Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm
July 17, 2019 — The Ukrainian Cultural Institute in Dickinson was founded in 1981, and has since grown from 50 to 500 members from 26 states and Canada. The Institute celebrates its annual Ukrainian Festival this time every year, including music and food – including “varenyky-pyrohy” or cheese buttons, arts and crafts including intricately hand-painted “Pysanky” or Ukranian Easter Eggs, and entertainment by the Stepovi Dity Dancers who range in age from six to 46.
Identifying the ethnic backgrounds of many of the state’s first Ukrainians has been confusing for researchers, because Eastern Ukrainians arriving from Russian areas were sometimes listed by census takers as Russians. Western Ukrainians, on the other hand, had lived in Hungary and Austria, which led to a faulty notion that there were large colonies of German speaking Austrians living in western and central North Dakota, rather than Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians. In turn, Austria had referred to its Ukrainians as Ruthenians – a term which also found its way into the early census – and historians have found the sorting-out process to be quite a challenge.
“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.