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“Paddle! Paddle! The rocks!”

Posted byAlison Aten on 15 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, Nature/Enviroment

Canoeing with the Cree Collector\'s Edition Canoeing with the Cree Collector\'s Edition

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 and the Real Story of Thanksgiving

Posted byMary Poggione on 11 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, History, Interview, MHS Author in the News, Native American, Videos

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to AskAnton 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.

Trout Caviar Solves Tomato Glut!

Posted byregana on 15 Sep 2011 | Tagged as: Authors, Book Excerpt, Cooking

phpUZrFKgIt 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.

Celebrating Minnesota’s Native Heritage and Foods

Posted byAlison Aten on 24 May 2011 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, Cooking, Event, MHS press

The Minnesota Ethnic Food BookThis 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

Posted byAlison Aten on 11 May 2011 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, Event, Immigration, MHS press

Norwegian community picnic, WI, ca. 1873. Used with permission from Wisconsin Historical SocietyNorwegian 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

A History of Jazz in the Twin Cities

Posted byAlison Aten on 03 May 2011 | Tagged as: African American, Book Excerpt, History, MHS press

Joined at the HipJoined 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


Gordon Parks, photographer, composer, writer, filmmaker, activist

Posted byPamela McClanahan on 18 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: African American, Book Excerpt, MHS press

php7hvpXEIn 1928, sixteen-year-old Gordon Parks arrived alone on a train in St. Paul with plans to live with his sister after his mother’s untimely death. In St. Paul, homeless and hungry, he began his fight to survive, to educate himself, and to fulfill his dreams.

In his compelling autobiography, A Choice of Weapons, Parks, who went on to fame as the first African American to work at Life magazine and the first to write, direct, and score a Hollywood film, reported that he told an interviewer in 1999, “I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

In a new foreword to the book, contemporary photographer Wing Young Huie writes, “St. Paul served as an incubator for us [Parks and Huie] both. I had dreamed of becoming a photographer in my early twenties, but it wasn’t until fifteen years later that I finally committed to the idea and set about doing it. I made many excuses along the way, but none of my barriers–real or self-imposed–were even as remotely challenging as the obstacles Gordon faced. His spectacular rise from poverty, personal hardships, and outright racism is astounding and inspiring.”

The MHS Press is proud to publish Parks’s poignant coming-of-age memoir, which has been embraced by many throughout the United States, from high schools in Los Angeles to community centers in New York City.

Enjoy this excerpt from an early chapter in the book, set during Parks’s first months in St. Paul.

“Eelpout looks like Jesse Ventura with fins”

Posted byAlison Aten on 15 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, Event, MHS press

The 32nd Annual International Eelpout Festival on Leech Lake in Walker, MN, is this weekend, February 18-20. The recent thaw has improved travel conditions on the lake, and temperatures expected in the mid-twenties are perfect for this annual tradition.

Greg Breining and Layne Kennedy, author and photographer, respectively, of A Hard-Water World: Ice Fishing and Why We Do It, capture the festival in all its comic and ironic glory. Check out Layne and Greg’s images and words, below.

photo by Layne Kennedy photo by Layne Kennedy photo by Layne Kennedy photo by Layne Kennedy

Really, what makes the festival so promising from the get-go is the subject—not simply a fish, or a game fish, or a prized fish, or any fish that under other circumstances someone might actually try to catch. No, this festival celebrates the eelpout, or burbot, a fresh-water cousin of cod whose most notable trait is its appearance. Potbellied and barbeled, the eelpout looks like Jesse Ventura with fins. Its second-most notable trait: it’s covered with slime, a quality that perhaps gave rise to one of its many other names, “lawyer.” Which brings up its third-most notable trait, its spawning habits, as described by a fisheries biologist in 1936: “A dark shadow was noted at the edge of the ice, some­thing which appeared to be a large ball. Eventually this moved out into view and it was seen to be indeed a ball—a tangled, nearly globular mass of moving, writhing lawyers.”

The festival—that is, the international festival—is timed for mid-February, when the burbot bacchanalia is just beginning. The fish are staging and heading for shallower water. When the event started in 1980, the fes­tival was doing well to attract 500 people. Now 10,000 show up.

There are distractions, to be sure: a snowmo­bile race, a car race (it would mean something if the cars towed ice houses), a polar plunge, and a rugby match. Still, the festival remains true to its origi­nal intent—catching eelpout. In fact, the tournament awards prizes for the ten largest eelpout. In 2007, the prize for biggest went to a young woman for a fish that weighed 14.62 pounds. (Note that the serious­ness of this endeavor is carried to two decimal places.) But it doesn’t stop there. Awards are given for Puni­est Pout (0.36 pounds), Individual Tonnage (114.52 pounds), and Team Tonnage (431.98 pounds by Floyd’s Barber Shop). Total tonnage classes are enhanced by the fact that the only limit on eelpout, in the words of one competitor, is “all you can stand.” Finally, awards are given on style points, the élan, if you will, with which individuals and teams pursue their sport: Most Lavish Burbot Bivouac, and the Greatest Distance Traveled (from Anchorage in 2007).

There may not be limits. But there are rules. The most important is that eligible fish must not be frozen through and through—to prevent anglers from stock­piling eelpout throughout the winter. And if there is any doubt, according to the organizers, “a lie-detector test will . . . be used and if the eelpout fails, one will be administered to the angler.”

The festival acknowledges that someone who takes ice fishing seriously is someone who can’t quite be trusted. Perhaps his morals are questionable. Perhaps, by the nature of what she does, she can’t be entirely sane. At the very least, he or she is a kidder and can’t be assumed to be on the square. For all these shortcom­ings, the ice fisherman/woman isn’t quite fit for polite society. Not that this is anything to be ashamed of. It may even be cause for celebration.

It’s noteworthy that not least among the Eelpout Festival awards is the prize given for Hairiest Back. The winner of said award shall remain nameless, though nota­bly it is a man. And he won for the second time running.

Race and Justice on the Minnesota Frontier

Posted byregana on 04 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: African American, Book Excerpt, MHS press, Native American

A Peculiar ImbalanceIn honor of Black History Month, we bring you an amazing story of early Minnesota told by historian William Green in his book, A Peculiar Imbalance: The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Early Minnesota.

In 1827 a military officer brought Jim Thompson, born a slave on the Virginia plantation of James Monroe, to Fort Snelling. There the young Thompson became fluent in French and Dakota. Methodists in Ohio purchased his liberty in 1837 so he could work as a translator for a missionary at Little Crow’s village of Kaposia. The mission lasted just two years. Thompson married a daughter of the Dakota leader Cloud Man, was briefly one of the whiskey sellers in what would become St. Paul, ran the first ferry across the Mississippi, and was a major donor to the construction of the city’s First Methodist Church. But his efforts to protect a girl from rape and his testimony at her assailant’s trial left the best clues to his character and his position in the community.

“The Story of Jim Thompson” is just one of many surprising tales told in this fine book.

It’s HOT.

Posted byregana on 08 Oct 2010 | Tagged as: Book Excerpt, MHS press

Wishing for a Snow DayOn one of the warmest of fall days in the Twin Cities, we all know what we can look forward to: within just a few weeks or months, we may see that childhood delight, a snow day.

This lovely book by the celebrated and beloved Peg Meier, just out from the MHS Press, will remind you of–and surprise you with–many other pleasures and trials of childhood. Funny: they don’t change that much over the decades.

Here’s a sample, full of delicious stories about birthdays.

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