Todd Melby and Marty Young Bear – September 7, 2014


Alaric Skjelver introducing the speakers Todd Melby and Marty Young Bear

The face of North Dakota has changed significantly since it gained statehood 125 years ago. In recent years, the oil and gas producing counties have experienced rapid growth and industrialization, the effects of which trickle across the state. Prairie Talks focused that phenomenon by welcoming Todd Melby, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, and Marty Young Bear, a rancher and an enrolled member of Three Affiliated Tribes.

Todd Melby

Todd Melby

A native of Hettinger, North Dakota, Todd Melby is a reporter, radio producer, and documentary filmmaker. He is the lead producer of Black Gold Boom, a public media project documenting North Dakota’s oil boom. His stories have aired on U.S. public radio stations, including NPR shows. He is a senior producer at 2 below zero, a public media nonprofit. And he’s won multiple national journalism awards, including a pair of Edward R. Murrows and Sigma Delta Chi awards. In 2014, he is directing a PBS television documentary on the boom.

Marty Young Bear

Marty Young Bear

Marty Young Bear is a rancher, saddle bronc rider, and an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes in New Town, North Dakota. Young Bear co-operates the MHA Nation’s Horse Power Program, a holistic wellness program utilizing horse culture to help families on the Fort Berthold reservation. He is an environmental advocate concerned with the preservation of the land for horses, animals, and people.

This event was co-sponsored by Friends of Prairie Village Museum and supported in part by the North Dakota Humanities Council. Treats and coffee were served following the talk. Thanks to the generosity of the Prairie Village Museum, attendees of this event were also invited to tour the museum at no cost!

North Dakota Humanities Council

Melanie Hoffert – January 26, 2014

Melanie Hoffart

Check out some pictures of the event on our Facebook page!

Prairie Talks welcomed Melanie Hoffert on January 26, 2014. Melanie Hoffert is the author of “Prairie Silence: A Memoir” (Beacon Press, 2013). She grew up on a farm near Wyndmere, North Dakota, where she spent her childhood wandering gravel roads and listening to farmers at church potlucks. Her work has been published in several literary journals, in which she received creative non-fiction awards, and she holds an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University. Melanie lives in Minneapolis and works for Teach For America. Learn more about Melanie and order her book here:

Recent reviews for Prairie Silence:
“The author’s mostly quiet narrative includes a wealth of haunting images and ideas that will linger long after the last sentence. A heartfelt love song to a place and its people as well as an honest and rewarding rendering of the author’s interior landscape.”
Kirkus Reviews 

“A heartfelt coming-out story as well as an eloquent elegy to a rural way of life that is rapidly vanishing from the American landscape.”
“Hoffert’s bittersweet and compelling memoir recalls her struggles at ending her silence and creating a fuller life for herself.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The quiet, lyric prose of Melanie Hoffert’s Prairie Silence crept into my days, making it impossible for me to stop turning pages. This book is about looking for oneself in places we are so often afraid to venture. A beautiful debut from a brave new writer.”
—Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance
“In Prairie Silence, Melanie Hoffert shows how the landscapes of our childhood continue to speak to us, and through us, long after we’ve left them behind. In this beautifully written and deeply imagined memoir, Hoffert invites us back to her North Dakota farming community for a season of harvest, a personal journey of profound courage and grace.”
—Judy Blunt, author of Breaking Clean

“Melanie Hoffert has written a gutsy, complicated book about the little town we both came from (but which she experienced in a much, much different way).”
Chuck Klosterman, author of Downtown Owl and The Visible Man

“ ‘Over the last ten years I have been trying to resolve a seemingly simple dilemma: how to tell the state of North Dakota that I am gay.’ That’s the heart of this involving memoir by a woman who grew up on a farm near Wyndmere, N.D.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press

This event was co-sponsored by the Heart of America Library and supported in part by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

North Dakota Humanities Council

Bjørn Engesland – September 22, 2013

Engesland - Photo

Prairie Talks welcomed Bjørn Engesland on September 22, 2013. Engesland started working in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in 1995 and became Secretary General in 1996. He has a Masters degree in law and has formerly been employed at the Norwegian Institute for Human Rights. He is a member of the board of the Institute for Human Rights.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was founded in 1977. The committee bases its activities on the Helsinki Declaration that was signed by more than 35 European and North American states at the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, later OSCE) in 1975. The Declaration states that respect for human rights is a fundamental factor in the development of peace and understanding between states.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a non-governmental (NGO), non-profit organization which monitors compliance with the human rights provisions of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) within all OSCE signatory states and supports initiatives to strengthen democracy and civil society. In the last few years the Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s international activities have focused especially on the emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The committee works irrespectively of states’ ideology and political positions, and concentrates on addressing breaches of the Helsinki Declaration, OSCE documents, and other international human rights treaties. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is politically independent.

