Tuesday, July 12, 2022
HomeArchaeologyA Tribute to Fern Swenson (1954-2022)

A Tribute to Fern Swenson (1954-2022)

Tributes by Dr. Paul Gardner and Dr. Mark Mitchell
Compiled with the beneficiant help of Dr. Mark Mitchell
The archaeological group was saddened to listen to of the passing of esteemed Plains archaeologist Fern Swenson. Fern was born on December 5, 1954 in Starbuck, MN and handed on April 15 in Cedar Rapids, IA. Fern attended Glenwood Excessive College the place she graduated in 1972. She continued her training at St. Cloud State College and the College of Oklahoma the place she graduated with a grasp’s diploma in Archaeology. Fern’s love of Native American historical past and tradition introduced her to the College of North Dakota in Grand Forks for her first work project. In 1994 she discovered her dwelling as Chief Archaeologist for the State of North Dakota, the place she stayed for 35 years. Fern was the Director of the North Dakota Archaeology & Historic Preservation Division on the time of her passing.
Over Fern’s lengthy profession she was a number one knowledgeable on the ceramics and archaeology of the Coronary heart Area (the confluence of the Coronary heart and Missouri Rivers) in North Dakota and was the creator of dozens of technical reviews, journal articles, ebook chapters, convention papers and posters. Most not too long ago, she co-authored the ebook Traces: Early Peoples of North Dakota, a totally illustrated and up-to-date common account of the state’s archaeology. Along with scholarly work, Fern has been a powerful advocate of public outreach and training and was strongly supportive of each undergraduate and graduate stage researchers. As well as, she labored to forge sturdy and collaborative relationships between archaeologists and Native American communities within the state. Fern was additionally a number one supporter of the Plains Anthropological Society as a member of the Board of Administrators (2006-2008) and lead host of the Plains Anthropological Convention (1998, 2010, and 2017). When the North Dakota Heritage Middle expanded in 2014, Fern took a lead position within the creation and set up of latest and fascinating displays for the middle. On the time of her passing, she had been nominated for the Plains Anthropological Society’s Distinguished Service Award.
Fern was equally energetic within the preservation of archaeological websites with one among her biggest achievements being the stabilization of Double Ditch Village, one of many largest and best-preserved Plains Village settlements within the area. When her cautious stewardship efforts revealed that financial institution erosion threatened a good portion of the settlement, she labored tirelessly—and overcame quite a few obstacles and setbacks—to acquire the substantial funding and specialised technical experience wanted to efficiently stabilize the positioning. With out her willpower, the self-discipline—in addition to descendant communities—could nicely have misplaced one of the necessary remaining Plains Village settlements.
Fern Swenson giving a presentation in 2018 on the completion of the Double Ditch Venture. Picture: The Bismarck Tribune.
Compiled by Emeritus Midwestern Regional Director-Dr. Paul Gardner 
I had the privilege and pleasure of figuring out Fern for almost 20 years. Our first interplay was when she referred to as me in regards to the Biesterfield archaeological website, a Nationwide Register website excavated within the Nineteen Thirties by pioneering archaeologist W.D. Sturdy. The positioning’s proprietor had died and his heirs had been auctioning his land. Generally in such conditions, The Archaeological Conservancy (TAC) is alerted to the public sale on the final minute and is predicted to simply present up with an enormous bag of cash to make issues proper. Fern, nevertheless, did issues in another way. When she reached out to me, she not had not solely assembled all of the literature on the positioning to ship me to display its worth as a protect, however she had negotiated with the heirs to persuade them to position the archaeological website on a separate 40-acre parcel to assist comprise TAC’s prices. With floor laid so nicely, TAC was in a position to prevail at public sale and create our first North Dakota protect.
Picture from Tribute by the State Historic Society of North Dakota
Following this success, TAC added North Dakota to the obligations of the Midwest Director and dispatched me to see if different websites might be acquired. Fern responded by greeting me with a two-page annotated record of potential prospects that we’re nonetheless working fruitfully. After I raised the topic of maybe creating a Conservancy tour of North Dakota archaeological websites, Fern led me on an expedition to go to a mixture of prehistoric and historic interval websites she thought can be attention-grabbing to the general public. These websites immediately type the idea of our Northern Plains Tour. Of all of the state historic preservation officers I labored with throughout my Conservancy profession, Fern was the one one I assumed actually understood and correctly valued the work of The Conservancy. Reasonably than viewing me as an outsider or a time-consuming nuisance, Fern all the time handled me as an necessary associate whose preservation work she was comfortable to help. She actually carried out her North Dakota heritage work as a labor of affection, and becoming a member of her in it was a pleasure. She gained’t be simply changed, and all who knew her will miss her.

Learn Fern’s obituary right here


| The Archaeological Conservancy 2022


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