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Keeping the Culture Alive in the 21st` Century

Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner

Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention
Pierre, South Dakota, 8 July 1995

Transcribed by Marcie Franklund
Edited by Linda Haag


Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner [SRW]: ...be sure that the culture survives in the 21st Century and I can personally identify these problems, what are the things that make us worry that it won't; and what about grandchildren because that mediator’s influence is gone?

Audience member response [A]: I think their lifestyles.

SRW: Their lifestyles.

A: They're just not interested now, because they don't have the time. They're so busy now, they don't take the time. I'm afraid by the time they do settle down, when they get older, and want to find out about these things, it will be gone because there's nobody carrying it on now.

SRW: And that's really the final fear. And I'm talking about a resource that is replenished automatically, and unless there is deliberate action taken, it literally could be lost completely.

The lifestyle is that something that everybody sort of identifies with and relates to? People's lives are so busy; we're all sort of in a work speed up economy and that's true socially in our lives as well. Where do we find the time for finding out who we are?

A: Like today I have one perspective on that from the west coast: the breakdown of the family, my daughter is a teacher and she has the kids do a genealogy thing. She said “I will never do it again.” She said most of the children didn't know who their father's were; let alone who their ancestors were.

SRW: So, the difficulty in my grandkids, my kids and my grandkids live in California. And the problems with families not staying in tact and in terms of understanding who we are, with that is one issue. Another, I think is that when the culture is so compelling, and when the culture is so diverse, but not diverse in a way that everyone knows who they are and are coming together from that strength, but rather everybody not knowing who they are and finding new ways of identifying who they are. Sometimes, maybe not, effectively with gangs or that sort of thing, but it can be very hard to keep it going in that way.

A: We will be losing the language in another generation, right? And with the language will go these things that we call part of the culture.

SRW: The comment is that we’ll be losing the language in another generation unless we take strong measures. And with the loss of the language will go the loss of the culture; that the two are really inseparable, that the culture resides within the language. Other thoughts about the problem?

A: Another thing about the breakdown is identity? Do you remember when young people first started introducing themselves by their first names?

SRW: Oh? Interesting, that at that point, young people were identifying themselves or introducing themselves just with first names. Was it about the same time that the first question asked was "and who are your folks?" In California that question has no meaning in my grandson's life "Who are your folks?" That's a question he's never heard outside of South Dakota. What other comments?

A: I think that maybe one of our problems is, my parents died when I was young, but with my husband's parents they never told us any background or anything, now our children won’t know about the background. We don't know the background, and we're getting to the point where I ask the aunts and uncles to fill us in and we know how to take the time to sit down with them and say now tell us this. But we as a family, my husband’s parents, never sat down as a family. There are a lot of things I don't know, and we are losing that.

SRW: And this is from another angle, these are children who are really interested, but the information is not available. Of course there are a lot of reasons why that information may not have been transmitted. I really want to find out about the history of the churches being cataloged by the State of South Dakota. There are very few people that are willing to talk about that. I think the pain that comes with that period the really terrible period of repression kept a lot. There was a lot of passing that went on, as I understand, is that right?

People changed their names during the First World War so that they didn't sound German. People wanting to, my aunt says it this way, she says that "during the First World War, you didn't want to be German, and during the Second World War you didn't want to be German. Then along about the time when it would have been alright to be German or we kind of started coming to that, the Cold War started. And you didn't want to be Russian. So we just recently been able to feel good about whom we are." Ands the loss of information in that period and also the people were working, so hard, that there was, as I understand it, not a lot of time to share.

A: Since the television generation a lot of our youth have been adopted to athletic statements, so now we are being identified by OJ Simpson and movie stars and those sorts of things and we are moving away from, going to [?67] goes out and promotes us [?68] very common ancestry [?69] so we have someone to represent us on the athletic fields much less on the media fields in Hollywood until they take us on as a cause or the college community takes us on as a cause, there is no hope.

SRW: We need a German Russian "Dances with Wolves". But I think that idea of both the academic community and the media rendering us invisible and that's true of other ethnic groups as well, although, some groups have found a voice, and to find a way to find a voice. There is a larger cultural problem in there too, isn't there? About the respect that was a part of the culture earlier, in terms of you listened if grandparents had some thing to say. And there is a real cultural disrespect that is taught of the aging generally and that translates over into all kinds of cultural experience too.

