January 2017 Archives


North Dakota (ND) blizzards are to be feared. Those of us who have lived in ND all our lives have a healthy respect for our winter blizzards. North Dakota blizzards usually have winds over 50 mph with near-zero visibility, temperatures below zero, and whiteout conditions, and can paralyze the state for days at a time. The cold temperatures and strong winds can cause wind chill temperatures as cold as -70 below. Death from hypothermia and frostbite are a real danger to anyone caught in an ND blizzard.


As foolish as it may seem, winter storms never factored into my decisions when I needed to drive someplace during the winter. A storm had to be raging particularly fierce before I would even consider not driving anyplace. Most of the time, I simply got in my car and went regardless of the weather. Well, that's not completely true. Most of the time I stayed indoors like everyone else during a blizzard. However, if there was someplace truly important that I had to be at, it didn't matter what kind of weather was raging outside. I would jump in my car and go.


Why would I attempt to travel when everyone else knew better and stayed indoors? I truly don't know the answer to that question. I do know, when I was younger, during my Hobo Joe years, I had a terrible reputation as a reckless and dangerous driver.


Very few people would ride in a car that I was the driver of. If I was drinking, then no one would ride with me. Although other people considered me a very reckless dangerous driver, I, on the other hand, honestly couldn't understand the reasons why people feared my driving back then. Sure, I rolled over four cars and was the passenger in another car that rolled over, but I figured I was just as good a driver as anyone. In fact, I considered myself a better driver than most.


I appeared to carry my "recklessness" over into my professional life after I settled down and became a contributor to society. I recall my friend, and mentor, Dr Berg calling me into the college president's office one time and questioning me about why I appeared to always go looking for controversy. He said I reminded him of a fighter pilot he had talked to who and when asked by Dr Berg why he was a fighter pilot said something to the effect, "For the excitement. First, I get excited, then I get scared, once I get scared I can't back out of what I want to do no matter how dangerous."


Well, I wasn't like that pilot. When I became scared, I usually quit doing or got away from, whatever was scaring me. As for me looking for controversy, it was because I couldn't keep my mouth shut when someone said or did something that I thought was outright stupid or wrong. I was somewhat intelligent. I knew right from wrong, and I could recognize a con when I saw one, or a lie when I heard one. Tribal politics being what they were back then, lots of people either thought you were too dumb or scared to say anything. Not me. I spoke up when I would encounter this type of behavior, which led to a lot of heated discussions. This was the beginning of why I became a loner.


Anyway, back to my story. What I did know was that I had supreme confidence in my ability to drive through any storm no matter how severe. And, if I did get into trouble, I was confident that I would be able to survive any situation I got myself into. This confidence came from my childhood and young adulthood experiences growing up on the Rez; by the time I was 21 years old I had walked miles through many storms, I had chopped and hauled wood in very severe winter conditions, I had ridden in cars during the dead of winter that no one would trust in the summertime, much less a winter blizzard.... heck every winter was a fight for survival in our one-room log cabin. Therefore, winter storms did not scare me very much.


However, there eventually came a time when I had to use a cane to help me walk. It was then I realized there was a good chance I would not survive a winter blizzard if I became stuck and had to walk somewhere. I had broken my back 20+ years earlier and was partially paralyzed on my left side. Walking with a cane in the wind and snow was extremely hard. It was then I begin to think about driving a 4-wheel drive truck.


Several years ago when a friend was selling her truck, I bought it. With a 4-wheel drive truck, my confidence to travel in any kind of blizzard soon returned. I also realize had I purchased a 4-wheel drive truck years earlier, I would not have been in many of the life-threatening situations I had gotten myself into in the past. Of the dozens of blizzards I had driven through, many of them could have been fatal. Below are stories of three storms I drove through when I came the closest to freezing to death. The first incident was before I broke my back, the second and third incidents occurred after I broke my back and became partially paralyzed on my left side. However, that disability didn't slow me down. I still drove in all kinds of winter weather:


I.          When I was in my mid-twenties, my two brothers, Besh (nickname) and Jerome, and my younger sister April, her friend Lisa, and I were out driving around on a Sunday drinking bootleg beer. The temp was several degrees below zero. Besh and I were in the front seat; Jerome, April, and Lisa were in the back seat. It was in the middle of January and cold out. It was around ten o'clock in the evening, I was driving on the back roads north of the Sheyenne River when we hit a snowbank in the middle of the road. Try as we might, we could not push the car out of the snowbank. Due to being inebriated, none of us was worried, although it was dark, and we were miles from help. That attitude changed as the evening wore on, and we began running out of beer and gas, and the temperature began falling. Around three or four in the morning, we ran out of gas, and it quickly became extremely cold in the car. In desperation, we started burning everything that was flammable, the cardboard containers that held our beer were the first to be burned. This was followed by every scrap of paper we could find. If my memory serves me correctly, we even tore apart parts of the car's interior that could burn. We were so cold, we huddled together for warmth. Somehow, we survived the night without freezing to death. As soon as it became light enough to see, we decided to walk to the nearest farmhouse, which was several miles up the road. Although the wind had died down, it was still strong enough to make walking a struggle at times. April, Lisa, Jerome, and I soon outdistanced Besh who was several years older than us and was overweight. I turned around to wait for Besh, but when he caught up with me he told me not to wait for him. "I can make it," he said waving for me to go on ahead. By the time I had caught back up with April, Lisa, and Jerome, they had turned into an approach leading to a farmhouse. I quickly followed them in. Warm air had never felt so good!! I soon noticed the farmer and his wife looking at me strangely, so was April and Lisa, but they kind of had a smile on their face. When I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, I was shocked at what I saw; my entire nose was covered with frost, where my arms of my glasses ran along my face was all frosted over also, and there were huge patches or my face that was covered with frost also. After we warmed up the farmer drove us to my car and pull me out.

Footnote: About a week later, my face had healed except for the skin on my nose, which had turned black. Two of my friends, Jane and Sandra, came to see me. They were going to drink beer in Devils Lake and wanted me to go with them. I put a strip of white gauze over my nose to hide the black skin and held it in place with some bandage tape. Once in Devils Lake, we went into a liquor establishment, walked up to the bar, and ordered a beer. The bartender was acting extremely nervous. "What the hell is the matter with him," I remember thinking. As he was getting our beer, I went to the bathroom. When I came out, Jane and Sandra were laughing so hard I had to ask what was going on. Apparently, when the bartender saw the gauze taped over my nose when I came in, he thought I was an armed robber coming to rob the place. Back then, in cops and robber shows, robbers would simply put a strip of white tape over their nose before they went in to rob a place. The bartender must have watched too many of those shows. LOL


II.        The second blizzard I will tell you about was probably the worst blizzard I have ever driven through. However, it was the one that concerned me the least as far as my personal safety was concerned: My sons had gone to spend Christmas vacation with their mother in Dunseith, ND. I had promised I would go up and spend Christmas Eve with them. The day before Christmas dawned bright and clear; but by afternoon, the weather had deteriorated into a mild winter storm. Around three in the afternoon, my sister and brother-in-law went to Sheyenne, ND. When they came back, they talked about how bad it was outside, and maybe I should reconsider going to Dunseith. They had just moved to the Rez from New Mexico, so I figured they, upon seeing a little storm had become unduly excited. However, as I was going out the door, my tanhan (brother in law) came up to me and with a look of grave concern on his face said, "You shouldn't go, Joe, it's really bad out there, stay here." This kind of gave me pause, but I already had my coat on so I told him, "Naw, I'll be alright," and left. As soon as I went outside, my experienced eye told me it was indeed a blizzard of some magnitude. But, having driven through many snowstorms, I quickly walked to my car and jumped in. By the time I reached Devils Lake, the storm had impressed me enough that I figured I had better top of my gas tank, pick up a gallon of water, and some candy bars. Once out of town, on Highway 2  heading west, I entered into the full magnitude of the storm, and it was ferocious! I had never driven in such a storm before! The wind was howling, and blowing the snow sideways so hard that I could barely make out the road. I crept along at 5 - 10 mph until I needed to go to the bathroom. Once out the car, the back of my head instantly became packed with blowing snow. While standing there, I noticed a shadow cross my headlights, but before I could react, a face materialized right in front of me. "Man, I'm glad you stopped," a young white man told me. He had driven into the ditch, and I had come along and stopped at the exact place to go to the bathroom. What a coincidence, if you want to call it that. I think his Christian God was surely watching over him that night. With an extra set of eyes, the going was a little faster. I pulled in the truck stop just on the other side of Churches Ferry and let him off. At that time, there was a gas station and a small café. The café was lit up and was filled with a dozen stranded travellers. My passenger exited the car and indicated he was going to stay there. When I informed him I was going to continue on he pleaded with me to stay, but to no avail. I had promised my sons I would spend Christmas Eve with them, and I was damned if I was going to let an ND blizzard stop me. I continued toward Rugby, one tedious mile after another. When I arrived in Rugby, I stopped at a café and used the payphone to call my brother Mark. He had made me promise to call him when I reached Rugby. With only 30 miles to Dunseith, I confidently turned north. It didn't take long for the storm to destroy my confidence. The conditions were worse than I had ever experienced. I eventually came to a stretch of road where a huge snowdrift stretched beyond my headlights. I said a quick prayer, put the pedal to the metal and aimed my car at what I hoped was the middle of the road. There were a few touchy moments when my heart almost stopped from fear that I wasn't going to make it; but once again, The Great Mystery came to my aid. After about 100 yards I the snowdrift ended, and I continued on my way.  I managed to make it to Dunseith and to the house where my sons' mother lived. When I walked in, I was surprised to find several people there visiting. One of them was my ex's mother who was quite fond of me. Apparently, she told the other that we weren't worried about me making it through the storm. "Erich is a good driver, he will make it", she stated confidently. Later it dawned on me later that they were sitting there in vigil waiting to see if I would make it.  


III.       The third blizzard I will write about was the time I came closest to actually freeze to death. It truly was my most frightening experience. I sincerely thought I wasn't going to survive, but Wakan Tanka was watching over me that night and saved a foolish young ndn boy from certain death by hypothermia on that freezing cold, January night. The day started in Billings, Montana. I had attended a meeting. When reports of a storm coming met my attention, I decided to leave early. I left Billings at around ten o'clock that morning. I was driving an old Rez beater, a 1987 Chevy Celebrity, with front-wheel drive. I made good time, but the weather became progressively worse the closer I came to ND. When I arrived in Dickinson, ND, the highway patrol shut down the interstate. With three boys waiting for me at home, I couldn't spend the night waiting out the storm. I turned north, and when I came to Highway 200, I turned east. I knew Highway 200 ran all the way to Carrington, ND. I figured once I reached Carrington the final 40 miles would not be too hard to drive. As long as it was light out, it wasn't too hard to see the road, and I was able to travel around 40 mph. After I crossed Highway 83, between Bismarck and Minot, it rapidly became dark and that's where the nightmare began. There were places where I stopped for several minutes because I could not see anything. A few times, I actually got out of the car and checked to see where the road ended and the ditch began. It took several agonizing hours to reach Hurdsville, ND, a distance of around 40 miles. Once in Hurdsville I knocked on a door and asked to use the phone. I called home and told Marshall I would be home in a couple of hours. When I got to the edge of town, I could see there was no way I would be able to make it through the snowdrifts on the road leading out of town. I turned north, and the street that ran north through town was also heavily snowed in. I had no choice; I had to try to get through it. I gunned my little car, and it went bucking through the drifts. I held my breath until surprisingly, the car made it through the drifts. Once on the highway, I started north toward Harvey, ND. A few miles south of Harvey, there is a cut-a-cross road that ends up in Fessingdon, ND. Like a fool, I turned onto that road. I quickly came across a snowdrift which I made it through. The second snowdrift I tried to go through, I wasn't so lucky. I got stuck. After trying to rock the car back and forth a few times without any luck, I got out to see just how bad I was stuck. It was bad. And, the wind was blowing hard, the blowing snow stung my face, and it was COLD. I quickly jumped back into the car. I knew I was in serious trouble. If I didn't get out of this snowdrift, I would surely freeze to death, I thought. With nothing to lose, I tried to rock the car out of the drift. I quickly noticed that when I backed up, the car was going further than before. I floored the accelerator, and lo and behold, the car went spinning out of the drift. I carefully turned around, took a run at the next drift, and broke free! I was back on the highway! Once I reached Harvey, I turned southeast toward Fessenden. When I arrived at Fessenden, I turned east on the highway to New Rockford, ND. The storm seemed to pick up fury as I travelled east. I came to a huge snowdrift, so I stopped and got out to look. It appeared if I went on the north side of the road, I would be okay. But, it wasn't okay. I got stuck. Fortunately, I was close to a farmhouse. The people inside had seen my headlights, and came and pushed me out. The farmer implored me to stay at his home. Again, I said I had three boys waiting for me at home, and I kept going. I knew there would be a snowbank where the railroad track ran across the road when I got close to Highway 281.  Sure enough, there was a huge snowdrift, but I had come too far and was too close to home to stop now. I simply stepped on the accelerator and smashed through the drift. Fortunately, I stayed on the road until I came out the other side. Once I turned north on Highway 281, the weather cleared, and I was able to make it the rest of the way home without too much trouble. My boys were happy to see me; they had no idea how glad I was to see them. I hugged each of them in turn and thanked The Creator for watching over me - again!


