Browsed by
Month: July 2018

mn state parks: northwest central-ish

mn state parks: northwest central-ish

the last day of the state park swing, i was supposed to head over to my friend melissa’s place in ND, but she had three funerals in two days, so we need to reschedule a visit. so i needed to make a decision if i wanted to just hit up la salle and itasca and head home or jut over to the southwest and catch four additional parks on the way home.

what do you know; i went for the four.

i broke camp before the drizzle started, which was a plus, and i was on the road before 9 a.m. i drove through bemidji to grab mcdonald’s breakfast (the only thing worth getting at mcdonald’s) and i headed to la salle, which was only 20 miles from bemidji. it’s a sad day when 20 miles to a park is a really short distance!

la salle

la salle was mostly an overflow camping for itasca visitors, i realized. the campground was the most interesting park of the recreation area. there were snowmobile trails, which are probably used quite extensively in the wintertime.

then it was a short drive to itasca. along the way i saw glimpses of the baby mississippi.

so tiny you can’t even see it in the tall grass!

and then. AND THEN.


so the last time i was at itasca was probably close to 30 years ago. my family was on the way to roseau to visit my grandparents, so it was before 1991. we stopped on the way up and liz fell into the headwaters – i think it was around eastertime, too. so brr.

i don’t remember much about visiting the park – just the headwaters and walking across the rocks.

but let me tell you. itasca is the CROWN JEWEL of the mn parks. the only park that i can imagine will outdo it is gooseberry, and it will have to be top notch to achieve that.

it was close to 9:45 when i rolled into the park, and it was drizzly and a thursday. it was packed. i entered at the north entrance and drove south about 5 miles to the main entrance interpretive center, which is gorgeous. it’s ski chalet like, with information on itasca, the mississippi, state ecology, wildlife, and a ton more. there is a modest gift shop, a fireplace with squishy chairs around it, and a place with area informational brochures. i was impressed already.

i stopped at a couple points of interest on the way to the headwaters, including peace pipe vista and preacher’s grove. several walking/biking paths weaved across the road and into the woods. itasca is also home to several old-growth pines, preserving a few, INCLUDING the state’s largest white pine (more to come later on that).

the headwaters was packed, which isn’t surprising. there was a second (outdoor) interpretive center there, which included large relief map of the river’s journey down to the gulf. there was a much larger gift shop and a cafe. after browsing the shop and finding nothing i couldn’t live without, i headed out to see where the river began (so sayeth mr schoolcraft and his much wiser ojibwe guide).

(well, there we go.)

since the park is named after the lake and the river was packed with a bunch of people and their kids that might give me the old side eye with my giant camera, i decided to take a nice pic of the lake instead.

there’s the actual start of the river right there on those rocks. good old mississippi.

since i had four more parks to hit, i almost left the park, but decided at the last minute to take the wilderness drive, which loops 10 miles through the woodsy park. really, i was hoping to see a moose. or a bear. or both. but mostly a moose.

no such luck on the wildlife, but i did get to see the state’s largest white pine!

i seem to have a thing for large trees. i saw the state’s largest cottonwood down by lac qui parle. now the state’s largest white pine. gotta say, it was pretty impressive. not general sherman impressive, but it’s doubtful anything is like those giant sequoias.

i continued on through the park then checked out douglas lodge, which was deemed the best-built log structure by the CCC in the country! and this was another place that was completely impressive. multiple places for lodging, and there were restaurants. there are also several cabins and guesthouses available throughout the park. looking at the website now, i really should have gone into douglas lodge to check it out. it’s reminiscent of what a person would find at custer state park in SD.

i actually called charlie while i was at the first interpretive center and told him to forget whitewater; we needed to camp at itasca. we may be coming back this year yet, though i’m thinking it’s doubtful that we’d find an open weekend to camp.

after my mind being blown by itasca, i had to head out. i’d spent two hours at the park and i had a lot more to do that day.

buffalo river

as i drove away from itasca, i experienced the oddest thing. the day before i had experienced driving through the different biomes, but they were a little bit gradual. this day it was abrupt. i drove through these pine forests, winding along county road 37. then i was suddenly out of the woods and for about 2-3 miles, it was corn and bean fields. then i entered a hardwood forest. just like that – boom. i had hit the edge of one biome and entered the other completely in less than 5 minutes. it was bizarre.

i was able to hop on another four-lane, driving through detroit lakes and hooking up to hwy 10 to get to buffalo river near moorhead. this was another park dedicated to restoring some prairie, and also maintaining a CCC construction.