A: I was just going to say that the positive side that this motivation exists, when I first, I'm not a German Russian, but I married one. When we first starting studying about it, trying to get information from my husband's father, he came from Russia when he was 10 years old in South Dakota first, and then homestead in North Dakota. He was not that interested in knowing about things because those were bad days when he left Russia and it was not easy coming to the Ramada Inn and talking about their heritage. They had some hard times, and living in North Dakota, those are the stories he wanted to tell. He did not want to tell about what had happened in Russia, but the subsequent generations where we have things easier. We are interested in that organization doing all this physical research, I think that is a very positive thing, but how we get it to the next generation to continue.

SRW: And that's what you identified there is the cornerstone of the way out of the problem, I think; you know the existence of this organization.

A: About Polish family [?95-99] my granddaughter, I taught German to her, and she understood and she learned real fast [?100-105].

SRW: And I know the place in my life that I felt that, when I started feeling that, and how to find a way past that, I think that is important.

A: I had the experience of interviewing my aging uncle. He got to be 95 years old and his mind was as good as ever, after my aunt died, which he supported until her death. I went over there about a dozen times, that's part of my life. The first time I remember when I...

A: I said, "What do you want to know about us dumb Russians?" Yeah, us dumb Russians, yeah, and the more we [?115], then I also noticed that the family table. When you sat around the whole family and there was an insistence of morning devotions.

SRW: And even the conversation within the [?118]. What is the name of your book?

A: Well I have five of them.

SRW: Yeah!

A: Yeah, I'm working on the sixth one; my book is not out yet. The first one is Homesteading on the Knife River Prairie and there I tell the story of my parents coming over. The North Dakota Institute of Regional Studies has my video, called The Knife. And then the second one I should say that is an international book, it’s far from home. If any of you want to get it [?126]. The second book is The Prairie was Home, and that's my life. And the third book The Sod House Times and I took interviews from pioneers during the 1970s for a guide for the hope it would help. The fourth one is A Tribute to the North. The fifth one I Had Kind of a Scare for My Life. My heart was just about failing me in the ambulance. I heard her saying to the other, that her heart is failing, then I prayed and asking "Lord, super favor, I have lots of work to do yet." And so now I'm writing the scriptural, considered thoughts.

SRW: Your name?

A: Marlene Deide.

SRW: And your books are over there, here, I thought.

A: Yeah, the last one, Prairie Echoes, was published in 1992, that sort of thing. And those are the experienced, school experienced, the best of my studying over all.

SRW: Thank you. One thing that I wanted to pick up on, it was something important that is said and I think we are all really respectful of what you are doing and thank you for it. The idea that, when you interview, we interview your, you talk about interviewing your uncles, your

A: Uncles and aunts, yeah.

SRW: He did a series of them.

A: Yes, [?146].

SRW: And that really gets past that my life is more important, what do I have to share anyways? It gets the juices flowing and the memories going and the sense of who I am is transformed in the process.

A: Yes, and I have another interesting thing that happened in my life. In 1945 my father came over to build a garage and just over [?152-154] and every night [?156]. In January, 1975, and that’s where my book comes from.
A long piece of narrative I could not figure out because it was not clear and audible, plus they were having trouble with not having an extension cord.

SRW: If people would be willing to stand and share. Talk to her afterwards. She said a lot of very important things.

A: Couldn’t hear what she said.

SRW: There are five books here.

A: Five books.

SRW: Anymore in defining the problem? The nature of the problem?

A: I think what we need to do, is finding out a way to get out and talk more. My Aunts and Uncles from my mother’s side absolutely will not talk to us about anything. We completely lost [?176-179]. We cannot find any information.

SRW: We have a couple of ideas we are going to pursue, but we have to figure out how to get these other people to talk to their families.

A: The families are too embarrassed, and I think part of the problem is trying to figure out how to get these families to talk about things that they view as something to be ashamed of. Even though it was a generation ago, they don’t want to talk about it because it was something that was covered up when they were little kids or even before they were born. Their family covered it up so they keep covering it up.

