Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Considering migration in a "Western" town

Saturday, July 11, 2009

We’ve seen some incredible sites. Yesterday we drove into Medora, North Dakota, at sunset (at about 9:00 p.m.). We got to see the sun setting over the Badlands at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It was stunning.

This morning we had breakfast at the Elkhorn Café – named after one of Roosevelt’s ranches in the area.  They make a big deal out of him there! We walked around the town for a bit. Most things were closed since it was still early, but the kids got to get the feel of the “Western” looking little town. They’ve really done an incredible job reinventing the town. The place made me think so much of migration and movement. In a way, I guess the West is all about that. People’s roots are a bit more recent and more visible here, and the scale and nature of the region resists “settling” too much. 
I saw a poster for an immigration-related exhibit sponsored by the Smithsonian that is coming to the area. It was called Journey Stories, I believe. I’ll have to check it out. The tag line was something about exploring the way that changes in mobility have shaped the nation and the world, and it was based on individual people’s stories, inviting anyone who would attend to tell their story as well. As if a confirmation of this, the Maltese Cross Café (named after Roosevelt’s other ranch in the area!) was run by an Asian family – the chef making the omelets, the cashier and one of the guys coming in who seemed to run the place were all of Asian descent. Of course, there’s also the ever-present railroad, which parallels most of the highway we have been traveling – a clear reminder of the contributions of Asian Americans to the formation of the West and the history of their exploitation. I also saw a historical sign in town – which now I wish I had taken a picture of – that started with some reference to how Custer had come through town with his army to deal with a native group’s “aggression.” Oh, the way we write history…

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