20th Century, authors, History, Immigration, Minnesota, Prayer

“Giants in the Earth” Published

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1927
Ole Rølvaag, a Norwegian-born professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, publishes Giants in the Earth, his brooding, epic novel of immigrant pioneer life. The book becomes a huge success both in Norway and the United States.*

“The infinitude surrounding her on every hand might not have been so oppressive, might even have brought her a measure of peace, if it had not been for the deep silence, which lay heavier here than in a church. Indeed, what was there to break it? She had passed beyond the outposts of civilization; the nearest dwelling places of men were far away. Here no warbling of birds rose on the air, no buzzing of insects sounded; even the wind had died away; the waving blades of grass that trembled to the faintest breath now stood erect and quite, as if listening, in the great hush of the evening….”

-Giants in the Earth, excerpt from Chapter II “Home-founding.” *

Rolvaag, named after his birthplace five miles from the Arctic Circle, was born one of seven children in 1876. He worked as a fisherman with his father and brothers for six years until he was recruited to be a farmhand in South Dakota at age twenty. After a few years, he went after his education graduating from: Augustana Academy in 1901, Saint Olaf both in 1905 (B.A.), and 1910 (MA). His rugged life experiences gave authenticity and realism to his recollections of the struggles of Norwegian pioneers in the Midwestern United States.**

We remember, with You, the plight of the pioneers from Norway to the Midwest. We remember that this earth is Yours, as well as all its peoples and resources, and that in Your forbearance You move them where You choose. So we give thanks for the example of these aliens, and that within their hardships of displacement that they were perfectly placed to thrive by the King of the Universe!

We give thanks to You for the life and extreme austerity experienced by Ole Rolvaag. He knew both the frigid waters of Norway’s Lofoten fishing area, and the burning sun of South Dakota. He battled the elements for the privilege to enrich his mind, and truly took in the discipline and lessons of both.

We recognize the tribulations of the Norwegian characters of “Giants in the Earth”, and reflect on their lessons for all peoples at all times. Each immigrant must wrestle the elements of his environment, a culture that is unfamiliar, and the loneliness for home. We also ponder the judgments of aliens against Your Sovereignty.

Will You forgive our ancestors their environmental judgments against their new home land? Will You forgive the thoughts and words this wave of Norwegians made in their attempt to tame the “amber waves of grain”? Will You forgive our judgments in this era of them? We have forgotten what pestilence means: losing whole crops to blight, grasshoppers, and fire.

Will You forgive Norwegian Americans their judgments and false assessments of their neighbors? They encountered foreigners, also from Europe, who though racially similar held no common culture or language. They met Native Americans who led migratory lives following the buffalo, again somewhat relatable to fisherman following their catch, but different. For all their cultural struggles we seek Your mercy and restoration.

Granted, these are stalwart, hearty people who endured much more than our present generations, but even giants have hearts of flesh. Because of Your kindness, will You forgive the inward struggles of these pioneers? It’s understandable that one would ask, “Who am I?” while at home, but even more so, “Who am I in this new place?” Will You forgive their sins of fear and doubt related to their identity stemming from Norway rather than the Maker of Norway?

We, like them, are displaced from the heritage of our Creator. Much of our travail is that our identity is based on geography, ethnicity, and culture, but these are comforting false gods. Will You give us an unshakable sense of place that can only come from the Cornerstone of the Universe and Your unchanging Word?

17″You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18″But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. 19″When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.…
Deuteronomy 24:17-19 NASB***

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ole_Edvart_Rølvaag
***http://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/24-18.htm

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19th Century, Agriculture, Civics, education, farming, government, History, Intercession, Jesus, law, Minnesota, Native Americans, State Government, Treaties

The General Allotment Act (Dawes Act)

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Feb 8, 1887
Congress enacts legislation that allots 160-acre tracts of land to heads of households of American Indian families. The rest of the reservation land is thrown open to non-Indian homesteaders. Eventually, Native-held lands are reduced by more than two thirds.*

“The Dawes Act had a negative effect on American Indians, as it ended their communal holding of property by which they had ensured that everyone had a home and a place in the tribe. It was followed by the Curtis Act of 1898, which dissolved tribal courts and governments. The act “was the culmination of American attempts to destroy tribes and their governments and to open Indian lands to settlement by non-Indians and to development by railroads.”[27] Land owned by Indians decreased from 138 million acres (560,000 km2) in 1887 to 48 million acres (190,000 km2) in 1934.[3]
Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado was one of the most outspoken opponents of allotment. In 1881, he said that allotment was a policy “to despoil the Indians of their lands and to make them vagabonds on the face of the earth.” Teller also said, “the real aim [of allotment] was “to get at the Indian lands and open them up to settlement. The provisions for the apparent benefit of the Indians are but the pretext to get at his lands and occupy them….If this were done in the name of Greed, it would be bad enough; but to do it in the name of Humanity…is infinitely worse.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawes_Act