SRW: Sometimes they’re just simply is no way. Sometimes, and I’ll say this from my experience dealing from Oral History, that there are some areas that I probing like their probing, and if it’s too hard, if it’s too sensitive and it can be generation that the sensitivity stays there. But at some point there is nothing to do, but to respect. But that’s something that they choose not to share. That really is a problem then. But what I find to say is if you could give me this information and I understand your reasons for being reluctant to do that, but if you could give it to me, it would help me to understand this. If you choose not to, I’ll respect that. If I want to know what it is that I want? But it is tough.

A: Last year in Heritage Review, a delightful story, about a man who didn’t find out about his German Russian Heritage until a relative found him dead.

SRW: Do you know what the problem was?

A: Their great grandmother had been evicted and they had been so persecuted that they had determinedly kept their mouths shut, and it would go away.

A: [?200].

SRW: He was in military?

A: He was in France.

A: I had it difficult, in the first place. My parents were divorced when I was very young. He lived in San Francisco, when he died, fortunately they contacted me. Now, I knew nothing and his name was Cherry Wood which was Chimsberger, but something that I became interested and I exploited. Well, he had one letter from a lady in Hay Springs, Nebraska. I wrote to her and still do. She was married to one of my first cousins. She gave me the list of all the family that was still alive and that’s where I went from there. But I had no idea because his name was Cherry Wood and his real name was Chimsberger.

A: That’s amazing!

SRW: Anything else, then? Defining the problem or? I think we have a sense of what we’re dealing with. What’s working? What’s happening? Well, we have a woman who’s done five books that are all proclaiming. What else in this room? What are people doing to make sure that the culture survives into the 21st Century? If people could maybe be part way in the middle, part way here and part way there.

A: Well, we can’t leave; everybody can’t leave our families blank, so we have a responsibility to leave our families, our children and our grandchildren, a record of our family history. So if you write down what you remember about your grandmother or what you heard about your grandparents; also write down what it was like when you were growing up. So when we die, we’ll probably be at the end of the story. So, it’s important that we get this information written down.

A: I have a grandmother’s book. I have two grandchildren. It was useful information that you could leave for them. Each one is going to have one. I did this because these things are going to be important to them. For instance, we used to wash our hands, never heard of such of thing.

SRW: How many of you are writing you family history or your personal history? Put your hands high so we can all see. That’s a lot of history being held on to, isn’t it? That’s exciting.

A: And we probably think our children are not interested, but they are.

SRW: Can you say something more about that? Stand up and turn around.

A: Well, we think our children are not interested in our past, but they are. Just wait until they are older. Even now, [?249-251].

SRW: How many of you have found that if you give your kids something to read from the family, that they are just fascinated by it? That they may not have a lot of time, but when there is something there that is their heritage, boy, they are just ready to read it and they will read it. They are real interested in it. So maybe if we can get the information to them, respecting that they may be really busy, that...

A: We just had a small family reunion, it wasn’t that big, maybe about seventy, but my grandchildren said it was so neat to see all these people and we’re all related, you know and wished we had more gatherings in [?264].

SRW: How many people was a family reunion or I don’t even know that they were called reunion, but the families getting together regularly as part of growing up, just an automatic part of growing up. When did that get lost?

A: Well, I don’t think that it’s really gotten lost.

SRW: Some families are still doing it, but was there a period in time in which you family didn’t do it? Your family has continued on. How many families have continued on with that tradition? In which the extended family
get- together a lot of you have. So there is a lot of that going around?

A: We have ours every year, but now as the older people are dying out and stuff, I think by the time we get to the younger generation, they get smaller every year.

A: [?281].
A: And then there’s the other thing; so many of our elderly people cannot or do not want to travel someplace and cannot tell the stories. So they take their precious material down, the libraries.

A; It was typical [?290]. It’s gone. Libraries have gone down to the graves, that’s the name of my next book.

SRW: That’s the name of your next book?

