An East Coast Account

By Karen M. Cunningham-Anderson

I have never lived in North Dakota. However, your state plays a prominent part of my very being.

My paternal grandmother Juleen's (Hanson) family settled in Steele, ND back in the early 1900s. My father, Michael grew up in Steele, ND and did a brief stint in Washburn where some of my paternal Grandfather's (Cunningham) family lived. Land owners, dairy farmers, linemen, merchants, newspaper magnates, and sheriffs are just some of the jobs my Hanson and Cunningham family members have held over the decades from Kidder County to LaMoure County and several places in-between.

My dad left ND as a teenager and after a tour overseas with the Army, he eventually made his way to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where my mother hails from. Although my parents decided to settle in Massachusetts, I am so thankfully that my father's family members stayed in ND, otherwise I would have never been able to experience all that is North Dakota, or fall in love with its beauty and grandeur.

As a child of the 70's growing up on the east coast, each time I came back from visiting my ND family my schoolmates would just be in awe. "Its soooo far away", they'd say...'tell us about the wind that never stops, tell us how many trees you saw, and how many buffalo!'. My parents has no qualms about pulling me and my brother out of school on a random, non-school-vacation week to go visit Grandpa and Grandma Cunningham in Bismarck. In fact they did that every year. Sometimes twice.

Each time I came back to class, my teacher would have me give a little 'impromptu' symposium on what I did, what I saw and what it was like out there; from meeting Indian Chiefs at the the Indian Mounds in Mandan and exploring Ft. Lincoln to what was on display at the Bismarck Heritage Museum, and the history of the Garrison Dam. I distinctly remember actually writing a report upon my return to the third grade that included my day at the Bismarck Zoo with Clyde the Bear. Pictures and all.

From pitchfork fondues and musicals in Medora, hiking in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, to camping at Devil's Lake, socializing at the Steele/Dawson All Class Reunions and picnicking out on the Missouri River sandbars in Bismarck with my Uncles and cousins, I have as much pride and affinity for the state of North Dakota as any native North Dakotan.

I am extremely proud to know it. I am honored that part of my family heritage hails from it, and there is no hesitation in me calling North Dakota my second home state.