(and of course, the river.)

the CCC built a natural pool in the park. it was kind of odd, but it made sense when it was constructed. recently it was renovated to make it a little more sanitary, but it still pumps water from the river.

the day was chilly when i got there, but there were still a few people swimming.

(definitely no moose here.)


i headed back the way i came on hwy 10 and then headed south to check out maplewood, which is just east of pelican rapids. maplewood is a nice park! there’s a lake and lots of gentle hills.

considering we were in the middle of the glacial lakes area, this was a pretty common sight.


glendalough was not that much farther from maplewood, but because there were so many little lakes that the roads wound around, it took longer than i anticipated. my first impression of glendalough was that it seemed like a place that people from the metro would go for a summer weekend out. considering we were close to detroit lakes, i didn’t think i was so far off. there was a relatively nice self-serve outdoor interpretive center. many people were out on the hiking and bike paths, and there was a small building where people could rent bikes and canoes, paddleboards, and kayaks. i got to the “trail lodge” (a large building with restrooms and a large room where you can sit) and i read the history of the buildings.

turns out i was RIGHT. the land and buildings were owned by the owner of the startribune, and in the early 90s the family donated the land and buildings to the park system.

(there was a loon out on the lake, but he was too far away to get a pic.)

lake carlos

lake carlos was my last stop of the day, close to alexandria. the lake is a fishing lake and there are several trails and camping.

i took a short hike and stumbled onto a group camp and so turned around and focused on some wildflowers, where i ran into a bumblebee.

so ended my park visits for the day. i got lost trying to find alexandria, and once i did, i forgot how stinking long that town is and almost thought i had to turn around to find the interstate. but it appeared, along with a culver’s where i got supper before jumping on I-94 for home. this was the first interstate i’d been on the entire trip.

for one brief moment i thought i was going the wrong way on the interstate and i almost had a mild attack before see the EAST on a sign. whew.

then i entered good ol’ central MN, and there’s no place like home.


what was really interesting about this loop of parks was the different topography and ecology in the state. i was pretty knee-deep in all the MN biomes, seeing the changes that happened between – some gradual, some abrupt. it was also a lot of miles this time around, probably the most of all the other loops i will make. google maps tells me my loop was 1,010 miles. that’s a lot of time in the car, but it’s also a lot of the state i saw. some people barely leave their county*, and others think the best thing on earth is to have a passport to leave their state**. there’s so much to see in this state alone. if i can cross three biomes in a half an hour, learn about the history of the state, and find a place where the trees whisper at night and it’s so quiet i can hear waves crashing on a lakeshore a half mile away, all in this arbitrarily bordered state i call home? i’d say that a lot of minnesotans have a lot to explore.

*yes, there are farmers in southeastern MN who have never ventured more than 40 miles from home. ever.

**those people tend to also think that the only parks worth going to are on the north shore. get out! expand your state knowledge!

mn state parks: north west

mn state parks: north west

after my fantastic night of sleep at zippel bay, i woke up and made some coffee, had breakfast, and then broke camp. it was still eerily quiet, and the sky was dead flat grey. i was the first person out of the campground (drove past the two other patrons), then stopped at the swimming beach to take another look at that wide expanse of water.

