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State We're In

Reflections on Minnesota History

Edited by Annette Atkins and Deborah L. Miller

Publication Year: 2010

On the occasion of Minnesota’s 150th anniversary of statehood, more than a hundred historians and other writers assembled to discuss the subjects they had been studying, thinking, and writing about. This book presents the best of that work, including nineteen essays on topics as varied as baseball at Native American boarding schools, nineteenth-century predictions for Minnesota’s future, Native American tourist goods, the Kensington rune stone, and a memoir of growing up in Marshall. Bringing together some of the most recent and best thinking about Minnesota’s past and its people, The State We’re In demonstrates the history of this place, in all its rich complexity, before and after statehood. Contributors include Melodie Andrews, Annette Atkins, Marge Barrett, Matt Callahan, Emily Ganzel, Linda LeGarde Grover, Louis Jenkins, David J. Laliberte, James Madison, J. Thomas Murphy, Nora Murphy, Traci M. Nathans-Kelly, Paula Nelson, Patrick Nunnally, Linda Schloff, Gregory Schroeder, Hamp Smith, Barbara W. Sommer, Tangi Villerbu, Howard J. Vogel, Steven Werle, Bill Wittenbreer, and Michael Zalar.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Welcome to Minnesota: The State We're In

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pp. 3-17

In 1958, Minnesota's hundredth anniversary of admission to the Union, the state pulled out all the stops to celebrate. The Statehood Centennial Commission had worked for more than two years to get Minnesotans primed and excited about the centennial. Efforts included producing a short film, Everybody Ready? Let's Go, and organizing ...

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State History in Regional Perspective

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pp. 18-24

Let me begin with two popular notions about states and regions. One is that midwestern state and regional history has declined to a thin and inconsequential field that does not deserve a central place in our historical thinking or teaching. The second notion, widely held in the twenty-first century, is that globalization has melted states and regions ...

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State History in Local Perspective

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pp. 25-32

I sometimes feel like a biblical Jeremiah when I repeatedly warn historians who teach and publish to think more carefully about the post-modern history framework that is so dominant among historians these days. Postmodern history frequently ignores or denigrates as irrelevant or dated more traditional national and state approaches. I am here to ...

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If I remember it, wasn't it history? People remember their pasts, but are memories the same as history? Are memories more valid or less valid sources than papers and objects? Whose memories are more accurate? Whose are more important? Today's historians wrestle with these ...

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Remembering Our Past

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pp. 35-38

In 1908, the Habsburg Empire celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the reign of the emperor Franz Josef, who came to the throne in 1848 to rule a vast, multinational empire. The celebrations included gatherings of many princes and heads of state—it was quite a monarchical celebration—and a large parade on Vienna's Ringstrasse. One of the ...

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The Myth of the "Forgotten" Treaty: Traditions about the st. Peters Treaty of 1837

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pp. 39-49

Among the legacies that Minnesotans share more than 150 years after statehood are the treaties signed with Indian people making possible European settlement of the region. While such treaties are often viewed simply as transfers of land, many of the treaties contain ongoing commitments, including reservations, hunting and fishing rights, ...

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The U.S. Dakota-War in Public Memory and Public Space: Mankato's Journey Toward Reconciliation

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pp. 50-60

On a sweltering summer day in the mid-1940s, a restless young boy stared out a window of the railroad car stopped at the depot in Mankato, Minnesota. He and his two brothers and sister were traveling alone, making their annual trip from Kasson to Springfield, Minnesota, to spend the summer with their grandparents, and he knew it would be ...

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Telling River Stories: The Mississippi River Runs Through All of Us

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pp. 61-68

You can hardly undertake a serious study of Minnesota's history without running across the Mississippi River. It was at the heart of transportation routes for people native to the area for thousands of years. When Europeans came to this region seeking furs, they followed the old trade routes and utilized the Mississippi. Over time, the river ...

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The Maples: Is This Land My Land?

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pp. 69-84

When I presented an earlier version of this essay at Saint John's in May 2008, I told the audience (mostly non-Native folks like me) that Minnesota can never be my land, or our land, until its true story is told and we stop our state's war against our indigenous hosts. As I spoke I knew the college was near my great-great-grandparents' homestead, ...

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The Flood

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pp. 85-96

On Father's Day, the sky opened up. Rain poured down. It poured down for two days until the Redwood River overflowed, gushing over banks, soaking every corner of our town. Local radio stations and papers reported news of the flood. It was even covered in the Minneapolis Tribune! On the front page, under the date June 18, 1957, ran ...

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Up North

In Minnesota, "up north" is both a place and an idea. Some argue that what makes Minnesota not Iowa is the region that stretches north from somewhere above the Twin Cities. Up there, the landscape, the economy, the ethnic patterns, and culture are different from the rest of the state.

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pp. 99-100

"A baby, eh?" That's all he says. She never says he's the father but they get married anyway. This way the city gains another citizen. But for each one that's born another dies or moves away and things remain pretty much the same. The mayor has been dead for several years but we think he does a better job that way and we keep him in office. Once ...

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The History of Duluth as I Recall It

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p. 101-101

I came to Duluth many, many years ago. There were people living here then who could remember when Bob Dylan sang backup in Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut's, rock group Danny and the Voyageurs. We had other local heroes; there was Chester Congdon who, as I understand it, got rich in mining without ever touching a pick or shovel, ...

