Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
Here’s an excerpt from Augie’s Secrets: The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip by Neal Karlen. Meet Neal this Thursday at 7 pm at Mill City Museum to hear more of Augie’s secrets. Click on the book title, above, for more information and events.
There were two words too powerful, too terrible, too ugly for my grandmother to pronounce fully aloud. She approached the first one in a normal timbre, then at the last second dropped her tone to sotto voce and whispered, in the heavy accent of her native Odessa, “kan-suh.”
The effect was mighty and dramatic. She would be sitting at the dining room table, with her almost-perfect son, my father, hiding behind the newspaper box scores and wax fruit, and she would say loudly, to no one in particular, in a full Merman-esque voice, “Mr. Anderson, I heard he has a throat full of”—then she’d whisper—”kan-suh.”
She said the offending word barely audibly, like she wanted no one in the room to hear it but my father, as if she expected him personally to cure malignancy forever: kan-suh.
The second ghastly word was what she deemed the vocation of her misbegotten younger brother, Augie, who to my father’s mind was the only interesting person in the entire family. She would say, as a prelude to damning her damnable brother, that “Augie is a no-goodnik” or “My brother is a scandal to the family!” which he sort of was, to a few, because of that place he ran, Augie’s Theatre Lounge, or maybe that speakeasy for drunken shikkers he had earlier, the White Swan.
She would conclude her sermon of fire and damnation, just saying his name, “Augie”—then dropping her voice an octave and—shhh!—say it: “geng-steh.”
“Geng-steh,” she’d whisper again, saying the word twice in overstated understatement, evoking images of gangland slayers like John Dillinger, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, Ma Barker and her boys, and Pretty Boy Floyd, whose name she’d translate from the newspaper, her English primer, as “Handsome Fegel”—and the later ones, Davie “the Jew” Berman and Isadore “Kid Cann” Blumenfeld. Amazingly, my father became aware over time, Augie knew all of them and liked almost all of them—and they all knew and liked Augie.
We are honored to publish The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters/Dakota Kaskapi Okicize Wowapi, translated by Dakota elders and scholars Dr. Clifford Canku and Mr. Michael Simon.
Dr. Canku and Mr. Simon will talk about the book and project at two special events on April 11th at Zandbroz Bookstore in Fargo, ND, and April 19th with Birchbark Bookstore in Minneapolis, MN. (Please click on the book title, above, for details.)
The following is an excerpt from the foreword to the book by Dr. John Peacock (Spirit Lake Dakota).
“For participating in the Dakota–U.S. War of 1862, thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged at Mankato on December 26 of that year. The following April, approximately 265 more Dakota men, also condemned to death, but not executed, were marched in shackles into Camp McClellan, a military prison at Davenport, Iowa. There they wrote letters in the Dakota language. Fifty of these, written by more than three dozen of the condemned men, have now been translated into English by two of the letter writers’ Christian Dakota descendants, Dr. Clifford Canku and Mr. Michael Simon, themselves members of the last generation in the United States of mother-tongue, fluent Dakota speakers.
Both translators were born on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Nation’s reservation in South Dakota and grew up speaking Dakota as their first language. Now in their seventies, they are traditional Sun Dancers and retired Dakota Presbyterian ministers (Mr. Simon formerly headed the Dakota Presbytery). Both men have told me that their training at seminary in translating Biblical languages helped them translate the Dakota letters. They think of the letters not merely as historic documents but as sacred texts—as revelation of a Dakota apocalypse and as prophesy of the Dakota expulsion and exodus from their Minnesota homelands, the male letter writers to Davenport; their wives, children, and dependent elders first to a prison camp at Fort Snelling and then into the desert at Crow Creek.
These letters were written from a place of sadness and loss. As Mr. Simon says in his preface, the prisoners were held at Camp Kearney, a portion marked off from Camp McClellan in December 1863. The overcrowded barracks, built of green wood, offered little protection from the Iowa winter, and the prisoners were not provided adequate fuel. They were kept shackled for months. Sixteen Dakota women, brought along to cook and launder for the prisoners, also lived in the camp with their children. By 1864, men were taken out of the camp under guard to cut wood and work in nearby farm fields. That summer, a group of Dakota families—ninety men, women, and children who had been picked up at Pembina—were imprisoned with them. At least 120 people died of smallpox and other ailments at Camp Kearney. In the spring of 1866, President Andrew Johnson finally pardoned the men, who were then sent west to meet their families.
