Season 1, Episode 10: Richard Talks to Distinguished Professor Tom Isern about Heritage Renewal, North Dakota History, and German-Russian Country

Summer is upon us.  Bill is in Cyprus and Greece doing real archaeology, and Richard is set upon by various lesser North American archaeological endeavors, so get ready for some innovative summer podcast programming,

In this episode, Richard discusses the Heritage Preservation Renewal with Distinguished Professor Tom Isern, of North Dakota State University’s Center for Heritage Renewal.  We recorded this episode in our luxurious hotel suite in Stanley, North Dakota, prior to a session of the Man Camp Dialogues at the wonderful Sibyl Center.  North Dakotans will recognize the mellifluous voice of Isern from his Plains Folk radio show.  Richard really sounds like a mouse with a cold when mismatched such.

During the episode, Tom talks about why Renewal, not Preservation, is a worthy and appropriate goal.  Richard bemoans the state of “historic preservation” as a profession.  We both agrees that we are not sentimental about historic preservation as a cause, but we are committed to life and communities on the Great Plains.  We discuss how the once traditional adversarial relationship with the environment of the Northern Plains has changed with the latest settlers and generations.  We discuss how the study of history has developed in North Dakota and the Northern Plains, and note what some of us see as the unusually damaging interpretation of North Dakota’s grandfather of history, Elwyn Robinson.

Apparently the State really is so small that one historian’s “too much of the too much mistake” can have a lasting impact. The short version –  there is strong strain of belief in the Northern Plains that residents are victims, not agents.  Richard and Tom think that’s really detrimental, and let’s opportunities slip by.  Tom exercises his rights as a tenured professor, and makes a strong interpretation of the behavior of the North Dakota legislature. Tom asks, in a cross-partisan way: “how much can we tighten our belts before we strangle ourselves?” and wonders why we tolerate an attitude of “don’t get your hopes up.”

Want to know how embedded this sentiment into Northern Plains culture?  Enjoy this sign from an official employee bulletin border in the State Capitol.

low expectations

But, we end on very positive notes about how there is a generation that very much wants to bring renewal to the Northern Plains and North Dakota. When people want to stay, and there are no jobs, they will create them.  We also discuss Tom’s work in building German-Russian heritage tourism, and Richard opines that it is an idea that is just the right amount of crazy.  We actually have a really vigorous discussion of this topic about 40 minutes in, to make up for the egg-headed beginning of our discussion.

dinosaurs

During editing Richard noted he really, really needs to work harder at creating context.

There’s an easter egg at the end of the podcast.

Some links:

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