Photo credit: National Park Service.
Photo credit: State Historical Society of North Dakota.
The following activities and questions are designed to help your students use their noticing skills to move through the poem and develop their thinking about its meaning with confidence, using what they’ve noticed as evidence for their interpretations. Read more about the framework upon which these activities are based.
About this poem, Heid E. Erdrich writes, “The North Country Trail leaves Minnesota and heads toward Fort Abercrombie just above my hometown—Wahpeton, North Dakota. This poem envisions the tallgrass prairie as I have seen last remaining swaths of it in areas of the trail. The poem depicts events that took place when the grassland was unbroken and when our great-grandfather, Keesh-ke-mun-ishiw/Joseph Gourneau, serving as an altar boy and standard bearer for a Catholic priest, was photographed at Fort Abercrombie in 1870. The path the North Country Trail traces from the Lake Superior shore through the North Dakota grasslands, maps the migration of my Ojibwe ancestors as they moved, and were removed, from their territories as treaties decreed. For me, and for other Native Americans, a map of the trail tells a specific story, one of tribal history. The Grasslands stand as an emblem of peace for me—the hush of wind in tall grasses, the surprise of wild roses and rare lilies, the open faces of sunflowers in fields, the prairie potholes where water is life and the home of thousands of birds—this peace, like the weathered wooden structures of previous centuries, remains for everyone to walk by along the western section of the North Country Trail.”