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Encounter on the Great PlainsScandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930$
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Karen V. Hansen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199746811

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199746811.001.0001

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Fighting the Sky and Working the Land

Fighting the Sky and Working the Land

(p.158) 6 Fighting the Sky and Working the Land
Encounter on the Great Plains

Karen V. Hansen

Oxford University Press

Because risk was endemic to the enterprise, people who worked the land had to be willing to share labor, accept the inherent precariousness of any year’s harvest, remain steadfast, and advocate for themselves within the political economy. In a cash poor economy, marginal farm families made every effort to provision themselves and to generate income in whatever way possible. This chapter explores how families organized the gendered and generational division of labor and managed community interdependence to provide subsistence needs and strengthen their place on the land. Scandinavian and Dakota women seemed immune to middle–class messages about the appropriate place of women in the dominant society as they fully engaged in the family economy. The autonomy that they enjoyed was built on their deep involvement in agricultural work, their capacity to craft items for use, their engagement in community exchange, and their skill at folding childrearing into long work days.

Keywords:   farming, interdependence, self-provisioning, childcare, division of labor, risk, craft work, cooperatives, hired help, partner farmers

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