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Kosher with a Modern Tinge: Two Generations of Jewish Women in Virginia, Minnesota, 1894–1945

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pp. 102-117

In researching two generations of Jewish women in Virginia, Minnesota, I was interested in exploring whether, given the newness of the town, Jewish women sought or had thrust upon them new roles within the religious and civic spheres, and whether the women loosened, transformed, or even forsook ethnic ties. ...

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The Stone Tomahawk: Ojibwe Tradition, Resourcefulness, and Survival in Northeastern Minnesota

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pp. 118-133

Since the time of European impact, when functional and decorative roles of the art of the Ojibwe Indians of northeastern Minnesota began to be influenced by the demand for goods and the need for the Ojibwe to survive, the integration of Western materials into Ojibwe tourist art has been linked to traditional tribal values. The creation of those objects ...

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"We Had This Opportunity": African Americans and the Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota

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pp. 134-157

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first New Deal programs. It grew out of his and his cousin's, President Theodore Roosevelt's, decades-long interest in conservation. Franklin Roosevelt's idea was to provide employment for young men through work on conservation projects. He first discussed ...

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The Case of the Inept Forger

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pp. 158-170

In looking at the Kensington runestone, a large body of research has examined the specifics of grammar, linguistics, geochemical weathering of the stone, and other minute details. I will take a different, broader approach, analyzing the validity of the hypothesis that the Kensington runestone is a planned forgery. ...

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Historians who once concerned themselves with dates and events and great leaders today are asking a host of new questions about how people see and know themselves, both individually and collectively. They are asking, for example, what does it mean to be an American, a soldier, an ...

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Early Catholic Minnesota: New Sources and New Questions

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pp. 173-195

The 1840s and 1850s in what is now Minnesota reflect a history of the process of border-making: spatial, ethnic, racial, religious. During this period, the space between the Great Lakes and the Upper Missouri River narrowed to become Minnesota Territory in 1849, then Minnesota State in 1858. While those political boundaries were being drawn, ...

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"To Sound My Trumpet": Henry Hastings Sibley, Minnesota, and the Rise of a National Identity

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pp. 196-210

In the April 11, 1846, issue of Spirit of the Times, editor William T. Porter drew attention to a submission by "Hal—a Dakotah" entitled "A Buffalo and Elk Hunt in 1842." He described Hal as "a most accomplished gentleman" who seemed reluctant to put his stories into print. "You know I only promised to sound my trumpet," Porter quoted him ...

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The Christie Brothers' Civil War: A Reflection of Minnesota's Experience

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pp. 211-231

Among the many collections of Civil War letters and diaries in the Minnesota Historical Society holdings, the letters of William and Thomas Christie stand apart. As a group these letters provide a detailed account of two brother's personal experiences in the war. They also tell the story of their unit, the First Minnesota Light Artillery. The ...

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Baseball at Native American Boarding Schools in Minnesota: A History

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pp. 232-242

A quarter century ago, folklorist W. P. Kinsella penned a romantic tale set in rural Iowa about America's national pastime. Intriguingly, Kinsella's narrative includes a Native American character named Drifting Away whose traditionalism belies a fascination with baseball. Near the story's conclusion, Drifting Away converses with a young white ...

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Many of today's historians of Minnesota no longer focus only on important political leaders or historic dates. Instead, some of these new investigators cast their nets widely for clues to the past, and some find new insights close at hand in familiar household objects and other seemingly inconsequential items. Public historians...

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The Public Side of History: Museums, the Recent Past and Possible future

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pp. 245-258

Growing up as a child in Minnesota, I had an early exposure to history. My family frequently went on day trips, traveling about the state on some excursion to a museum, a historic site, or just a place where my dad wanted to look at some old things. Ideas for these trips often were spontaneous; a newspaper article or radio ad inspired him to take ...

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Thawing a Frozen Moment: A Photograph and the Diary That Brought It to Life

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pp. 259-270

The photo pictures employees at the U.S. Customs Bureau on January 2, 1901, in their office on the second floor of the newly built federal courts building in St. Paul, Minnesota (now Landmark Center). The photo doesn't seem that unusual, yet it holds a small secret I only discovered when reading the diary of James Shields (fourth from the right). ...

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Embracing Compiled Cookbooks as Historical Documents

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pp. 271-280

Compiled cookbooks are those wonderful, plentiful, and helpful books that many of us have. They come from churches, community groups, volunteer efforts, and individuals. They are the product of family reunions, centennials, retirements, birthdays, and other memorable occasions. These often spiral-bound collections sit on our bookshelves, ...

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Looking Forward: Mid-Nineteenth-Century Predictions for Minnesota's future

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pp. 281-294

A Minnesotan is president; St. Paul is the financial capital of the country and possibly the nation's seat of government. The United States has annexed Prince Rupert's land as well as all of Canada to form a union of fifty states. Unrealistic and improbable: nevertheless, these predictions were made in the 1850s in earnest by J. Wesley Bond, ...

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pp. 295-318

The man at the Tribune told Eileen her ad would run on Saturday. Eileen and Nelson didn't take the paper themselves (Nelson called it a pack of humanist lies), so when Saturday morning broke clear and blue, Eileen put on her sweater—the beige one she used for garden work and such, not the wool cardigan she wore to go "calling" with ...


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pp. 319-324


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pp. 325-336

Picture Credits

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p. 337-337

E-ISBN-13: 9780873518024
E-ISBN-10: 0873518020
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873517737
Print-ISBN-10: 0873517733

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 12 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1