The letter writers first learned to write in the Dakota language in prison at Davenport, earlier in another prison at Mankato, or earlier still in mission schools. In all these places, missionaries worked to convert Dakota people to Christianity, in part by teaching them to read and write their once entirely oral language, for which missionaries had created a writing system and into which they had translated the Bible and various Christian hymns and liturgies.
With the exception of a letter addressed to General Henry Hastings Sibley, most of the Davenport letters are addressed to Tamakoce (His Country), the name the Dakota had given to missionary Stephen Riggs, whom the writers also frequently address in the body of their letters as mitakuye, Dakota for ‘my relative.’”
Please join us on Thursday January 24th from 6-8 pm at the African Development Center (1931 South 5th Street, Minneapolis) for a book talk and signing with Ahmed. Refreshments from Afro Deli, a Somali business profiled in the book will be provided. The ADC’s art gallery will also be open during the event.
From the book:
“In the early 1990s, many Minnesota citizens noticed a trickle of conspicuously dressed Africans, especially women in colorful attire, some veiled and some with simple headscarves, arriving at schools, grocery stores, supermarkets, and shopping centers, sharing both resources and space. As their numbers began to grow, questions about them arose: Who are these people? Where are they from? To what religious faith do they belong?
The basic answers came quickly. They are from an East African tropical nation called Somalia, the people are called Somalis, their language is Somali, and their distinctive women’s attire is in accordance with their faith, Islam. Then new questions replaced the old: What was their past like? What brought them to the United States? Why did Somalis choose Minnesota, an icy, arctic-like state with its acclimatized Scandinavian and German populations? These three questions, in various tones, have persisted tenaciously. This book will attempt to answer them, briefly touching on Somalis’ cultural affiliation, economic aspirations, political participation, religious faith, and educational opportunities.”
Excerpt from Wishing for a Snow Day: Growing Up in Minnesota by Peg Meier which includes childhood reminiscences such as this one from Melvin Lynn Frank.
“In winter the Farview hills were a constant challenge. One steep hillside was especially fearsome and bumpy for sliders—an awesome slope that gave breathtaking speed to a ride. Then when nature provided the white gift of snow, kids spent hour after hours on Flexible Flyers riding belly floppers till dark.
Of course, there was street sliding as well. The hill by the fire barn on Lowry was alluring. When it was icy, a youngster could go coasting for three blocks, all the way down to the Soo Line tracks by the shavings shed near the mill. This slide meant crossing the streetcar tracks on Washington Avenue. The boys walking back up the hill stood on the car tracks and signaled those at the top to come on when the coast was clear. Once in a while a boy would mistake a ‘don’t come’ signal for an ‘all clear’—like the day when a youngster went clean under a streetcar, right between the tracks, and continued for two more blocks, scared to death to the end of his ride. The rest of us were shaken, too, and must have been more careful after that experience. I cannot recall that any of the gang was hurt while sledding.”
Image: Boys on toboggan at Groveland Park Elementary School, St. Paul, 1961.
Minnesota Historical Society
Just in time for the holidays, this limited edition of the classic Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevareid is the perfect gift for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. In 1930, Sevareid and Walter C. Port set out on an ambitious summer-long journey from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay–a 2,500-mile voyage through a vast and remote land. This handsome set includes a newly designed book with the retro, iconic cover packaged in a multipurpose storage tin, with a colorful art-quality map annotated by Ann Raiho–suitable for framing! Raiho and Natalie Warren were the first women to replicate Sevareid and Port’s route, in 2011.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“We headed in a northwesterly direction, mostly out to sea as I endeavored to get beyond the boundary of the rocks, which lay just below the surface. The breakers were nearly six feet high now, and we were taking water over the gunwales steadily. We dared not take our eyes from the kicking spray ahead of us, where, we knew, lay the end of the reef.
“‘I’m out far enough,’ I thought, ‘and here we go north,’ and I swung the nose of the canoe. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the coming waves, which lifted us up and down, each time throwing us farther ahead. Paddling was very hard and trying to steer in that wind and water was tiring on the muscles of my arms and stomach.
