…from NY Times Magazine in 2006, an intriguing ‘surface-level,’ face-to-face, “up close and personal” * encounter with the emptying Plains.
The article isn’t a very enticing ad for a region theoretically trying to attract ‘new homesteaders’ or semi-homesteaders not already from or IN such a place, if you get what I mean. But does it have to be hopeless?
Indians said a century or more ago that it really was (all due respect to the writer) more desert than farmland…. The Dust Bowl just added insult to injury. There are a couple large Reservations near the communities featured, Fort Berthold and Fort Peck Reservations, that maybe could be asked about helping ‘re-vision’ the larger region’s future ISTM.
More conventionally, the Dakotas are already home to “National Grasslands” that maybe could be a future attracting visitors … and wildlife … maybe even hunters … and/or bison or other ranching.
Going out on a limb, let me say as one American who’s never been to ND that winter there sounds intolerable to most Yanks! At least Alaska has windbreaks (trees, mountains…), mild Pacific currents and breezes, etc. HOWEVER: Remember that scene in the recent HBO remake of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee where the Mountie welcomes Sitting Bull across the Border in Queen Victoria’s name with the polite warning, “The winters get pretty cold up here — This isn’t Dakota!”? I’m sure some scriptwriter had tongue planted firmly in cheek at that point. But my world atlas’s climate maps suggest a kernel of truth after all: ND as a little bit warmer than most of Canada, and drier than most of Settler Canada … you know, that ribbon of population that stays pretty much within 200 miles of the Border, from Nova Scotia to Vancouver? I mention drier since they say Manitoba’s provincial bird is the mosquito! So, a “modest proposal”?: Instead of being America’s Icebox, how about … well … The Fridge, to the Rest of Canada’s Icebox!? If North Dakota became the 11th Province (ND residents might prefer the sociopolitical approach of this post! And spooky: exactly two years ago…!), right away it’d have nearly the same population as New Brunswick, well larger than Newfoundland-and-Labrador, and Prince Edward Island, respectively — two provinces also losing residents. And long term, I’d imagine lots of Manitoba and Saskatchewan folk moving south now that they could do so without changing countries … followed by Alberta Oil Sands layoffs once the world starts recovering from its hydrocarbon addiction. (Many Sands workers are the expatriates from Atlantic Canada, where it IS less cold in winter than Alberta, though wetter … and increasingly desolate of Settlers’ descendants.)
And provincehood isn’t even necessary ISTM. MB and SK are sometimes referred to as “North America’s socialist heartland,” traditionally strongholds of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP), actually social democratic rather than strictly socialist. Point being, a healthy sense of the Common Good — not unlike many ND’ans’ ancestral Scandinavia — and they just might open their bleeding hearts to ND’s economic needs, especially if ND were to join one or both provinces. Either way, sounds like a Win-Win proposition, eh?
Otherwise, I guess some version of the “Buffalo Commons” idea will pretty much replace ND. And/Or some version of the outstanding Great Sioux Nation claim. Waving grasses, thundering herds, fenced-in towns if any at all, elevated highways/railroads if any, Tribal Villages / ranches / farms….
(*–…what with the Olympics coming up and all…)