‘Lincoln Journal Star’ reviews ‘Natives of a Dry Place’

This is a book of stories about a North Dakota town before the oil boom changed everything, about the virtues displayed in the place the author grew up. This may not seem like much of a promising premise for a memoir, but the book is surprising, inspiring, deeply personal—and a page-turner.

Edwards - Natives of a Dry Place (CI)

Edwards grew up in Stanley, North Dakota, one county south of the Canadian border and smack dab in the Bakken oil deposits that transformed western North Dakota in the past few years into an overpopulated, industrialized, polluted area with all the ills of a fast-moving oil boom that now seems to be dying down. This is all covered in the introductory chapter in which the old and new Stanleys are contrasted.

The heart of the story of Old Stanley is in a series of eight virtues inherent in a small Great Plains farming community that are illustrated with the lives and actions of the town’s inhabitants. The stories are unique to Stanley but similar to the history and culture of many such places on the Plains. Each virtue has its own main characters and stories, often daunting and all providing their own kind of heroes.

The virtues are resoluteness, steadfastness, devotion to community, pluck, commitment, dauntless optimism, spirit of adventure and modesty. That residents of a small North Dakota town can so supremely exemplify these universal qualities of hope and life is a tribute to Plains culture in America.

Richard Edwards is the director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a longtime professor of economics with a Ph.D. from Harvard and has served as chairman of the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


R Edwards photo a 3.27.15


Find Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom at sdhspress.com for $16.95, plus shipping and handling.


Pre-order “Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom”

Edwards - Natives of a Dry Place (CI)“As a child, I thought of my town—as most children probably do—as just an ordinary place. . . . Yet I have come to think that there were exceptional things in the lives of its people and especially in the values and virtues that they believed in and aspired to.”—Richard Edwards

Before the oil industry transformed western North Dakota, the natives of Stanley went about their normal, everyday lives. Postmen, farmers, housewives, doctors, and other residents of the bustling town held certain qualities close as they cultivated the cultural fabric of the Great Plains. For generations, inhabitants of this wheat-growing region developed a combination of resoluteness, steadfastness, devotion to the community, and ever-present modesty.

Contrasting these values with the trials of the modern oil-boom community, author Richard Edwards examines the old town’s virtues through the stories of those who built and sustained a community on the dry, open plains in the twentieth century. A deeply personal look at a small North Dakota town, Natives of a Dry Place focuses on a not-so-distant past and takes readers on a journey of reflection to a time before big oil. Edwards uses his experience as both a historian and an economist to delve into the overarching questions of what makes a community and how it survives during times of upheaval.

R Edwards photo a 3.27.15Richard Edwards is director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of
Nebraska–Lincoln. He has written twelve books and numerous articles and has spent a lifetime working in academia. Edwards received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and also served as chair of the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota before the Oil Boom will be released at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood on September 25, 2015. It will be available for $16.95, plus shipping and tax.

Pre-order Natives of a Dry Place at www.sdhspress.com or by calling (605) 773-6009.

Contact Jennifer.mcintyre@state.sd.us for publicity information, a review copy, or to schedule an interview or event with Richard Edwards.

Pre-Orders Open For Upcoming Ed Lemmon Biography

“Ed Lemmon epitomized the rough-and-ready spirit that built today’s cowboy culture. Nathan Sanderson has made a significant contribution to our history in recording and exploring the life of this amazing South Dakotan.”—Bernie Hunhoff, South Dakota Magazine

Sanderson - Controlled Recklessness (CI)

Pre-order Controlled Recklessness: Ed Lemmon and the Open Range for only $25.00, plus shipping and tax. Customers who pre-order will receive a hardcover copy of the book signed by author Nathan Sanderson. This special pre-order offer ends 1 September 2015. Controlled Recklessness retails for $29.95.

More information to come! Be sure to follow the South Dakota Historical Society Press blog.

New Biography from State Historical Society Focuses on Red Cloud

McDermott - Red Cloud (CI)Pierre, S.D.—A larger-than-life figure in the history of the West, Red Cloud is the only American Indian leader who defeated the United States Army in a war. In Red Cloud: Oglala Legend, the latest book from the South Dakota State Historical Society, author John D. McDermott examines the Sioux leader’s rise to prominence, his struggle against cultural domination and the victory that closed Bozeman Trail in 1868.

“With Red Cloud, McDermott has used little-known sources to illuminate the early childhood and worldview of this historical legend who lived during a time of great upheaval for his people,” says Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Born in 1821 in present-day Nebraska, Red Cloud fought to keep non-Indian settlers and the United States military out of his people’s territory in 1866–1868. In what would come to be known as Red Cloud’s War, the chief defeated the army but would alter his tactics from armed resistance to a long-term strategy that included diplomacy.

In his latest book, McDermott goes beyond the Oglala leader’s experience as a warrior and focuses on his time as a statesman. Chronicling his diplomatic trips to the United States Capitol, the author examines Red Cloud’s vision for maintaining Oglala life and culture.

John D. McDermott is a research historian who has written numerous articles and books on western history, including Red Cloud’s War: The Bozeman Trail, 1866–1868 (2011).  Now residing in Rapid City, McDermott served as a historian for the National Park Service and a policy director for the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. He will be speaking at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood this September. More information about the festival can be found at sdbookfestival.com.

Red Cloud: Oglala Legend is the fourth book in the South Dakota Biography Series. It is available for $14.95, plus shipping and tax. Published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press, the biography series highlights the state’s most prominent residents. Titles from the series can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit sdhspress.com or call (605) 773-6009.

