Dvirnak Native American Collection to be Displayed

Dvirnak Native American Collection to be Displayed

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Alick and Grayce Dvirnak Native American Collection was unveiled at its new home in Dickinson State University’s Theodore Roosevelt Center in Stoxen Library on Thursday, June 5.

Alick and Grayce Dvirnak recovered and preserved the collection of approximately 1,500 artifacts from the 1864 Battle of Killdeer Mountain from their Dunn County ranch, the Diamond C, which encompasses the battle site. Among the pieces are arrowheads, spear points, bullets, casings, stone pipes and pottery fragments. Alick Dvirnak will speak briefly at the unveiling as will Theodore Roosevelt Center Project Director Clay Jenkinson and DSU President Dr. Richard McCallum.

Last fall, the Dvirnaks entered into an agreement with the Dickinson State University Foundation allowing for the items to be displayed in the Theodore Roosevelt Center in Stoxen Library. It is their desire to share their extensive collection with the public in order to promote and preserve the heritage of western North Dakota.

“Our family is excited to share our father’s collection with the university,” states a letter to the DSU Foundation from the Dvirnak family. “We know that Dickinson State University will present and promote the rich history of western North Dakota and bring recognition to our father (Alick Dvirnak). He devoted his life to his family, ranching and promoting western North Dakota history, including the Battle of Killdeer Mountain.”

The Battle of Killdeer Mountain, also known as the Battle of Tahkahokuty Mountain, took place on July 28, 1864. Brigadier General Alfred Sully led 2,200 United States cavalrymen into battle, attacking the Lakota, Yanktonai and Dakota (Sioux) who were camped at the base of the Killdeer Mountains. Although there were an estimated 5,000-6,000 Sioux, the firing of cannon and artillery into the encampment forced the Native American warriors, as well as unarmed men, women and children, to flee on foot into the Missouri River badlands. The soldiers then destroyed the encampment, including all winter provisions, and set fire to the camp and the mountain. Although two U.S. cavalrymen are buried at the site, the exact number of casualties is unknown. Sully estimated that 100-150 Sioux were killed.

The Dvirnak family has owned and operated the Diamond C Ranch since 1928. The ranch was established in 1880 by William L. Crosby, an attorney and lumber business owner from La Crosse, Wisc. The Diamond C is the second oldest brand in the state, filed by Crosby in 1885. Crosby also was a fellow law student and friend of Theodore Roosevelt. When Roosevelt’s boat was stolen from his Elkhorn Ranch north of Medora in1886, he tracked down the thieves and walked them back to the closest sheriff’s office in Dickinson by route of Killdeer. During this trek, he and his charges spent a night at the Diamond C Ranch.

“The Theodore Roosevelt Center is primarily devoted to the memory of the 26th President, but we don't view TR in a vacuum. Our plan is to collect and interpret not just Roosevelt, but the world that he moved in North Dakota. The Dvirnak Collection is the foundation of all that will follow,” said Jenkinson.

Alick Dvirnak has been recognized for his accomplishments in preserving the history of western North Dakota by former Governor George Sinner and the State Historical Society of North Dakota. He also has been honored by the Native American community. In 2001, the Sioux tribes of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada gathered at the ranch and held a ceremony to honor their dead from the Battle of Killdeer Mountain. They also smoked the peace pipe with Alick Dvirnak.

“Alick is a historian and a story-teller. He knows the Battle of Killdeer Mountain as well as anyone and he's walked every inch of the ground,” Jenkinson said. “It has been such a pleasure to sit at his feet and listen to him tell one of North Dakota's most interesting stories.”