If you click on this pic and zoom in, maybe you can see the white line of waves on the water horizon. also, the fisherpeople!

i took off along the north end of our great state and headed west. this day was going to be a long driving day. i stopped in warroad to fill up my gas tank and ended up getting a cup of coffee and a donut; so much for roughing it on the food end. then on my way out of town i drove past the anderson window plant and had the weirdest sense of deja vu from when i was 3 or 4 and at my grandparents’ house in roseau. my aunts rae and meg had taken me to a fair or something, which i would have guessed would have been in roseau (and maybe the polaris plant), but the arrangement of the anderson building and the field next to it sure did suggest it was there.

hayes lake

my first park was hayes lake, just south of roseau. despite being a dammed up river, it is a pleasant little park with tall pines, and the lake the dam created is home to many water fowl (open water is scarce in the northwest).

this is the quintessential “up north” looking lake to me. pines, some birch/aspen, meandering lakeshore.

on my way it out it occurred to me that i never get shots of the park entrances. here’s hayes lake’s! this is a pretty common looking ranger station. it’s also the common theme that there weren’t many people at most of the parks i went to. but for an introverted weirdo traveling during the week, that’s ok.

lake bronson

i took off through the desolate flat land of northwest MN to lake bronson. not only have we entered the lake bottom of lake agassiz, the prairie has swept in and trees are sparse. occasionally i saw a stand of pines lining a field. along the way, i saw many many sunflower fields, heads turning toward the sun. i also saw many fields, not just sunflower fields, with stacks of honeybee hives at the edge of them. that’s something i haven’t seen a lot of in the rest of the state. i’m not sure if this is because there are enough pollinators in the southern part of the state or if the northerners just like their honey.

lake bronson is another dammed up river that was created in the hopes that it would be another itasca state park but in the upper part of the state. there was a great interpretive center (i do love me an interpretive center) and a water tower left from the CCC days. many of our state parks were created as part of the civilian conservation corps, and there are many buildings and constructions that still stand as a result.

lake bronson isn’t the northern most park, nor is it the most western, but it is the most northwestern park. it really lends to the idea that all minnesota citizens have access to a state park nearby.

old mill

old mill state park is in the boonies – not near any discernibly large town (or village even), in the midst of flat farmland and winds whipping across the prairie. it’s an historical site more than anything. the larson mill was the only mill in the area and people would come from all over to get their grains milled. it was like a big family reunion every time they went to the mill.

at first the mill was water run, then steam powered. eventually it went out of business after farmers left their self-sustaining ways behind them and started buying all their goods at a grocery store rather than growing them themselves.

(i seriously don’t know how that mill was water powered. maybe the river was low when i was there.)

you could still see the wagon wheel ruts from the horse-drawn wagons that used to pull up to the mill. kind of like how you can still see oregon trail ruts (but not quite so intense).

red river

red river recreation area in east grand forks is a relatively new park, created after the 1997 flood. it used to be residential area, but since the flood pretty much wiped everything else, they didn’t want to rebuild and decided to make a recreation area instead. after i learned that, i could see how it used to be a neighborhood – the streets are still there and curbs, large trees you’d find in a yard, and instead of houses, people back in their fifth wheelers (that is not camping to me).

one thing i found interesting was a bridge that used to cross the river; they took it out and removed the footings because they were so large they were disrupting the natural flow of water*. they did leave on giant footing, which i thought for sure is more of a disruption than anything else that could be in the river.

i didn’t spend too much time in east grand forks. the last time i was there was for a job interview at UND, which i’m glad i didn’t get so i wouldn’t be living in EGF.

i was able to hop on a major highway, which was a 4-lane, and i booked it across the prairie. i was driving through crookston when OMG CIVILIZATION – i saw a sign for caribou. i actually turned across three lanes of traffic (thankfully traffic-free) and turned in to get my ice crafted press. mmmm deliciousness.  (what can i say – i’m a creature of habit).

at this point my phone was useless and i no longer had my printed out google maps, so i was pulling a norm wallace and reading the paper map of the state and had my gazetteer in the seat beside me. which would prove useful in bemidji, which was coming up next.

eventually the flat land got a little more hilly, and by the time i hit fosston, i had moved from one biome to another, then not that far away in bagley, i was headed to the third one. that’s pretty cool that you can cross three biomes in about 20 minutes.

lake bemidji

i was back in pine country. lake bemidji seemed positively urban and southern compared to my previous day’s pursuits.

i ended up getting lost, driving across town, then driving back to the other side of the lake before finding the park. this one was a busy park, and the rangers at the station were ready to help out, with the building open til 9 p.m.! that was insane compared to what i had been experiencing.

i found my campsite and set up camp, then checked out the lake briefly, it was still windy and slightly cloudy, so i didn’t swim or anything.

