Earlier in March, local Adams County author Francie Berg opened her email to a pleasant surprise. Berg discovered that her publication, “Buffalo Heartbeats Across the Plains” had won the Western Writers of America 2019 Spur Award as the Best Western Juvenile Nonfiction Category.
By Frank Turner
The Spur Award is an award to recognize western writers. According to the Western Writers of America website, the organization started in 1953 with a goal to promote the literature of the American West.
Berg is widely known as humble person in her community. Even still, she said that she was thrilled to receive the award.
“It gives the book a little credibility,” she said. “I just thought it was nice. It’s a nice award.”
Berg’s book was a perfect fit for the Spur award. The book reveals Southwestern North Dakota’s regional history as the site of the last great buffalo hunts in America.
The book explores the story of the buffalo and their near extinction and recovery. The book itself is divided into three sections. Each section of the book gives in-depth research and historic accounts of the last buffalo hunts in late 1800’s. According to the book, in 1983, over 50,000 buffalo were harvested in the final years of the great buffalo hunt.
“The buffalo story is the history of all of us. The buffalo story is a Native American story, but its also a story of all the white people too and the settlers who came here,” said Berg.
Although “Buffalo Heartbeats Across the Plains” won the award for Best Western Juvenile Nonfiction Category, it’s not just for kids. Berg expressed that the book is a historic resource for all ages.
“I think that it won the juvenile category because we are using it in schools. It could have entered the nonfiction too. It’s a resource for everybody that’s interested.”
Berg and the Dakota Buttes Visitors Council donated “Buffalo Heartbeats Across the Plains” and her self-guided tour book “Buffalo Trails in the Dakota Buttes” to schools in surrounding communities.
According to Berg, New Town Public School liked the self-guided tour book so much that the school decided to order 100 copies to use as a school resource.
Berg said that some of the students in New Town and other schools have a deep connection to the history.
“These were their ancestors that were out here hunting,” said Berg, “Some of their names are in there.”
Berg’s publications have started to become a foundation for Adams County’s identity. While the book has continued to grow in popularity and acclaim, it has been making big waves in Hettinger. “Buffalo Heart Beats Across the Plains” inspired the Dakota Buttes Visitors Council to host the new upcoming event, Buffalo Fest. The event is set to take place on June 1st, 2019 in Hettinger.
For Berg, attracting tourists and sharing Adams County history has been a major accomplishment.
“We hope to bring tourists in,” she said. “We actually had some tourists from Texas last fall. They had ordered the self-guided tour and read about it and wanted to do the tour. That was the first tourist we knew that visited because of the book.”
Looking forward, Berg is excited to see how her book will continue to represent the Southwest North Dakota Region.