Trevor and Andrea came to Watford City in search of the opportunity for a better life.
From the first homestead rush and early railroad days through the oil booms of the 20th century, remote areas of eastern Montana and the Dakotas have experienced repeated cycles of boom and bust.
Newcomers to the MonDak region have always faced hardship. Droves of homesteaders flocked to the area in hopes of a new life, only to flee in the tens of thousands when droughts plagued crop production. Where entire towns were abandoned, only ghost towns remain, echoes of the communities they once were. Yet some homesteaders stayed and made a living among the buttes and patchwork farmland that make this place remarkable.
In decades to follow, oil booms ushered in waves of modernization, building pipelines, growing towns, paving roads, and bringing hospitals and schools.
Now, the Northern Plains are booming again, with more people, development, and cash flow. While it’s a familiar pattern, it’s happening on a grander scale than anything seen before.
Our feature documentary was released in 2016.
This current boom may last for decades, but no one can predict what the future holds. The High Plains Heritage Project hopes to reach a better understanding of the Northern Plains’ current growth and the long-term effects by exploring the people and history. For better or worse, the area teems with untold stories.
We’re telling these stories through a series of intimate portraits and interviews. Involving members of communities old and new, from families who have farmed the land for generations to newcomers seeking their fortune, this multimedia documentary will chronicle both the economic history of the region and its present evolution, with an eye toward what lies ahead.
When Easterners first poured from trains onto this unwelcoming landscape, they had no idea the challenges that awaited them. There is perhaps no better place to experience this history than the McCone County Museum, no better guide than Wendell Pawlowski, its curator.
With an explosion of truck traffic on these once-sleepy state highways, road construction is constant sight. We caught up with Wizard and Little Man, two of the guys hard at work on that construction, during their day off.
All it takes is one lap around the Williston Wal-Mart parking lot to see that opportunities in the Bakken are drawing people from everywhere.
(Click through to see our photo galleries, videos, blog posts, and articles).
Tomorrow Watford City commemorates its 100th anniversary. The town had only just established before it had to send these young men off to serve in World War 1. From Watford City Diamond Jubilee, Watford City, North Dakota: 75 Years of Progress
Photo by Jessica Jane Hart
On Saturday, we met with Susan Minichiello for an interview with the Sidney Herald. Here’s what she wrote about the High Plains Heritage Project.
Music – Satsang performing a Matt Fockler tune
Lawrence Wetsit, Kyle Senner, and Sharon Lindquist tell tales of trying times when the temperatures dropped. Music – Steve Brown
He goes by Wizard, the nickname his grandmother gave him when he was growing up in West Virginia. Also featuring Little Man. Music – David Banuelos
The Mondak Heritage Center in Sidney, Mont. provides a window to the past, chronicling Northeastern Montana’s rich history.
Lawrence Wetsit is a man with a sense of history. An administrator at the Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, he’s also the cultural leader for the Assiniboine tribe. His great grandfather, I Ax Ba, also known as Chief Wets It, was … Read More
Music – Matt Rogers
Music – David Banuelos
Music – David Banuelos
A couple of days ago, we posted an article and video about Wendell Pawlowski and the McCone County Museum, which he curates. I grabbed a brochure on the way out. Looking at the similarities between photos of the exhibits from … Read More
Branding at the Senner place – Richey, Mont.
CIRCLE, Mont. — Wendell Pawlowski has seen the eras pass here, marked by the various energy sources used for heat and light: coal, kerosene, and gas. He remembers heating his family home with coal mined from deposits near the Pawlowski … Read More
Ed Kemmick of Last Best News stopped by the team’s last minutes in Yellowstone County. Following up on his May 9th piece about the HPHP, he asked us about our travel plans, goals for the project, and thoughts on the MonDak … Read More
Music – Dennis Nettiksimmons, Recording provided by Bob Brown
The sounds of the prairie winds blowing, of trucks passing, of the hustle and bustle of busy towns, of farm implements dutifully working the land—the noise of a place can take you there. We’re keeping our ears open all the … Read More
From the first homestead rush and early railroad days through the oil booms of the 20th century, remote areas of eastern Montana and the Dakotas have experienced repeated cycles of boom and bust. Newcomers to the MonDak region have always … Read More