Preserving family and community heritage in Web-accessible stories through engaged dialogue, team teaching, peer sharing and Intergenerational learning.

Dakota Heritage Institute is following in the footsteps of pioneers that mapped the state by “story mapping” small town history


Dakota Heritage Institute, a non-profit organization, materialized on a road trip in a vintage RV driving the back roads across the prairies to explore and collect untold stories of pioneers and personalities. The settings were in home places, country churches and folk museums in small rural towns. Although the vehicle was vintage, the method was innovative, advancing the use of “Digital Storytelling.”

In the RV were two fathers and two sons, ages 80, 50s, 40s and 14 – three generations of stories, four “lenses” to document a landscape of stories.

In the guest driver’s seat was Joe Lambert, founder of the Center for Digital Story Telling” in Berkeley, who is recognized leader in International story circles. His teenage son, Massimo, sat behind him in a swivel chair. My son Lars, a filmmaker from Santa Barbara, navigated from the passenger seat and exchanged dialogue with Joe of past travels and experiences.

Massimo, Joe, Larrie and Lars on Mystic Mountain

As the senior member and a lifelong educator, I sat in the other swivel chair and told a few stories of my own – “enough to fill a grain elevator,” Joe said.

What I learned from this weeklong road trip was the value of mutual learning, including the importance of teenage wisdom, the youthful openness of connecting to the world, and the importance of preserving values from the past into the future.

The road trip played out a timeworn Indigenous saying about the role of fathers in families — “take the son to the highest mountain and show him the world.” In North Dakota, this challenge isn’t so easy, but we journeyed to a high point near the border to Canada, called Mystic Mountain, and stood on top of the RV to see beyond the horizon.

At this place, the model of “Story Mapping Dakota” was envisioned.

A modern day covered wagon carries passengers, cameras, digital recorders, laptops and hard drives