“Now we were beside the rocks, I judged. At that moment, a great wall of water lifted the stern high into the air and as it ran along the bottom of the canoe, spray pouring in, Walt yelled, ‘Paddle! Paddle! The rocks!’”
Anton Treuer, author of Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, was on NPR’s Tell Me More earlier this week, discussing the real story of Christopher Columbus.
“I think there’s a growing awareness that Columbus didn’t discover America–that the place was densely inhabited by other human beings. But certainly the Columbus experience would change the entire world. But in spite of the fact that Christopher Columbus wrote lots of letters and kept many journals, and by his second voyage there were many official scribes, army officers, priests, writing about the experience, over 500 years later this piece of history gets sugarcoated a lot.
“And you know, we now know as a fact of history that on Columbus’s second voyage, the Spanish instituted a gold dust tribute, whereby those who failed to bring a certain quantity of gold dust would have their hands chopped off. And we know for a fact of history that the Spanish cut the hands off of 30,000 people that year on the island of Hispaniola–what’s now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
“And we know that within thirty years, the two million people that the Spanish estimated to be inhabiting that island before contact were completely annihilated. And that is a textbook definition of genocide. And we have so successfully sugarcoated the history that we have obfuscated some of the most important parts of that story.”
Check out Anton Treuer’s answer to “What is the real story of Thanksgiving?” from the book Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.
Treuer’s recent in-depth television interview on C-Span’s Afterwords is also now available.
It froze last night, and the tomatoes are coming into the house fast, fresh, and flavorsome. Lucky for us, Brett Laidlaw’s Trout Caviar: Recipes from a Northern Forager is just out, and he has a solution: Oven Tomatoes with Herbs. The book is packed with enticing tales, practical tips, and recipes that deliciously showcase distinctive northern flavors and products.
Laidlaw, who inspires local cooks and eaters with his Trout Caviar blog, tells the inside story of the book in today’s post. The best scene, from the publisher’s view: a grumpy guy saved from a crabby night by the thought of writing a book.
This Saturday, May 28, the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis celebrates Minnesota’s Native heritage and foods: wild rice, maple syrup, and bison.
Interested in learning more about traditional Native American foodways? The Minnesota Ethnic Food Book begins with a chapter on the Ojibway:
“Traditionally, the Ojibway migrated in the spring to obtain sugar sap from the maples, in the summer to find berries, wild greens, and herbs, in the fall to harvest wild rice, and in winter to kill game and spear fish. Consequently the lunar phases of the yearly cycle were identified by food availability. For example, September was Moon of Ricing, and April was Moon of Sugar Making—names that modern Ojibway remember . . .
“Today, as in former times, important occasions in Indian life are associated with food—naming a child, marriages, deaths, the change of season, and religious events. Many aspects of food and diet are sacred to the Ojibway; they are intertwined with religion and provide a guide to the treatment of the land and its products. Plants, trees, animals, and grasses all have a purpose and are a gift that the Ojibway hold in reverence. Because this bounty was placed on earth to be used as food or medicine, it must be managed carefully to ensure its presence for generations to come. Wild rice, maple sugar, and various wild game are integral parts of religious feasts and private powwows. This sacred use of food is a personal matter that most Ojibway prefer not to discuss . . .
“In most instances, the men hunted and fished and butchered the meat. Women cooked, gathered berries, herbs, and wild greens, raised crops, processed the animal hides, and preserved the meat. Children helped in all of these activities, observing the procedures and practices and learning by doing it for their own later use as adults. The family as a whole was involved in ricing and maple-sugar making.
“Until the early reservation years, Indians in general used two thousand different foods derived from plants alone, not to mention the available wildlife. Nuts, berries, greens, onions, turtle eggs, camas bulbs, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, and numerous other foodstuffs formed part of the Ojibway diet.
“Because of the nomadic life the Ojibway led, they frequently prepared one-pot meals over an open fire. Whenever weather permitted, this fire would be outdoors, but on rainy days or in the depths of winter it was moved to the center of the large wigwams, which housed one or more families. Foods were cooked in a birch-bark container suspended from a tripod over a low fire that provided continuous heat. The cooks dropped hot rocks, taken from the coals, into the water-filled bark containers, which would not burn as long as there was still water in the vessel. The rocks brought the water to a low boil sufficient to cook all the ingredients of the one-pot meal. Later the manomin (wild rice) or napodin (dumplings) might be added.”