(i’d camp here again.)

then i checked out my cooler, which wasn’t so cool anymore. sigh. so i went back into bemidji, checked out the now-closed-up downtown, then got a sandwich. and since i’d left my travel soaps at the cabin at leech, i spent an inordinate amount of money at CVC for travel shampoo and soap (seriously, why is CVC so expensive??).

i got back to my site, ate my sandwich, then got ready for my TRAIL RUN. my phone screen was still a mess (well, still is now), but i managed to take a pic.

literally my only selfie of the trip. i didn’t go on a hike with my big camera, so this will have to suffice for a park pic.

the trail was ok – just a little over 2 miles and a lot of it was just grass, but there were some excellent dirt parts that went through some pretty awesome tall pines. the st john’s trails are more technical, but i definitely liked the giant pines.

then i took a shower at the campground and OMG i think i’m still cold. all cold water, so i was in and out of there as quickly as possible. in fact, i didn’t even get under the water; i sort of stood in the corner and threw water at myself.

once clean, i went back to camp, read my book, and enjoyed the sound of the wind in the pines.

*i just ordered john mcphee’s “the control of nature” which i am excited to read. it’s all about how dams and other ways that people try to control nature when we should just let nature take its course. salmon can’t swim upstream anymore; they need to be taken upstream by people. rivers that naturally meander across the landscape aren’t allowed to do that anymore. and while without damming rivers we wouldn’t have parks like hayes lake or split rock creek, time has show that nature really does have the final say.

mnstate parks: north central

mnstate parks: north central

since i was up at leech lake for a family reunion, i decided that was an ideal time to just take off up to the northern third of the state to get my north central and north west parks visited. i woke up tuesday morning, and within an hour i’d packed, said my goodbyes, and was on the road.


the first stop was schoolcraft, named after the guy who “discovered” the source of the mississippi (he was led there by an ojibwe guide).

this was the first glimpse of the mississippi in this very river-heavy set of parks to visit. unfortunately for my cousin lori, there were no schools at the park. there were some angler though, jetting their boat down the river.

knowing how the mighty mississipp looks in central mn, this river seems much more serene (and cleaner).

after a short hike and stumbling on some vibrant mushrooms, i headed east. i had a lot of parks to pick up, along with a detour where i wanted to spend some time, so i didn’t dawdle.

hill annex

the next stop was hill annex mine, which is in calumet, a very sad looking range town. speaking of the range, those rangers sure do love amy klobuchar! so many giant signs for her upcoming election.

hill annex seems SUPER interesting, and if i’d been there on the weekend, i might’ve taken a tour of the old mine. alas, there was no one there, either on a park capacity or visitor capacity, while i stood on the overlook and took a few pics.

this would be a recurring theme the next few days. so many of the parks are self service and have so few visitors. whether this is due to lack of knowledge of the parks or just lack of funding, and do the two cause each other to continuously decline into this spiral toward non-existence? there are so many parks i was unaware of before i started this trek. how many local people know about the parks and what they offer?


onward from hill annex to scenic park. now it’s certainly scenic, but there wasn’t a TON to offer from this park. granted, if it were plopped as is 10 miles from my house, i would be there every day.

as i steadily drove north, i became more and more ensconced in pines. it was glorious. now i do like the biome* i live in, but man the pines just whisper just right.

THEN, it was time for an INTERLUDE.

lost 40

i have wanted to go to the lost forty for a long time. when the first loggers went to survey the northwoods, it was so cold that they mis-surveyed and “lost” 40 acres. those 40 acres have hundreds of years old non-logged pines.

