Andes brings the bottomlands to life with ‘The Elders: Stories from Fort Berthold’

By Amanda Duchsherer
Digital Communication Specialist

MINOT, N.D. – In 2005, Hunter Andes’ fascination with history began.

That summer, his father took him to Crow Flies High Butte to look at Lake Sakakawea and — because of low water levels that year — the foundations of the underwater town of Sanish. It was there his interest in the bottomlands took hold.

Before the Garrison Dam was built, Sanish and the settlements of Elbowoods, Nishu, Van Hook, and others could be found along the winding Missouri River. In 1953, over 1,700 individuals were relocated for the creation of Lake Sakakawea despite the Three Affiliated Tribes’ objection. 

“There was a series of unfortunate events caused by the federal government and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers; there were alternative options available,” Andes, a Minot State English and English education major, said. “In the words of Ed Hall, one of the elders I interviewed, you might say it was a string of bad luck.”

Andes’ book, “The Elders: Stories from Fort Berthold,” explores that epoch through the eyes of four elders who shared their adult experiences of living in the bottomlands and their subsequent relocation.

In 2018 and 2019, Andes held a series of interviews with Marilyn Hudson and Edward “Ed” Hall, Parshall residents formerly from rural Elbowoods, and Gerald “Jerry” White and Almit Breuer, both from White Shield and formerly rural Nishu. The quartet’s words were first published as a newspaper series titled “The Elders” in the McClean County Independent and form Section I of Andes’ book. Section II explores how the town of Garrison was established, while Section III is a series of stand-alone stories written by Andes related to the Missouri River.

“I want people to understand what happened,” he said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t understand; I feel like a lot of people don’t have empathy for what the (Fort Berthold) Reservation is like today because they don’t understand what truly happened. To understand, you have to read the history.” 

Andes’ credits his time at Minot State to helping him pull his book together.

“I took a creative writing class from Dr. Fischer (Ron Fischer, English education program director) and that forced my brain into a different style of thinking. Then, Dr. Kurtz (Patti Kurtz, associate professor of English and MSU Writing Center director) inspired me to take my writing further, while Sara Aleshire’s (assistant professor of English) literary criticism class taught me how to format a paper,” he said. “Taking a Dakota-based course in the library’s special collections was also an important factor.” 

Andes wrote a significant portion of his book during his time at MSU, and much of it during his English junior and senior seminar classes.

“Dr. Kurtz was my teacher for these courses, and I knew she valued my creative non-fiction style of writing,” he said. “Just knowing in the back of your head that an English professor values who you are as a writer can, and did, make the world of difference.”

With “The Elders: Stories from Fort Berthold” now in print, Andes is already thinking about his next historical literary project. While it will focus on the same topic, the exact angle is being kept secret.

“I have a whole different outlook on my timeline now. After studying Like-a-Fishhook Village and Elbowoods, 1870 and 1890 doesn’t seem as far back as it used to,” he said. “History is extremely important, because once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

His love of history doesn’t stop with the written word, either. Andes recently saved a township school in Wabek and now has it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“How are we supposed to know who we are if we don’t know where we came from?” he asked.

“The Elders: Stories from Fort Berthold” is available for purchase at Hensen’s Fur and Leather, Margie’s Art Glass Studio, and Main Street Books in Minot. Annette Mennem, Minot State Native American Center Director, also has copies available for purchase in the center. For more information or to purchase a book directly from Andes, he can be reached at

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Published: 03/01/20   

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