Outsiders in the Bakken Oil Patch

One of the most striking thing about my week in the Bakken Oil Patch (and in the reports from the region) is the distinction between locals and outsiders. License plates from around the U.S. fill the man camp parking lots and almost all of the people we talked to identified home as somewhere else. 

Eating meals at the Type 1 camp where we stayed we heard southern draws, various twangs, and several tables speaking Spanish. In the field, we met folks from Idaho, George, Washington, New Jersey, Utah, California, Tennessee, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Wisconsin, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Vermont, Mississippi, and – in a few memorable instances – no place in particular.  

The press and public has seized onto the influx of outsiders in some memorable ways. My favorite was a spurious document circulating several months ago (pdf)  that claimed a Minot hospital hired 115 nurses from “the Phillipians” (point 35 in the document). We all know that the Greek financial crisis has lead to significant strains on their medical system, but I am not sure that the ancient city of Philippi in Northern Greece (to whom Paul wrote his famous letter) had 115 nurses to spare. In any event, the hospital denied the rumor of importing Greek nurses, but the fact that the Paul praised the Philippians for their generosity (4:15-17: You yourselves also know, you Philippians, that in the beginning of the Good News, when I departed from Macedonia, no assembly shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you only.  For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my need.  Not that I seek for the gift, but I seek for the fruit that increases to your account) adds a certain plausibility to the account and makes the alternate reading of Phillipians as Philippines seem a bit of a reach.

The arrival of outsiders into these communities, however, is not new. One of the most poignant reminders of this history of new arrivals to western North Dakota came from a cemetery adjacent to one of the oldest camps in the area and in the shadow the massive Hess Tioga Gas Plant. Among the various graves was this:

DSC 0084

Whoever Kono Kitagawa was, she died young and almost certainly died far from home.

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