A: I had a real interesting experience this past year. My mane is Mary Sachousky. Somewhere my son got acquainted with a Sachousky relative in Germany and they were having a Sachousky reunion in Ohio. We had never heard of those Sachousky, but my through those people he was invited. He and his wife and I went to this reunion. Well, it happened that at the reunion, that there wasn’t a single Sachousky , that branch of the family, the boys died before they had any children and so it was just the girls.

And so we were there, and I kidded on the way there. We had directions on how to get to the place. I said you suppose they’d have signs up “Sachousky Reunion?” Sure enough they did.

And they had one big family picture and that was from the side of the family, oh, boy, was that fair in our family even if it was generations away. So, I thought it was really interesting. My kids were real excited about it.

SRW: And this is an extraordinary time, isn’t it, when there are families reunited that never even knew... who has stories of that?

A: Well, our family always got together at grandma’s house. One grandmother, or the other grandmother and now the grandfather’s have all passed away. We’ve had reunions, now on each side of the family. They’ve all had 500 people or more, but a lot of work. It is well worth it. It is kind of fun to see some of the other grandfather’s brothers. There not as close as our family was. My grandfather was very close to his family and some of the others [?329].

I always felt very fortunate, even though we were never very rich in land and all that; his richness was his family, his closeness to his family. So my kids know all of their aunts and uncles. That’s Uncle John and great Uncle John and that great, great Uncle John. It was great that they grew up with that and even though they don’t seem to be interested in the genealogy, they are

SRW: They know who they are.

A: Yes.

SRW: They are living their genealogy.

A: They will keep up with it.

A: The corner of our culture is our family and if you don’t have your family, then you don’t have the culture being preserved. So my question is what are some of these things that people are doing to make their family reunions exciting and types that people would want to come to, especially young people? What are some ideas that the others in other reunions doing to get 500 people to it?

A: To have somebody to tell the story.

A: But how do you get the kids there? And how do you get everybody there?

SRW: Well, this is a woman who has reunions of 500 people.
A: Well, we start out with color coding the name tags, so you know which big clan you belong to because some of them don’t know their first cousins, especially if you’re not from around the area. “Oh, this must be my first cousin because they have the same color ribbon as I do, so they must belong to my family,” or maybe t-shirts of the same color.

Then I try to get them involved by having games so that there is something for the young, something for the old. At the last reunion, we have even a special birthday group at our reunion to try to recruit people to and have to know about our reunion.

(End of side A, counter at 400, 0)

A: And of course music, music was always a big part of our family so we had. We had an excellent band from Eureka. They played old time, new time, and country western music. So they kind of mixed them together without having too much of one thing so one group would get bored. They danced solid until 2 ‘clock in the morning.

A: How long are your reunions?

A: Usually a day. We usually start the service with Mass or end with Mass. [?8].

A: How long does it take to have to plan this reunion?

A: It’s best to try and start 2 years in advance, but if you don’t have the time. We have done some in the same year, some in 6 months. It depends upon how large the family and how spread out and their jobs.

A: Two years we were working on Dukart Reunion in Eureka. They had it on the 4th of July.

A: It’s good to form a committee and then have the committee be subdivided: one in charge of entertainment, one in charge of the church service, one in charge of the food, and one in charge of the dance. So that way you get everyone involved. Try and have somebody from each of the clans involved, so that afterwards they can’t bicker about it and they weren’t represented. It’s their fault they didn’t like it how it turned out. We found that it worked best.

SRW: Have you thought about hiring yourself out?

[Laughter}

SRW: And really having to compete with Nintendo and having to compete with the compelling thing of going to the mall and see everybody that you know. What could be that fun? You found something that is.

A: Games that the adults and the young people can relate to. We have this one with a rubber chicken that is put between the legs [?23] and the aunt and the children [?25]. And we have another that we have two pieces of wood that act like skis and 3 people have to work together. We always go about something.

SRW: That would be fun.

A: But we usually have 2 days and the next day we have a picnic, then [?30] that way they get more time to visit [?31].

SRW: Those are really good helpful ideas.

A: Then we make a reunion book, a family history book. I’ve always had the family pictures up before then so they kind of get to know who the people are.

SRW: That’s great.

A: Some people have said they give out books at the reunion, but I find that if they have it beforehand, they know who people are.

SRW: Thank you. Other ideas about reunions?

