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"Voices of Dakota Prairie" Comes To Watford City Nov. 22


November 11, 2020 | View PDF

"Voices of Dakota Prairie," an original play about the first homesteaders in North Dakota, comes to Watford City Nov. 22.

An original play that tells the story of the first North Dakotans, in their own words, is coming to Watford City on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m. at Rough Rider Center. Voices of Dakota Prairie, written and directed by North Dakota filmmaker Daniel Bielinksi, tells the extraordinary stories of courage, perseverance, humor and faith of the first North Dakota homesteaders.

This new play is set during the settling of the Dakota prairie 1870-1910, and it integrates first-hand accounts from Dakota settlers with song, dance, and poetry from the era to craft an immersive theatrical experience for audiences. The settling of Dakota Prairie is an extraordinary tale of hardship, sacrifice, perseverance, and faith. By connecting to the stories of our ancestors, we learn much about ourselves.

"My mother, after being on the prairie a month or so, became so lonely that she couldn't endure it," wrote James Buttree in 1879. His family had just moved to their land claim south of Grand Forks. "She had come from civilization and found herself in a flat country without a tree, with neighbors sparse and miles away, without means of visiting except walking or ox team, and either mode of traveling meant a desperate battle with mosquitoes" (The Way it Was, book 1, p. 17). What was the experience like settling the great Dakota prairie? What hopes drew people such as Buttree and his family to suffer such isolation and hard work? How did their cultural resources help them face their challenges? What tensions in families and between communities created dramatic stories of personal suffering and growth? "The high plains, the beginning of the desert West, often act as a crucible for those who inhabit them," wrote Kathleen Norris in Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. How did this crucible affect the souls of the Buttree family and others like them? These are some of the questions Voices of Dakota Prairie addresses.

This play will deepen our connections to those in our community who care about keeping North Dakota stories alive and fostering a sense of pride and commitment to our state.

Admission is free, with the request of a free will donation to the Long X Arts Foundation. Seating will be spaced according to COVID-19 guidelines and is limited, so reserve your seat today at or call Jessie at 701-770-8659.

The production is made possible by support from Bismarck State College and the University of Mary, but also from the State Historical Society, The Long X Arts Foundation and the Pioneer Museum of McKenzie County.


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