(foot for scale) (so these trees aren’t as big as general sherman, but considering the conditions they survive, i’d say they’re doing ok!)

it was on the way to the lost 40 that the screen on my phone crapped out and i was having a minor breakdown on top of wondering if my maps still worked.

but i made it.

i drove onto a gravel road, then onto another gravel road that was a logging road. i began to wonder if i was in the right place. i trundled down the gravel ruts for about a mile and was ready to turn around when i saw a small turn in with 3-4 cars parked.

the lost 40 is about a mile-long hiking loop that wanders through the old-growth pines and then some new growth so you can see the difference. the path was nicely kept, packed down with wood chips, and lined with informational placards as you walked along the path. it was a lovely walk in the woods.

reluctantly i had to leave my green cathedral. if i’d had all day, i’d’ve whipped out my camp chair and perched under a tree with a book.

big bog

then it was time for a long haul up through the start of the sparsely populated part of the state. instead of finding roads that took me on a somewhat direct route, i had to find roads that would just get me there, no matter how circuitous. the trees started diminish a bit, turning scrubby and short, and the land turned a bit flat after the rolling hills of the range. we were entering bogland.

i don’t think i’d been to the red lakes before this trip. big bog recreation area was at the top of the upper red lake, and the wind was racing across the open water. the almost marsh-like edges of the lake gave it a more wild feel, unlike the smaller, more controlled lakes i’m used to.

i have to hand it to big bog – the amenities are pretty nice. there’s a fire tower and several trails, then you drive 7 miles north and take the bog walk.

here you can see the sort of scrubby landscape that dominated on the drive through the peat bogs. i didn’t go too far out on the bog walk, but i did confirm that we were walking over some very bog-like stuff.

franz jevne

after the bog walk, i hoofed it up north. at this point, you’re wondering how much more north can there be? my thoughts, too. also annoying was the lack of roads that could’ve taken me directly to franz jevne park. nope; i had to go nearly all the way to zippel bay, then 24 miles out and 24 miles back to pick up franz. nate discouraged me from the beginning to not go to franz jevne, but i did, waving to canada the entire drive along the rainy river.

franz jevne is mostly just a water access along with some campsites. it’s probably the second-sparsest self service park i’ve seen so far (better than john a. latsch and a couple recreation areas).

on the plus side, on my way back to zippel, i was cruising through some radio stations and ran across something that sounded like spanish mariachi rap. the DJ came on, and it was a FRENCH station. that was some delicious french mariachi rap music!!

zippel bay

this far north we’ve gotten free of the peat bogs, but the pines aren’t back. there are no oaks or maples – just some aspen, birch, and other “light” trees as i’ve come to think of them (oak and maple are “heavy”).

and zippel bay was something else.

lake of the woods is massive. i felt like was standing at the edge of an ocean. the wind was coming in off the lake something fierce, whipping everything around.

this lake was so big, that i’m pretty sure there were waves out past the bay where they were breaking into the bay and into calmer water. i mean, isn’t that ocean behavior? i can’t be certain as they were pretty far out, but i’m pretty sure they were there.

zippel was also a little eery for me because i was one of three campers in the park. it was so quiet and still. i lay in my cot that night and could hear the waves hitting the shore half a mile away. while i was trying to get to sleep, i heard these muffled booms, like fireworks from afar. after a few random booms, i realized that it was giant waves hitting rocks or some other structure out in the lake. they stopped pretty quickly.

at zippel i felt very alone and small. but i got the best night’s sleep of my trip.

*did you know that minnesota is rare in its three biomes in that it’s very unlike a non-mountainous state to have that many? it’s the same way with its three watersheds in the state. because of MN’s location on the continent (almost dead center), it’s got these ecological oddities.



today i bought popsicles because the popsicle brand came out with a cane sugar, real fruit kind of pop. yum!

imagine my dismay when i opened the (cardboard) box and found that the traditional paper wrappers had been replaced with …


today we get news that china is no longer buying our recyclables (a former large market).

there’s been a recent brouhaha over plastic straws and how mcdonalds and starbucks plan to eliminate plastic straws, either replacing them with paper straws or no straws. this begs the question: WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THAT PLASTIC GLASS?

manufacturers continue to plasticize everything, and most if it isn’t recyclable plastic. my waste service only takes bottles for recyclable plastic. what does that mean for the rest of my plastic? it goes in the trash, which means it goes in the landfill, which means it sits there for thousands of years.