A: We have a kissing cousin reunion.

[Laughter]

SRW: That is [?39].

A: Yeah, male and female kissing cousin reunion. We got together about, well; it must have been 12 years ago that we started it. We have about 3 or 4 of our cousins get together and when other cousins heard about it, they say “Why didn’t you invite me?” It turned out so good that they kept growing and growing. The one we had at Linton, we must have had 45 there, kissing cousins; they were of all ages.

The thing that we did, we had a tablecloth, these big red checkered tablecloths with a wax bottom. We started to write the history on the back of the tablecloth. Now we got a 12 year history or maybe 50 year history on the back of that tablecloth. Now the grandsons are beginning to say, “Can’t I write my name on that?” So, it’s just a it’s just a simple thing as a tablecloth and it is the history of ’75, ’76, ’77, to Montana to South Dakota to North Dakota and so on. And that’s an idea, some little common thing like a tablecloth, one side you eat off and other side is your history.

A: One of our reunions was in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of them arriving in America, the Wald Reunion down by Venturia. And everybody they say [?57] took a hayloft,
took all the hay out and they built some steps up to that hayloft. They had old time dances and started out with Mass together. And set up a camp in the yard, if they wanted to camp there. There were no hotels around, so that’s the only way they could stay. And old time dance in that place. It was a lot of fun. We had a little program then too.

SRW: How may of you have done painting at a family reunion? One of the things that I found when all my aunts and uncles were still alive, at a family reunion was tell a lot of stories. They came out that had not come out individual ally were , they were all sitting around the table and a lot of stories came out that had not come out in individual talks. It was sort of like as a professor, I used a technique sometime called the fishbowl. Which is when you want a group of people to share information, but they are uncomfortable talking in front of a group. They sit in a circle and then everybody else comes around them and listens. The group, that’s inside the circle, gets so high that they forget they are being listened to. So, it was a chance both to record but also for the kids and the grandkids to hear some of these things. The rule of fishbowl is that you don’t talk while this is going on in the center. We didn’t set up any rules or anything. It was just unofficially, just very informally, that we did it.

But the stories, one of the brothers or sisters would say something and that would trigger a memory of another one and a memory of another one. The other thing that was very surprising to me was that, there were stories that came out, that some of the kids didn’t know. It was not just a learning experience for me and for my cousins and then for our kids. But it was also a learning experience for these, you know they were in their 60’s and 70’s, for this whole family of 9 kids.

For example: My oldest living uncle, he was the oldest after the boy died in Russia before they came over. He told about when they came from Russia, he remembered that somebody said "who came?" and he said, "Well it was mother and father and Rose and me and the hired man. Then he laughed and he said "you know there Wagons from Russia to the Bolts. And then he laughed and said, "You know, we were the original Draft Dogers." And his brothers and sisters said "I never knew that. I never heard that story." And he said "Well, we were always so busy on the farm, we never had a chance to talk about it."

So I think that [?90] camcorder, this was pre camcorder days but beginning the stories when everyone is all together and helps each other remember is [?91].

A: Somebody asks what you remember [?92-94] old time pictures and we had them made into signs and then [?95] and then whatever you knew about the picture, you would be surprised. Just recently, a year or so ago, we celebrated Mrs. Robert Smith’s 100th Birthday. And that's what the family did [?99-101] and it was preserved.

Up to now, I have also worked on 3 slide audio visual programs. The first one is The Homesteader’s Daughter and that was about my past. That is the story of my immigrant past. The second one is Consider the Country Hills and that is where my [?108] and my immigrant Russian Heritage [?109]. The last one I made was He Broke the Prairie Down. And I bring in a lot of my own experience, very, very much. [?111], but this is a good thing for families, for family reunions. [?113] taking the grandparent's pictures so they know something about them.

A: [?116].

SRW: That’s the wonder , at the same time that we have all these things going against us, in terms of cultural preservation, the technology is absolutely on our side; the possibility of just sending a disk around, computer to computer, where everybody adds their memories on to it. Books can be produced in that kind of a way and replicated, that means copied.

A: You can be surprised how many stories are able to be recorded of the experiences she had. How they worked and how they lived. She brought it up. She still has a clear mind.

