I know this blog post will strike some of my readers as annoying, but (as the kids say): whatever. If you have a chance to read but one thing over the next few days, check out:
W. Cronon, “Kennecot Journey: The Paths Out of Town,” in Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past. W. Cronon, G. Miles, and J. Gitlin eds. Norton 1992. pp. 28-51.
It is one of the most lovely environmental, landscape histories that I’ve ever encountered. I know for many people recommending a 20 year old article on a copper mining site in Alaska is not exactly why they wander into the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World. But this article now sits beside. H. Koster’s “Thousand Year Old Road,” Expedition (1976), 19-28 as one of the most elegant explorations of a productive landscape.
As I prepare for my trip out west, I’ve begun to think more and more about how to capture the experience of the landscape. Our expedition will not feature a local voice or local viewer, which has consistently bothered me as I try to understand how to view a landscape historically without someone to provide a snapshot of what it was before the influx of temporary settler and settlements.
On the other hand, I’ve begun to wonder whether our experience in Bakken Oil Patch will have a kind of ethnographic authenticity because we are not locals to this place. While we carry a kind of romantic notion of what western North Dakota might have looked like before this most recent oil boom, we really have “real” idea and certainly no personal experiences to control how we filter the steady stream of news reports decrying the corruption of the glorious North Dakota landscapes.
So just as we will stay in a man camp for at least the first few days, we will also see the North Dakota Bakken range in much the same way as new arrivals to this productive periphery will.