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The Story of the Northern Plains

Norman K. Risjord

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii

List of Maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi

Ventures into local history, together with some volunteer teaching, have been my hobby in retirement. After I published popular histories of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Lake Superior, a move into the Dakotas seemed a logical step. Where Wisconsin...

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1. A Sea of Wind-Blown Grass

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pp. 1-16

Drawing his coat close around him and clutching his hat, the visitor asked the North Dakota ranch hand, “Does the wind blow this way here all the time?” “No, Mister,” answered the cowboy. “It’ll maybe blow this way for a week or ten days, and...

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2. Lords of the Northern Plains

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pp. 17-36

When European explorers and traders ventured onto the northern plains in the eighteenth century, they encountered five Indian tribes who had been settled long enough to regard the region as their homeland. The oldest of the tribes, in terms...

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3. Explorers and Fur Traders, 1730–1800

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pp. 37-62

The Virginians were just beginning to settle the Shenandoah Valley, and no Europeans had yet crossed the Appalachians to visit Kentucky or Tennessee when the first Frenchman, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, the sieur de la Vérendrye, ventured...

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4. Ventures under the American Flag, 1800–1837

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pp. 63-98

Europe was at war in the year 1800. The war had begun with the French Revolution and the effort of a coalition of monarchies, led by Great Britain, to suppress it. In 1799 General Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the French government...

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5. From “Desert” to Gold Mine

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pp. 99-132

Although for the past thirty years mapmakers had written “Great American Desert” across the Great Plains — a result of disparaging reports by military explorers in the 1820s — pioneers who had reached the valleys of the Big Sioux and Red...

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6. Prairie Farms and Statehood

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pp. 133-154

Like many American farmers, then and today, the Northern Pacific Railroad, after the fall of the house of Cooke, was land rich and cash poor. Although the railroad had reached Bismarck before the Panic of 1873, few farmers had taken up its...

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7. The Road to Wounded Knee

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pp. 155-176

Until the middle of the nineteenth century the U.S. government believed it had “solved” the Indian “problem” by removing the eastern tribes west of the Middle Border (i.e., to Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma). Occasionally the government...

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8. Political Prairie Fires, 1890–1920

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pp. 177-202

The North Dakota state constitution of 1889 was arguably the first legislative victory for the agrarian revolt that culminated in the formation of the People’s Party in 1891–92. The Farmers’ Alliance had made great headway among North Dakota voters during the hard times of the late 1880s, and Alliance...

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9. Mount Rushmore: Conceived in Prosperity, Born of Depression

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pp. 203-220

Gutzon Borglum was a sculptor, and he did it the old fashioned way, chipping pieces out of a block of stone with hammer and chisel to fashion a face or figure. But his vision was hardly old-fashioned. He wanted to carve an entire mountain into...

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10. Paths to the Present

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pp. 221-252

A modern observer, distant by eight decades from the Great Depression and armed only with statistics, might well conclude that the farmers of the northern plains barely felt the impact of the stock market crash of 1929 or the ensuing failures of eastern banks and businesses. Dakota farmers, after..


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pp. 253-256

Selected Reading

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pp. 257-262


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pp. 263-269

Further Reading

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pp. 270

E-ISBN-13: 9780803269323
E-ISBN-10: 0803269323
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803269293

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 19 photographs, 9 maps
Publication Year: 2013