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Learning incentives found in North Dakota

Posted 8/23/23 (Wed)

By Sharon Cox

The State Historical Society of North Dakota sponsors some exciting events for school kids at historic places in the state. For many years Fort Totten and Whitestone Hill have hosted a day-long activities period for school-aged kids to tour and experience some of life before the modern era.

Throughout the state, there are sites open to the public where guides help direct and explain the importance of unique places in the history of a changing North Dakota. “School-Days” opens their eyes to life as a Native child at a boarding school (at Fort Totten) and to a fateful battle on Sept. 3, 1863, when hundreds of Native people were massacred as they camped at Whitestone Hill.

Each site, like so many others, includes the history of good and bad events, as well as gives lessons in tolerance and inclusion seldom discussed outside historic sites such as these. They are living legends in how people think and act during different time periods.

Like so many historic sites around the United States, these are but two examples, close at hand, that give close up and personal connections that school books don’t always include. The SHSND helps fund the preservation of buildings and sites where notable events or people were during periods of settling the region.

The Lawrence Welk Homestead located near the South Dakota border east of the Missouri River is another site open to the public. The Ellendale Opera House received funding from the SHSND to help with needed repairs. Hopefully, it will be available soon for public use as is the recently renovated Lisbon Opera House. Believe it or not, even a sign has been recently added to the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s a 1962 large “Y” at the Fargo-Moorhead YMCA. It’s located at 400 First Ave. South in Fargo.

Also added recently is the Historic Highland Ave District in Bismarck, as well as a 1910 dairy barn ( Schlafmann barn) in Turtle Lake. Each has historic significance and includes unique architecture.

A stop at any SHSND will give a bit of new information for all taking the time to visit. What it does for youngsters is open their eyes to the value of the past and put real-time proof that change happens and history is important for them to learn.

If finding information about your own past is of interest, check out the State Archives at the Heritage Center in Bismarck. It houses records, photographs and timelines. A personal visit allows deep investigations, with some information retrieveable by phone or email. Check ; , or call 701-328-2666 for more information.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send it to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.

Sharon Cox retired in 2020 after 28 years at the University of Jamestown, including as department chair and professor of art.