SRW: That’s wonderful.

A: I hold this present tonight [?128] because they can be like children [?129]. She said, “Oh, yeah, I’ll see if I can find it.” And oh, she did. And here she had [?130-132] for all of my grandchildren, so they have their great, great, great grandfather. So you just have to go and ask, even if you are the in-law.

SRW: And the treasures that are still in the attic. They still are. Yes.

A: One of my uncle’s funerals, like a family night service, everybody sat and first to get up and talk about [?138]. A long story that I didn’t know about before. Another lady, who had a work shop, she suggested that you ask questions, like places around the house, like mom’s big money jar. That’s something that you know about. Things that were kind of hurtful in the past, but know you laugh at. Like, which couple was ousted because they got married out of the church? Now it was not as hurtful, but at that time it would have been very hurtful [?145].

SRW: So you plant these around the house, sort of like a scavenger hunt thing or?

A: I think the way she said numbers, number one and go from there. I think [?147].

A: And get the answer to them.

SRW: Now the simple thing of identifying. Now there is another tradition of women of the airing of the quilts in the springtime or the dusting or the polishing of the silver, and the washing of dishes. So much of the history gets caught in that process. You know these dished were brought over by your grandmother from or this quilt was and then the history of it. And just the simple writing that down and attaching it to that object, because once the story stops being told, the information will be lost. I’m trying to do that with some of my objects that I want to make sure my kids know what they are. Other thoughts?

A: One of the things my mom used to [?161] explaining what’s in the picture, who’s in the picture and what they’re doing. I was looking through the one that she’s done up recently the other night and to laugh because she was talking about [?164] house and had this big pit and the thing she said was important do not stand over to watch somebody clean it because of the nasty Billy goats in the yard. I could picture her with nasty old Billy goat. The picture she was showing to me and I’m laughing it off. “Give me more, give me more!”

SRW: And that’s again a thing of recognizing and acknowledging that we all live very busy lives, everyone here, in addition to our kids. If we can find ways to break it down into discrete doable unit, that that’s a way we can preserve, if there’s a little bit done on a regular basis at the end of the year, the impossible has been done. Finding a way to just, you know a couple lines.

A: I think I can talk on that, but one thing about pictures, be sure to label them immediately after you develop them, because if not, nobody knows who they are.

SRW: Are you interested in bringing pictures to family reunions and then asking people to identify them, the ones that can’t be identified? My aunt has or is now organizing all of her pictures into individual families. Then one of the last times we got together, she brought envelopes for each of the families. She’s divesting herself with her photo collection; the families are just delighted because we’re getting pictures that we have never had before.

I want to say a word about the matriarch of a family or the clan mother. I’m writing a book right now on the Iroquois, the 6-nation Confederacy of Indians in up-state New York. What’s a good German Russian girl doing this for? Who knows?

I spent a lot of time with clan mothers and at one point I said to [?193], “You know, I always thought you were just an irritation, but now I understand your clan mother, so now I really respect what you are doing.” And she just laughed. We had that honest exchange with each other, that honest German Russian exchange with each other. She said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, you keep telling me all this information about my cousins that I could care less about, you’ve been doing that for 20 years and I had to listen to it. Now I am so grateful to you for having done that.” It had just happened after I had seen a cousin that I hadn’t seen for about 20 years. We had hardly any catching up to do, because she kept us clear about what was happening with each other. We hadn’t seen each other, what did we care?” But when we saw each other we came right together.

I honor and respect all the women and men. Very Often I think it is women who keep that kind of social information flowing. Among the German Russians, women are the keepers of the nation, the keepers of the culture. I think to really honor that work that women do, to know it’s value and it’s importance, now I hope I do that all the time.

{Counter at 193, 0}

A: Can I tell a story about Grandma Schmidt?

SRW: Please do.

A: [?4-20]

SRW: And this is what [?21] telling our stories happens. It triggers a memory and [?22] and this when we should have a tape recorder. Do you have yours? I want to just take a minute to talk about some things that I would really like to see happen in schools. I think that what we've been talking about very importantly is the kinds of things that we can do in our lives, and there was wonderful ideas and information, shared on that. I think another front that we can work on, is in the school; a couple thoughts that I would like to just share with you about that. I didn't quite get work as a consultant with the South Dakota Department of Education of Cultural Affairs, the Equity Division. I really see the absence of ethnic materials within the department of education and the need for that.