Norwegian American Women: Migration, Communities, and Identities, a new book edited by Betty A. Bergland and Lori Ann Lahlum, explores the vital role of women in the creation of Norwegian American communities–from farm to factory and as caregivers, educators, and writers.
Meet Betty and Lori at The Best of Times Bookstore in Red Wing this Saturday, May 14, at 11 a.m. as they share their research into the lives of women in Norwegian America.
They will also be the keynote speakers at Norwegian Heritage Day at St. Olaf this Friday May 13th.
Below is an excerpt from the chapter “Women, Work, and Community in Rural Norwegian America, 1840-1920″ by Lori Ann Lahlum.
In addition to their work in the Ladies Aid, Norwegian American women participated in other community activities, and in many ways gender framed the nature of their participation. Indeed, it was often women’s domestic skills that made community activities and events possible. When Norwegian Americans gathered socially to celebrate events, especially weddings, women cooked, cleaned, brewed beer, and sewed in preparation for the event. In times like these, the exchange of labor and the sharing of resources became important. Weddings also represent efforts to retain Norwegian cultural traditions as well as the acculturation of Norwegian Americans. Some Norwegian immigrants held to the tradition of hosting large wedding parties like those celebrated by well-to-do farmers in Norway. Other couples opted for small weddings at home with few guests or a ceremony before a justice of the peace.
The large weddings depended on the abilities of women. In 1880, Johanna Wroolie married Chris Weholt in southern Minnesota. As in Norway, the wedding was announced three times in church. Wroolie’s mother baked, cooked, and brewed beer, and guests danced “all night.” When Ane Vatne married near Cooperstown, North Dakota, in 1889, more than a hundred “Norwegians” attended the celebration. Vatne served veal for dinner and cold cuts for supper. Although the meal consisted of a variety of foods, they were foods unfamiliar to her family in Norway and Vatne did not know how to describe them. She also emphasized that guests feasted on grapes between dinner and supper, again, something not common in rural, Norwegian, peasant communities. A few years later, Vatne’s brother, Ole Lima, married. Vatne did the cooking and baking, and the meal consisted largely of American foods. According to Martha Lima (Ole’s bride), “To be sure we had neither ‘lefse’ nor ‘gome,’ but many fine cakes, fruit, and baked spare ribs, and mutton, and many other things.” At the time, Martha and Ole lived with the Vatnes, and Vatne also sewed Martha’s dress. Christine Dahl estimated that 350 people attended her daughter Martha’s 1880 wedding dinner in Texas, many of them staying for festivities in the evening and the following day. In Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota, wedding guests attended a morning ceremony followed by dinner and lunch. Whether a wedding included a dance varied, but when the celebration did so, guests frequently “danced till morning.” In some Norwegian American communities, hosts served alcohol to guests, adding to the festivities, and interestingly, in North Dakota this custom continued in some locales even after the state became dry in 1890.
. . .
Norwegian Americans also took part in more organized social activities. In 1884, Scandinavians in the Waco, Texas, area celebrated the new year with a masquerade ball. Because it was a leap year, the young women paid for the tickets. Such festivities were not common in all Norwegian American communities because some Norwegian immigrants objected to such behavior. Dancing was a popular but also a contested activity in Norwegian American communities. Members of the High Prairie Lutheran Church (LaMoure County, North Dakota), for example, opposed drinking, dancing, and gambling. Particularly pious Norwegian Americans objected to dancing, placing it in the same category as drinking excessively. Some ministers used the pulpit to preach against the twin evils of drink and dance. Thurine Oleson recalled that in one Wisconsin community, the church actually split over these issues. Those who objected to the minister’s position on drinking and dancing left and formed a new congregation so close that members of the two congregations could “hear each other singing.”
–excerpt from Norwegian American Women (source notes omitted), published by Minnesota Historical Society Press
Joined at the Hip: A History of Jazz in the Twin Cities, by Jay Goetting with a foreword by Leigh Kamman, is the story of jazz music, musicians, and venues in Minneapolis and St. Paul from the early days through Prohibition and the Swing Era, then to bebop and beyond.
Jay and Leigh will be at the Artists’ Quarter this Saturday, May 7, from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. to discuss and sign their book. Books will be available for sale courtesy of Common Good Books. After the event, stay at the club to enjoy the music of Atlantis Quartet. (Book event is free; $10 cover for the show.)
Listen to Jay on Minnesota Public Radio
Here’s an excerpt from the chapter titled “The Clubs”
Finding live jazz in the Twin Cities today requires some planning. Gone are the days when nightspots clustered in the two downtowns or in neighborhoods like the Near Northside. The Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis and the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul have regular offerings, but what else? Rossi’s, Jazzmines, and the Times are past tense. Occasional venues include the Riverview Cafe, the West Bank School of Music, O’Gara’s Garage, Famous Dave’s, and the Capri and Old Log Theaters. There are others, to be sure, but most spots feature jazz interspersed with an eclectic mix of R&B, pop, rock, and hip-hop, sometimes to the confusion of would-be patrons who are not sure what to expect or who arrive expecting jazz and get something else. But there was a time when listeners knew what they wanted and where to get it, and they returned again and again to hear first-rate talent at well-known local clubs and large venues.
For a long time, the tiny community of Mendota on the river bluff was a locus for jazz. Jax Lucas, a professor and a stringer for DownBeat magazine, once dubbed Mitch’s “the Nick’s of the Midwest,” after the famous Dixieland house in Greenwich Village. Herman Mitch first opened the club in 1939, having previously run the Silver Stripe at Dale and Selby in St. Paul. Pianist Red Dougherty served as mayor of the hamlet in the late thirties and early forties. He also owned the popular Parker House restaurant, an upscale eatery that became Axel’s River Grille.
In 1949 Leigh Kamman’s Dixieland Caravan emanated from the reopened Mitch’s, run by Herman’s son, Bob. The program featured the Mendota Buzzards, Harry Blons’s band with Eddie Tolck on drums and vibes. Tolck said, “Those were fun days. Anybody that meant anything who was in town would be there. Bob Eberle, [Jack] Teagarden, [Lawrence] Welk’s sidemen. The program was somewhat scripted but informal.” Also in Blons’s new band were several players from the first Mitch’s, Hal Runyon, bassist Willie Sutton, and saxophonist Dick Pendleton. The newcomers included Lyle Smith, Russ Moore, and Warren Thewis, successively, on drums, Jerry Mayeron followed by Hod Russell on piano, and Bob Greunenfelder on trumpet. Shortly after, however, highway construction closed the club for good in October 1950.
Mendota had more than its per capita share of clubs over the years. There was Doc Evans’s Rampart Street Club (1958–61), which had been the Bow and Arrow and later morphed to become a rock club, Ragin’ Cajun. There was also the Colonial, Gay Paree, and the Hollywood. Listeners found the nearby River Road Club—known for its unruly clientele and the music of Cornbread Harris and Augie Garcia—by taking a shortcut through the Emporium’s parking lot. Prior to the club’s closing, several people misjudged the road and ended up in the river.
. . .
St. Paul also had its live-music clubs. It hosted the Dakota beginning in the 1980s before the club left Bandana Square for its posh digs on the Nicollet Mall. The city is still home to one of the Twin Cities’ premier listening rooms, the Artists’ Quarter, now in its second downtown location since leaving Twenty-sixth and Lake Street in Minneapolis. Drummer Kenny Horst, who runs the Artists’ Quarter, quipped during the recent economic downturn, “The good thing about jazz is you don’t notice the recession. It’s never great, but the audience is steady.” Horst also noted changes in the jazz-club scene: “You used to get Bill Evans or Dizzy Gillespie for two weeks. Now, you’re lucky if you can book someone for a couple of nights.” Horst adds that musicians call him from New York and elsewhere offering to play for a percentage of the door: “In our day, we wanted a guarantee. Now, club owners want a guarantee. There are not a lot of people out there that can draw.”
Jazz historian Kent Hazen says that Horst has had a keen sense for programming: “Kenny was very entrepreneurial in his ability to seek out a backer or talk some club owner into having a jazz quality. He was very persistent and has kept the public awareness of jazz at as high a level as it could be with little or no help.” Horst now co-owns the Artists’ Quarter along with musicians Billy and Ricky Peterson and Hod Boyen, plus Jerry Kennelly.
The Artists’ Quarter has managed to bring in some big names in jazz as well as some familiar visitors who were once a part of the local jazz fabric.
From Joined at the Hip: A History of Jazz in the Twin Cities by Jay Goetting