As with my previous writings, these blogs about my personal experiences are meant more for my children's eyes than anyone else. If you read this far, thank you for your interest. As a private individual, I realize just how little my children know about my life outside my home. I am hopeful they will take some time to read these blogs at some point in the future.



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Tribe:  Spirit Lake Tribe

THPO Name: Dr. Erich Longie

Federal Fiscal Year: 2015 - 2016




Spirit Lake Tribe (SLT) is proud to be a member of the National Park Service Tribal Historic Preservation program. We are entering into our fourth year of operation.



Annual Accomplishments Narrative:

The Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office (SL THPO) staff experience in preservation issues, and their knowledge of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, has been steadily increasing. Over time, we are having an increasing impact on all levels of government: local, state, and federal. Tribal members are now approaching us with a variety of requests from surveying land for home sites to establishing a family cemetery.  On our reservation, federal agencies consult with us on everything from water lines to the planting of trees. The Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office is proud of our working relationship and our reputation with tribal, state, and federal partners.


An additional project we are proud of this year was joining in on the effort to change the name of Sully's Hill National Game Preserve, which is located within the borders Spirit Lake Nation, to White Horse Hill, which was the traditional name for the hill. There is a local legend about a white horse coming down from the hill to mingle with the people. We met with Senator Hoeven's office, and they are assisting with getting congressional approval.


We have also activated a committee of three elders who are fluent in the Dakota language and have vast knowledge of Dakota customs, culture, and history. We have been meeting the first Friday of the month. The purpose of these meetings is to guide our preservation program and ensure that we are upholding our department vision: "To enrich the Spirit Lake Oyate culture through defending and preserving our heritage and passing on the Dakota way of life."


Anticipated Activities List (to be submitted at the start of the fiscal year):

The following narrative, addresses the Anticipated Activities List submitted at the start of the Fiscal Year and explains how each reported project or activity in this report is linked to identifying, evaluating, documenting, designating, preserving, or protecting significant historic and archeological properties as spelled out in our work plan.



Dr. Erich Longie, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, prepares the annual work plan, prepares the accomplishments report, and grants a product summary report as required in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Tribe and the National Park Service (NPS).  Lori Brown, Spirit Lake Tribe's CFO, utilizes the NPS Financial Management System to draw down funds and submit financial reports to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse as required. This management team has enabled the SL THPO to operate and participate meaningfully in the National Historic Preservation Program and protect cultural resources from adverse impacts.


Numbers 2, and 3 on SL THPO's Anticipated Activities List

Numbers one and two were addressed through a joint effort between the Spirit Lake Oyate and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate to develop a cultural resource database, a Tribal Register of Historic Places, unique to our people. We are sister tribes - separated only by processes of the reservation era. The Tribal Register will be a step in bringing our people back together as we work on places that matter most to us. This will be a database of sites significant to our people, recorded by our people, and vetted through our process. We currently have cultural monitors and technicians who survey and document sites as part of the Section 106 process. We feel a need to create a place where we house these data reports and gather together the collective wisdom and knowledge of our people. This will be the foundation of our growing cultural resource management program.


For the initial stage of the project, we have been building a roadmap of the processes and protocols that need to be in place in order for the project to move forward. We conducted two meetings in August of 2016, one at Spirit Lake, and one at Sisseton Wahpeton. An MICA Group Phase 2 grant (MICA Grant) funded these meetings. At these meetings, we attempted to identify the needs of each individual tribe - particularly relating to the security of sacred information, the process in which sites will be nominated and placed on the tribal register, and the individual infrastructure needs of each tribe. These meetings included tribal elders, council members, and THPO staff that will be working with different aspects of the Tribal Register database.


The second part of the project has been the initial development stage. Policy and procedures are being developed for administration of the tribal register based on results of the initial meetings and follow up meetings. Drafts of these documents on policy and procedure are being prepared for the tribes to review to ensure they meet the tribes' needs both culturally and legally. In addition, we are developing Memorandum of Agreements to formalize partnerships between the tribes, State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and other state and federal agencies, which may be included. We are also creating template forms for the tribal register to be used as standard forms to nominate and list sites on the tribal register. We are developing software reflective of each tribe's needs. The software will be integrated into the tribal systems for site management. The Tribal Register is being developed with the Dakota language in mind as the Dakota language has special characters that will need to be integrated into the system. We have been continually working to ensure all security concerns protecting this most sensitive data are met using the highest standards and protocols.