Biography Series

Historical Society Press Wins Two Gold IPPY Awards

The South Dakota State Historical Society has received two Gold IPPY Awards for recent books.Gold

Transformation and Continuity in Lakota Culture: The Collages of Arthur Amiotte, 1988–2014 won the national Gold Award in the Fine Art category, and Love Letters from Mount Rushmore: The Story of a Marriage, a Monument, and a Moment in History by Richard Cerasani received the Mid-West Gold Award for Best Regional Non-Fiction.

“These books are engaging stories that speak to the region’s history,” says Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society. “It is an honor to have the work that went into these publications recognized.”

Transformation and Continuity in Lakota Culture Amiotte - Trans & Cont in Lak Cul (CI)explores the artwork of Arthur Amiotte, an Oglala Lakota artist from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and contains essays by Amiotte, Louis S. Warren and Janet Catherine Berlo. Through his artwork, Amiotte offers insight into the early reservation period. He draws inspiration from his great-grandfather, Standing Bear, using physical materials and the remembrances of his relatives to compose collages that tell the story of a culture and people in transition. Louis S. Warren relates the life of Standing Bear in a brief biography, and Janet Catherine Berlo contributes an essay placing Amiotte’s collages in their artistic and anthropological contexts.

Love Letters from Mount Rushmore follows Arthur Cerasani, an artist from Rochester, New York, as he traveled to the Black Hills and worked at the national memorial while his family remained over 1,500 miles away in Avon, New York. The book presents the daily correspondence between Cerasani and his wife, Mary, along with never-before-seen photographs. “Love Letters from Mount Rushmore” brings to light the everyday trials of working on the Mount Rushmore Memorial, like the unpredictable moods and fortunes of master sculptor Gutzon Borglum, as well as the strength of the human spirit.

Cerasani - Love Letters from Mt Rush (CI)In telling his parent’s story, Richard Cerasani shares the story of other workers on the memorial and puts them into the context of their time. A professional actor made famous by his role as the villain Bill Watson on “General Hospital,” Richard Cerasani has acted under the stage name Richard Caine for over 50 years.

The IPPY Awards are presented by Independent Publisher and are recognized by the publishing industry as the world’s largest book-awards contest. Evaluations are based on “first impression,” design, originality, use of language, message delivery and relevance. Judges have between 10 and 20 years of experience in critiquing books, and fewer than one in 10 entries win an IPPY medal.

“To have two of our titles take home the gold award, given the competitiveness of this prize, is spectacular,” says Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press, which also published the recent best seller “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Press Marketing Director, Jennifer McIntyre, Love Letters from Mount Rushmore author, Richard Cerasani, and Kathleen Cerasani accept the Gold IPPY for Best Mid-Western Non-Fiction in New York at the IPPY award ceremony.

Press Marketing Director, Jennifer McIntyre, Love Letters from Mount Rushmore author, Richard Cerasani, and Kathleen Cerasani accept the Gold IPPY for Best Mid-Western Non-Fiction in New York at the IPPY award ceremony.

Transformation and Continuity and Love Letters from Mount Rushmore are both available for $29.95 each, plus shipping and tax. They can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit www.sdshspress.com or call (605) 773-6009.

Nebraska History reviews County Capitols

“Rusch’s County Capitols provides a useful and interesting survey of the courthouse in South Dakota. His clear writing, organization, and use of footnotes make the book an excellent starting point for people interested in the history of county seats and the development of courthouse design in the Great Plains. Readers from Nebraska, Minnesota, and other neighboring states should not overlook this book. The stories behind many of the courthouses are characteristic of broader patterns in the establishment of county seats across the region, and the architects who designed these buildings were often from nearby states, thereby granting the book regional application despite its focus solely on South Dakota.”—Nebraska History

NH Summer 2015 book reviews

Questions revisited

A few weeks ago, our director blogged about the questions applicants had asked her during a recent round of job interviews.  One of the queries was, “What do you like about your job?”  Reading this post caused me to think about how I would answer that question.  While I enjoy coming to work simply because the Cultural Heritage Center is a unique building and the staff of the South Dakota State Historical Society is a fun and hard-working group of people, there are particulars about my own position that I find intriguing, interesting, and challenging.

I get to do several things in the course of a week.  I have the flow of a routine, but I also have the variety that comes with having that routine interrupted. The SDSHS Press staff gets together weekly to talk not only about what is currently being accomplished, but to dream and set goals for what we would like to see done.  Because we are a small press, we are all involved in the process of bringing those dreams to reality.  I really like that aspect of my job.  Though I spend much of my time working with the financial aspects of the press—depositing money, paying bills, and producing weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports—I am also involved in actually putting our books into your hands: packing them carefully, dropping in a bookmark or two, adding our free sampler of some of the books we’ve published recently, and including a catalog for you to browse.  I imagine what I would like to see if I were opening the package.  Many of our customers might be like me; part of the reason I order from a company is the care they take with my order and the condition of my package when it arrives.

Answering the telephone and visiting with people is another enjoyable part of my job.  It has always been exciting for me to share my love of reading with my own kids, and it makes me happy when a parent or grandparent calls in with that same desire to share both a love of reading and a love of South Dakota history with their family. Sometimes the calls come from people planning trips to South Dakota, and they want to read up on the area’s history before they leave home.  Just this week, we heard from a gentleman who had visited all sixty-six of the state’s counties and was intrigued by what he saw.  He wanted books that expounded on the history of the places he and his wife had just visited.  Some of our inquiries and orders come from relatives or friends of a book’s author or subject, and I enjoy hearing the excitement in their voices.

I can’t conclude this blog without adding that when I think a product is good and useful, I enjoy selling it!  The SDSHS Press creates books that are well written, beautifully produced, and of interest to a wide range of readers.  When I sell our books, I feel like I’ve done the buyer a good service.  This is just one more thing I like about my job.  What do you like about yours?