffering. ad for vegetable compound
and this ad for horse blanket ad

Reading old newspapers was fascinating and I’d love to have had more time in Sisseton to peruse other issues.  I’ll end here with a typical news item of the day in 1903.

Judge McCoy returned home Saturday after a hunt which yielded him twelve fine mallard ducks. He shot every single one himself. 

Other posts……

A Winery Named After My Newspaper Column

Getting Up Close and Personal With a Famous Inventor

Down on the Farm

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Down on the Farm

farm b and ba sissetonWe stayed at a fantastic bed and breakfast in Sisseton, South Dakota last week called The Farm. sheep on farm bed and breakfast sissetonIt came complete with a trio of sheep Huey, Dewey and Louie, a pig named Charlotte, a flock of chickens, one lone but very noisy duck, a cadre of cows and a single bull who caused some excitement when he broke through the fence during our visit, a cat and two tiny dogs. farm b and bOur hostess Betsy had lived most of her life in California but decided a number of years ago to buy her grandparents’ South Dakota homestead which had fallen into a state of disrepair. Betsy rolled up her sleeves and turned it back into a working farm, with fields of corn, bee hives, and a large garden. barn at farm b and bShe’s restored the barn, transformed the house, spiffed up the chicken coop, turned the old outdoor toilet into a reading room, landscaped the yard and decorated three beautiful rooms for bed and breakfast guests.
breakfast farm b and bOur breakfasts were made with items from Betsy’s farm- jams and marmalades she’d preserved herself served on homemade bread and muffins, French toast, bacon, omelettes and pork patties.
bedroom farm b and b sissetonOur bed was big and sooooo comfy, bedroom farm b and bthere were cozy robes to slip on in the morning, bathroom farm b and band the bathroom was almost too cute to use.
kitchen at farm b and bBetsy made us dinner one night with beets and zuchinni from her garden, dijon chicken from one of her butchered fowl, rice and a couple of bottles of wine from her cellar.
Betsy has traveled the world and has hosted lots of unique guests at her bed and breakfast. It was so interesting to visit with her. I was doing research for a middle grade novel in Sisseton, and Betsy had arranged contact with several local people I could talk to. 

Richard and Beth

Ralph and Beth

While I interviewed her friends Beth and Ralph who are long time residents of the Sisseton area, all terrain vehicle farm b and bBetsy took Dave on a farm tour with her all terrain vehicle.
windmill farm b and b sissetonBetsy’s Farm Bed and Breakfast is a little off the beaten track but its a jewel of a place that added charm and interest to our visit in Sisseton South Dakota.
Other posts………

Not the Harlem I Expected

Sleeping in an Art Gallery

Hanging Around Hilo

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Blown Away in South Dakota

top of nicolett towerI almost felt like I’d be blown away at the top of the Nicollet Tower in Sisseton South Dakota. nicollet towerDave and I had just climbed nearly a hundred steps to reach the lookout point from which we could see the vast prairie landscape which is the traditional home of the Sisseton-Wahpeton people and covers parts of  three states, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. view from nicolett towerIt was sooooo windy up there……. but my what a view!

Dave checks out a map which shows the area we could see from the tower.

Dave checks out a map which shows the area we could see from the tower.

The tower is named after a French explorer, mapmaker and astronomer Joseph Nicolas Nicollet who came to the United States at age 46 determined to map the area between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

There are sketches in the interpretative center at the tower that show Nicolett exploring the area.

There are paintings by J.S. Wilson in the interpretative center at the tower that show Nicollet exploring the area.

He traveled extensively in the region on two trips one beginning in July of 1838 and another in July of 1839.  

Because he had such good repoire with the Dakotah people they agreed to the building of the tower in Nicolett's honour

Because he had such good rapport with the Dakota people they agreed to the building of the tower in Nicollet’s honour

He was very interested in the First Nations people he met and made the acquaintance of many with the help of his guides Joseph LaFromboise and Louison Freniere. nicollet writing in his diaryHe listened to aboriginal stories and legends and recorded the traditional Dakota names for places.

A copy of Nicolett's map is featured prominently in the interpretative centre

A copy of Nicollet’s map is featured prominently in the interpretative centre

He was careful to include the traditional First Nations names for places on the map he created on his return to Washington D.C. He presented the map and made a report to the Senate about his travels in 1843.  js wilson nicollet tower paintingHis map and diaries record the beauty and potential of the area and were responsible for much of the settlement that would happen there later. This might have given Nicollet second thoughts because he wrote so movingly of the culture and way of life of the aboriginal people that was forever changed by the settlers who arrived. nicollet tower

The Nicollet Tower stands on a spot Nicollet called the Coteau des Prairies, the Hill on the Prairie.  Having climbed the hill to view the valley all around he wrote in his diary, ” I pity anyone whose soul would not be moved by this spot.”keith likenessThe interpretative center at the tower is hosted by Keith Likeness who is a veritable encyclopedia about the history and geography of the area. Since one of the reasons we’ve come here is so I can find information for a novel I’m writing Keith was the perfect resource. 

dave at nicollet towerThe Nicollet Tower is built with eighty year old Douglas Fir trees about 75 feet high and each weighing close to 5000 pounds. The tower is a marvel of construction and gives you a marvellous  view of the landscape. 

Other posts………

A Roof With a View

Discovering Sacagawea

Up in the Trees With a Man Who Knew It All

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