In the first part of 2017, we will have a beta version of the Tribal Register that we will be able to fully implement, though the development team is expected to continue to meet for up to six months following beta implementation to ensure all aspects of the Tribal Register database will be working properly. If there are additional needs, they can be addressed during the third and final phase. The full system should be implemented by the summer or fall of 2017.


Once established, we see truly limitless potential for our Tribal Register. This will be the cornerstone not only of our cultural resource program, but it will also be a central database of our heritage, of values and traditions of the Dakota people. By engaging knowledgeable members of the community in the creation of the Tribal Register, we will ensure for generations to come the places and ideas of our people will be known. We will have the opportunity to disseminate oral histories, create films, do mapping, teach language, and use all sorts of new and exciting forms of media in the process. We know what an influential role social media has on our youth. We hope to engage them in the development of new and exciting ways to promote the culture of the Dakota people. The places we look to record in our Tribal Register are not only reflections of our past, they are pictures and narratives of our people today, now - how we arrived where we are and where we are going. Keeping records of these places are the insurance that this robust culture that was passed to us can be handed down to our next generation. By protecting these places, we are protecting ourselves.  Our language, our culture, and our very identity are tied to the places we hold sacred. The Tribal Register will be our generation's greatest contribution to enriching the lives of our people and ensuring the Dakota way of life is passed on for many generations to come.


National Register:

Not assumed in the Tribe's program plan.


Development, Acquisition, and Covenants:

No major activities anticipated.


Preservation Tax Incentives:

Not assumed in the Tribe's program plan.



Review and Compliance:

We actively work with a number of state and federal agencies on Section 106 reviews including tribal, state, and local reviews. We consult on federal undertakings with potential to affect historic properties significant to our people, properties with the potential for eligibility  for listing on the National and/or Tribal Register. We work with those agencies to address potential impacts to such properties in accordance with cultural resource regulations (i.e. actively participate in Tribal, state, and local regulatory processes). The Spirit Lake THPO also actively monitors and participates in discussions on regulatory changes, both proposed and actual, in order to understand, consult, and advise on cultural laws and changes to them. We do a significant number of reviews with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). This year alone we did over 1600 reviews through the FCC. We anticipate this number to be roughly the same over the next year. There are additional federal, state, and tribal agencies we work with each year. We anticipate an additional 80+ consultations with these other agencies.


Training Program - Design an Agency Training Program for Explaining the Tribe's Preservation Program:

The THPO has created a presentation, which explains in detail Section 106 and how the Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office carries out responsibilities entrusted to us under the National Historic Preservation Act. The Tribal Council has agreed to attend a meeting showing this presentation sometime in the future at a date yet to be scheduled. This presentation is complete and ready to be shown to the tribal council and other members of the tribe at any time.


Local Government Certification:

Not assumed in the Tribe's program plan.


Other Program Activities (provide public information, education and training, and technical assistance in historic preservation):

The THPO did present three times at the Tribal Directors' monthly meeting. One presentation was on the battle of Whitestone Hill Battle Field and how the Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office is working with the State of North Dakota to enhance the Dakota presence at the battlefield. We also presented an overview of five workshops the THPO authored, which are based in traditional Dakota values of honesty, courage, perseverance, and generosity. The THPO traveled to Minot, North Dakota, at the request of the Director of Native American Affairs and presented to students, faculty, and administration about race based logos. I mention presentations, ones seemingly having nothing to do with preservation, because all presentations begin with this statement, "Now let me tell you this; everything you learned in school about us North Dakota Natives is either false, slanted to make us look like savages, or outright lies." In addition, all the presentations contain information about Dakota culture, spirituality,


and history. Individuals who attend the presentations go away with a new look, and hopefully attitude, towards Native Americans.


I also attended a training held by Andrew J. Richard, MA, RPA, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Archaeologist, from Lame Deer, Montana. Andy's training covered Archaeological Survey and Site Management, which included survey cost, field equipment needed, and training on how to write policy and procedures.


We also have an Arch Tech Training at Spirit Lake Casino and Resort conducted by Dr. Sebastian LeBeau. Participants will be awarded a certificate, which will make them eligible to go on surveys with archeologists.


In continuing outreach to the community, the THPO has created a Facebook page. On the Spirit Lake Tribal Historic Preservation Office page, we share information about meetings we have attended, Dakota language preservation initiatives, excerpts of Section 106 and other similar laws, and every other subject having to do with Native American language and culture, both past and present. We feel, as protectors of the culture, we are obligated to continue to pass on information about our people, our heritage, and our language.


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2017 listed from newest to oldest.

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