A couple things really concern me is that one of the things that kids learned in school is to disrespect any information they get outside of school. What school tells them is: if it is important, you will learn it here, if you don't learn it here, it's not important.

I think about what would have happened if I would have taken German when I was in school and the teacher never once said [?64]. I don't think I would have had the strength at that point to say the teacher is wrong. I would have come home and thought that my grandma was really stupid and didn't really know how to talk right because she didn't talk the way that the teacher talked in school.

I'm very concerned that the teaching of German in the schools may result in disrespect for the culture. Unless the kids are learning the dialect that is the language of their mothers, well at this point probably their grandmothers or their great grandmothers, that they may be learning something in addition to a German that is in that, is to believe that the language that they have at home is inferior to the language that is happening in the schools.

The schools I really think should be what would be the strongest word, should be actively and vigorously working on cultural preservation. We have in this region something incredibly unique, which is not just a dialect of German that is not spoken anywhere else, but we also have a dialect of Norwegian that people come from Norway to study because it is the old language. I think that those languages and those dialects and the culture that still remains here, should be the business of the schools to preserve. I think that is true in California as well. I talk to people in LowDie about this.

Where there is a community of interest and an ethnic community that is still intact, I think we need to start thinking about culture in the same way we think about endangered species. When you have a culture that is still vigorous and is still active but is in danger, that is the point at which the preservation has to happen. We have learned that with animals, but we haven't learned it with ourselves yet. We need to work very carefully and very hard to preserve the culture that is present.

A program that I think would really work in the schools is a program of bringing in the elders to share the tradition, to share the culture, to teach the language. Hutterite kids are tri lingual by the time they are 9 years old, they are fluently tri lingual. They come into schools speaking their dialect of German; as soon as they enter school they are entering a double school. They learn High German an hour before and an hour after what they call English school. Within a couple of years they have learned High German, which is the language they worship in. Plus they are learning English in school and archaic as it may sound, in South Dakota there is no bi lingual program for these German speaking kids coming into school. Everybody else gets bi lingual programs but if you are German speaking, you don't get them. Still in spite of not having that kind of assistance, these kids learn 2 languages by the time they have been in school a year or two. Every kid could do that.

What I think would be wonderful if elders could come in and teach the language to kids before school, maybe after school. There could also be a cultural preservation program going on simultaneously in school, I think we would see a lot of things and I think that one of the things we would see, is kids feeling less alienated from their culture because school, which is where real stuff happens, is saying to them, "This is important enough that you should study and learn about it."

When a kid is asked "Are you German Russian?" in school, I have done this in some of the schools. I am doing some of this work in the schools in South Dakota right now and when I asked kids in a classroom if they were German Russian, they know that and they recognize that. They can raise their hand, their eyes light up with excitement because it is usually the first time that they have ever been asked that question usually in a classroom. Those are a few ideas.

A: You have taught in school [?-122-124].

SRW: That's exactly, that's the sort of thing. And in fact incorporated that in an ethnic, in a cultural, "this is who we are, these are the things we believe in, this is how our people came here, and these are the stories." For kids to learn that early on and then through their whole school career, I would really like to see that happen in the schools.

A: I was invited to the German class at Selby High School and I told them about the Germans from Russia. And they were very interested, but it was only one time.

SRW: And that should be done on a regular basis.

A: The ethnic fairs are held around our area are for those that don't know their heritage.

SRW: The ethnic fairs, the celebration, I think that is also a chance to make contact with the teachers. "Would you like me to come into class? I could come in and we could do this, we could come in and teach this." I think one of the things that could happen is that elders could offer to come into the classrooms and tell the teachers that they are available.

A: We have a project like this in Dickinson, North Dakota, that the School Superintendent thought of himself. He said you’re going to address the diversity of the ethnic heritages of the Dickinson area. This was about 5 or 6 years ago I think, and the older people thought it was [?162-164]. They came home and they say all these different words and teachers had prompted them before to


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