i’ve been really aware of my plastic usage lately. i haven’t done much about it yet, but i plan to crack down on myself in the upcoming months. i need to do some research on how to reduce my plastic usage, where i’ll need to shop, what brands to look out for. i’ve already prepped for my next batch of laundry soap, which i will make with borax, soda, and bar soap.

as our landfills fill and we see photos like below making more waves, what is it going to take besides some people clucking their tongues about plastic usage and very few actually doing what they can to reduce their plastic footprint? even with some chain stores eliminating plastic bags, i still watch people go through a checkout with one item, then leave with that item they carried up to the lane in a plastic bag (WHYYYYYY).

i know i can do better; i fail over and over on the reusable bag front, but when i forget them, i make sure to stuff my plastic bags to the brim. when the checkout dude tries to put my 4 items in three bags, i say uh-uh, you put that all in one bag. at coborn’s, i request a paper bag after they ask “is plastic ok?” NO IT’S NOT WHEN HAS PLASTIC EVER BEEN OK

this is not just about straws. this is about putting the burden of plastic consumption on the consumer. this has got to start with manufacturers and them realizing that plastic isn’t the answer, even if it’s the cheaper option.* as a consumer, i will gladly pay a little more for an item encased in glass, tin, aluminum, or paper over plastic.

i know this can be done on that level because i saw it with HFCS. in 2010 when i became hyper aware of eating devil’s syrup, it was everywhere. now, about half the products that i avoided in 2010 use sugar in their ingredients instead of corn syrup. if people start demanding that less plastic be used, i bet it will make a difference.

next year my goals will include using less waste. whether that means purchasing more items in bulk, bringing in my containers to the food coop, or even making sure i really do put my reusable bags in the car.

and until popsicle brand starts to wrap their pops in paper again, no more popsicles for me, even with the revised ingredients list.

*i never understood how plastic can be so cheap when gas is so expensive. they are both made from oil. ALSO, recycled paper is basically worth nothing right now. companies could grab up that recyclable paper for $ZERO and create recycled paper packaging.

running anxiety

running anxiety

i haven’t run much this week. it’s been humid, humid, and more humid. which wouldn’t be so bad if it were 70º outside, bit it’s been 80s-90s, and that’s just a recipe for disaster. so i’ve been taking a short running break.

i get runner’s world in the mail, and this month’s has an article on running anxiety and what can cause it. one reason is because of the time you need to put into it; another is a nagging injury and how it might be affected. and a third is thinking about your time.

i’ve always had some weird anxiety when i start off for a run; when i get into it, i’m generally ok. and it’s always been related to my time and how well i’m going to do. usually in the first 20 seconds i can tell if a run is going to be ok or bad. i had a run on monday that i knew in 5 seconds that it was not going to be a good run, and it wasn’t. i ran one mile and walked home. but overall, i haven’t had many runs like that lately.

what i’ve had to do is tell myself that it doesn’t matter how well i do on a run as long as i’m out there running. so what if i run a 13-min mile? i ran for 5 of them. the best thing that helped with that was shut off the speed prompts on runkeeper. i still get a notification every half mile on my runkeeper app, but i no longer know how fast i’m running.

and maybe it’s time i take a break from runkeeper. at this point, i know my routes and where i need to run to to hit certain mileage. are the prompts needed? do i really need to log my outdoor miles on runkeeper? is the distraction of a phone needed? if a person runs 6 miles with no phone, does it really happen? perhaps it’s time for an experiment of running without a device to see if it’s the device that’s causing the anxiety.

my short running break won’t last long; ragnar approaches and i am probably signing up for a couple races between then and now. and this upcoming week promises to be very runnable, with lows in the high 50s. now i’m not sure if that means i’m heading out my door with my road shoes or if i’m driving over to st. john’s to head out on the trail, but i know it means i’ll be logging some miles. whether or not i bring my phone with me is another matter.

