Forums Will Focus on German-Russians

Materi, Francis. "Forums Will Focus on German-Russians." Wishek Star, 26 October 2005, 1.

A pair of upcoming public forums in Wishek and Gackle will focus on German-Russian culture and heritage.

The Germans from Russian Heritage Collection, part of the Fargo-based North Dakota State University Libraries, is the primary sponsor of the forums, which will feature information on the Dakota Memories Oral History Project.

Sessions are set for 2 p.m., Sunday, at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Wishek and 2 p.m., Nov. 13, at the Gackle American Legion Hall. Both forums are free and open to the public.

The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection launched its oral history project last spring. It spotlights childhood memories and family relationshipsspecifically, what it was like growing up as a German-Russian on the Northern Plains.

Tom Isern, a history professor at NDSU, will serve as host for the forums, along with Michael M. Miller, bibliographer of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.

Dakota Memories Oral History Project coordinator Jessica Clark will speak about her recent interviews with individuals from Wishek and other German-Russian communities in southcentral North Dakota. Clark will present an accompanying video that was prepared in cooperation with Prairie Public Television.

Kimberly Porter, a history professor at the University of North Dakota, will address the importance of oral histories in preserving German-Russian history.

The forums conclude with a group discussion on Germans from Russia heritage in North Dakota.

Clark conducted more than 30 interviews for the program this summer, with individuals from Wishek, Ashley, Gackle, Streeter, Berlin, West Fargo and Fargo. She spent an average of two to three hours speaking with each person.

"I really enjoyed meeting and talking with the people," Clark says. "I grew up in a small town in Washington state and I've really missed that atmosphere. Each person was so welcoming and engaging. It felt like home. I'm looking forward to seeing each (of them) this fall at the public forums."

Clark says plans are to expand the oral history project next year into other areas of the Northern Plains.

"Not only do we want to continue our research in North Dakota, but we'd also like to go north and south, possibly into Saskatchewan and South Dakota."

Clark will use the information gathered in writing her doctoral dissertation. There are preliminary plans to create a landmark oral history collection at NDSU that would be accessible to future scholars and researchers. The university also may pursue a television documentary series built around memories and oral histories.

Additional support for the oral history project is provided by the Theresa Mack Germans from Russia History Fellowship, the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, the Glueckstal Colonies Research Association, the North Dakota State University Center for Heritage Renewal, the North Dakota State University Vice President for Research, Creative Activities, and Technology Transfer, the North Dakota State University Development Foundation, the North Dakota Humanities Council, Arthur E. Flegel, Vernon Mathern, La Vern Freeh, Herb Poppke and Michael M. Miller.

For more information about the Dakota Memories Oral History project, call Clark at (701) 231-8419. She also may be reached at or visit the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection website at

Reprinted with permission of The Wishek Star.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller