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Dakota Datebook

Curator’s Travels


Herbert Fish had an interesting job. In 1907, he was hired as the first curator for the State Historical Society of North Dakota. He had training in U.S. history and economics, had done archaeological work in Wisconsin, and also taught. His specialty was Native artifacts. He spent every summer from 1907 to 1915 in the field with Native people and settlers from whom he collected items and information about their history. He also became proficient in Native sign language and recorded stories and songs on cylinder records.

Fish was busy in the summer of 1912. On this date that year, he had returned to Bismarck from the Fort Berthold Reservation. He had spent almost two weeks on the reservation gathering relics and data. He spent time in the area of Armstrong, a community later known as Nishu, which is now under Lake Sakakawea. Fish reported 400 Sioux and Arikara people camped near Armstrong in McLean County for a religious convocation. Several Christian ministers gave addresses. A bishop confirmed a class of Sioux children. Fish gave two speeches about a respect for the past and advancement for the future. Those in attendance also sang hymns in English, Sioux and Arikara. Fish also was the best man for a wedding.

His return to Bismarck was short-lived. Days later he left for a two-day trip to Cannon Ball to see Native rock art depicting birds and bison. A few days later, he addressed a development meeting in Energy, an old McLean County town near present-day Riverdale. His speech was about “The Conservation of Historical Spots.” And later in August, he went to Elbowoods on the Fort Berthold reservation to assist a colleague in gathering information from residents.

In 1915, Fish left the State Historical Society to take a position in the Department of History at Minot Normal College. He would later move on to the State Normal School in Ellensburg, Washington. And it was in Washington in 1934 that he passed away at age 59.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

The Dickinson Press. 1912, May 4. Page 1
The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, July 10. Page 2
The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, July 22. Page 6
The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, July 31. Page 6
The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, August 1. Page 5
The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, August 3. Page 2
The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, August 22. Page 2

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