on laura ingalls wilder (and the ALA)

on laura ingalls wilder (and the ALA)

when asked about the most influential books i’ve read, there are two series in my top ten: one is the harry potter series and the other is the little house series. i’ve written a few times before about LH, most often when reminiscing about my aunt colettie, who snagged me remainder books from her time at the rochester school system library. i also remember reading them very young, when the librarians at the small gradeschool i went to wouldn’t let me out of the children’s section to explore chapter books.

for me there’s a romanticism to reading the LH books – from laura’s time in the big woods, gathering food from the woods and eating maple syrup candy that had been poured onto smooth cold snow, to the endless prairies of south dakota and the harsh winters with grains stored in walls. i know it was rough going, but 7-year-old me wanted to live in that world.

this past week, the association for library service to children (a division of the american library association) voted to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

first, a little background on the LIW award. the award was established in 1954 when it was giving to laura herself and it’s been given every 5 years through 1980, then til 2001 every 3 yrs, then 01-16, every 2, and now every year, to a childrens author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to kids’ lit. past winners include maurice sendak, beverly cleary, eb white, and dr. seuss. the authors who receive this award have a “substantial and lasting contribution” and “occupy an important place in literature for American children and that over the years children have read the books and the books continue to be requested and read by children.”

the ALSC decided to change the name of the wilder medal because of the LHoP books’ racist themes throughout. they claim that the books are inconsistent with their core values. i have a beef with that. the books are a product of their time, just like mark twain’s books. they also reflect the thoughts of people around her: ma hated american indians and pa didn’t.

this line from pa in particular is pretty ahead of its time:  They “would be as peaceable as anybody else if they were let alone.” Pa says. “On the other hand, they had been moved west so many times that naturally they hated white folks.”

there was this line in the books when it was first published:

There the wild animals wandered and fed as though they were in a pasture that stretched much farther than a man could see, and there were no people. Only Indians lived there.

laura was just mortified when someone pointed out the line to her. she wrote her publisher post haste:

You are perfectly right about the fault in Little House on the Prairie and have my permission to make the correction as you suggest. It was a stupid blunder of mine. Of course Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not.

that line now says settlers. i think that in itself is reason to keep the wilder name on the medal. the thing is, her books fully embrace the theme of the medal. and given the above, i think laura the author embraces the ALSC’s core values, “which include inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.”

and if the ALSC really wants to embrace their values, well, they’ll change the name of the carnegie medal as well. despite his philanthropic ways, there were some controversies in his life. and perhaps we should pore over randolph caldecott’s illustrations to make sure they also embrace those core values? and dr seuss, who also has an award named after him, supported the internment of japanese americans during WWII! (afterward, he changed his mind a bit with horton hears a who as an allegory for hiroshima.)

this all said, i can understand how someone reading the books outside of the white person lens sees these books as a glorification of racism and stereotyping of native americans. but as a set of historical, semi-autobiographical fiction that was explaining the time and perspective, i don’t know how we can’t see that laura’s books aren’t still relevant and educational.

i was reading reddit’s books forum and saw this comment:

As a proud Native American and member of the Blackfoot tribe, I am disheartened to hear that children will no longer have it explained to them what our roots are.

Growing up in public school we often learned of the struggles minorities faced in the history of this country, but my Native ancestors were ether under represented or left out all together.

These books were my first experience of what non-res people heard about my people. It raised questions that were sometimes hard, but gave all the class the ability to look at our history through the lens of today. A reminder not to repeat the mistakes of hatred from the past.

I think that this award for all its flaws sparked an important conversation. A conversation that is no more. One less source of truth about my nearly extinct people.

i think it’s important to hear those other voices. but did the ALSC just get complaints and decide to change the name based on those, or did they go out and find other perspectives from american indians, like the one above? and do the ALSC’s awards reflect the author or the author’s works? in EITHER case, if the ALSC is going to change the name of the wilder award, it needs to take a closer look at its other awards and how they relate to its core values.

i’m disappointed that the award has been renamed. while her award hasn’t been revoked and her works still widely published and read, stripping laura’s name from the long-time award does a disservice to historical viewpoints, a turn-of-the-century female author, and to the spirit of laura and other long-read authors.