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Messiah, there is such a gap between intent and actions. One the one hand, the Dawes Act points to a desire to respect the property of Native Americans. On the other hand, it ‘gives’ them title to land if they accept the conditions. Is this freedom, or fiefdom?
First, as a human being and fellow Minnesotan, I want to acknowledge our sin of envy. We are not content with what we have. Lord, forgive us the envy contained in the Dawes Act of Native lands! Will You heal the whole inheritance of envy, and heal the lands that were annexed unjustly?
Second, I want to acknowledge the mixed motives of our hearts! I acknowledge the honest desire of many at this time that Native peoples assimilate and become one people with the United States, and with Minnesota. Many were motivated by a desire to share ‘common ground’ figuratively and literally with Indians. As in “I’m a simple Norwegian farmer who is trying to start a new life in America. What does my Indian neighbor have against me? I used to hunt and fish with him. I’m not a land man for the railways, or a representative of the Department of the Interior, but their actions make me the bad guy to my Indian neighbors.”

Many Natives did not want to not feel the pains of being a foreign enclave in their homelands. While they resisted many aspects of Western Culture, they also admired and even craved some of its fruits: new technologies and techniques, trade for useful products, positive interactions with new neighbors, etc. They seemed to both admire and fear the new culture in their land. Some Natives willfully accepted new ways, and others did not.

Lord, have mercy on these hearts! Some on both sides of this divide, whether Immigrant or Indian, wanted to take a chance and embrace. Some were repelled by clashing with another culture. Lord forgive how we have feared our brother’s ways, and rejected what You have to teach us through him! Lord, forgive us our hesitancy to trust! Will you restore us to chesed? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chesed

Next, I want to acknowledge that both cultures succumbed to the “power men” within them. There were plenty of Minnesotans’ willing to capitalize on the imbalance of power the Dawes Act gave them! Too many tried to moralize the outright theft of property! They claimed desires to civilize native peoples to gain public approval for their land grab. Nothing changes. They are still among us. However, I mourn before you this day, and acknowledge this offense against my Native brothers! Have mercy! Will You reverse this curse? Will You restore these injustices?

Lastly, I want to acknowledge the counter judgments that some Native peoples made in response to these ‘land grabbers’. They chose to meet offense with counter offense, perhaps not learning from their own tribe to tribe, or First Nation to First Nation acts of offense and or war. It is clear to see these fruits yielding a harvest of separation even today in our state. Will You forgive these counter judgments? We have offended You first! Have mercy!

Will You have mercy on our natural desires for vengeance stemming from the Dawes Act? Will You give us a new common inheritance as Minnesotans’? Will You take the bitter roots from our hands so that we can recieve from You? When we must disagree, will You teach us to do it with understanding, clarity, and respect?

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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19th Century, Agriculture, Business, farming, government, History, Industry, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, State Government

Bonanza Farms 1875

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Investors grow wheat on a grand scale in the Red River Valley. Their “bonanza farms” cover thousands of acres and are harvested by huge crews and the latest machinery.
A financial panic in 1873 stopped the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad to the Red River Valley. In order to pay back its Eastern investors, the bankrupt company allowed its investors to exchange their bonds for land. As a result, large urban investors immediately became owners of thousands of acres of land (unlike homesteaders who had to live on the land for five years to get 160 acres). The new owners turn the land into large-scale commercial farms run by hired managers with cheap labor and expensive machinery.

Lord, You hate corruption of any sort in any relationship. “The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.” Proverbs 11:1* This panic of 1873, again at the hands of the railroads under federal authority, really stole land from the homesteaders. (The principle of sowing and reaping? The homesteaders just years before may have been party to land being swindled from the Dakota.) Anyway, we are people capable of both sharing and defrauding land from our neighbors.

Will You forgive us this debt? Will You cause restoration and repentance to grow in the hearts of this state and nation? Will You forgive Minnesotans’ resentments against the Federal Government? Will You forgive the Railroads for manipulating the Panic of 1873 to their benefit? Will You remove this curse from our land, skies, waters, and hearts? Thank you that You deal with us in such a generous manner!

*http://biblehub.com/proverbs/11-1.htm

 

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