This event was co-sponsored by the Rugby’s Sons of Norway Odin Lodge and Bismarck State College’s Embracing Diversity Team, and it was partially supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

North Dakota Humanities Council

Kim Schultz and Amikaeyla Gaston – April 21, 2013

KimAmiPrairie Talks welcomed Kim Schultz and Amikaeyla Gaston in their performance of No Place Called Home at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 21, 2013. The performance was followed by an audience dialogue with the performers and special guest, Hussam Al-Kayali, PhD, of Grand Forks, North Dakota. All gathered following the program to share baklava, figs, and local rhubarb punch.

In the fall of 2009, Intersections International led a delegation of eight American artists from many different disciplines on a three week fact-finding mission though Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as part of the Iraqi Voices Amplification Project (IVAP). Their goal was to use the power of the arts to call attention to one of the most pressing and under-reported humanitarian crisis issues of our time: the displacement of more than four million Iraqis as a result of the military intervention in Iraq. During their time in the Near East, the delegation entered into conversations with hundreds of refugees at community centers and in their homes. Upon their return, the artists began creating a series of artistic pieces designed to humanize the crisis and give voice to the millions of refugees whose plight has yet to enter broad public consciousness. No Place Called Home is one such piece.

Originally from Minnesota, Kim Schultz is an actress, writer and comedienne. Nationally, she has worked at The Guthrie Theatre, Childrens’ Theatre Co. Theatre de la Jeune Lune, The Chicago Improv Fest, The Brave New Workshop, HBO Comedy Showcase and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Currently residing in New York, Kim has performed at The Hamptons Shakespeare Festival, Oberon Theatre, 3LD, Themantics Group and The Zipper Factory Theatre. She also created, produced and acted in a regionally televised comedy improv show on ABC called Comedy Hotel. Kim wrote and performed a critically acclaimed autobiographical solo show performed off-Broadway called, The F Trip. And after traveling to the Middle East in the fall of 2009 with Intersections International, Kim was commissioned to write a play to draw attention to the Iraqi refugee crisis. No Place Called Home was directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde and enjoyed an off-Broadway run in NYC in the fall of 2010 and is currently touring nationally. Kim is a prize winner for a short story she wrote on Field Report, has been published at, Futuretakes, CLP and is a NYC Moth storytelling champion for a story she wrote and performed about falling in love with a conman. Kim also teaches improvisation for people and organizations wishing to change their lives and laugh more.Visit for more information about Kim.

Proclaimed as one of the “purest contemporary voices…” by National Public Radio, powerhouse Amikaeyla Proudfoot Gaston embraces the best of many types of music. Her sultry sound, as described by MTV, is “like listening to a velvet waterfall”, and her soulful, roots jazz flavor captures the listener with dynamic passion & enchanting sincerity. She has received national attention winning a multitude of music awards, including Best Jazz Vocalist, Best Urban Contemporary Vocalist, Best World Music Vocalist, and Best Debut Artist, and was named Washington D.C.’s best Female Composer in 2006, 2008 and again in 2011 for excellence in original composition. She has performed, recorded with, and travelled the world touring with many award winning artists such as Take 6, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Baba Olatunji, Mickey Hart, Pete Seeger, Esperanza Spalding, and Shiela E, and was invited to perform at the Inaugural Festival of Sacred Chanting and Singing for the commemoration of the Golden Buddha at the request and invitation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She is the founder of ICAHSI, The International Cultural Arts & Healing Sciences Institute, a non-profit organization which works in collaboration & partnerships with government, health, and non-profit environmental and social justice organizations to bring together artists and healers of all forms and from all specialties to promote healing and wellness through the arts and activism.

For more information, production history or to book the show visit For more information on the project and intersections visit

This program was sponsored in part by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

North Dakota Humanities Council

Roxana Saberi – October 7, 2012

Roxana SaberiPrairie Talks welcomed Roxana Saberi, journalist, speaker, human rights advocate, and author of the book Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in IranSaberi spoke at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 7, 2012.

Roxana Saberi moved to Iran in 2003 to work as the Iran correspondent for the U.S.-based Feature Story News.  She filed reports for organizations such as NPR, BBC, ABC Radio and Fox News and was working on a book about Iranian society when she was arrested on January 31, 2009. Saberi was later sentenced to eight years in prison on a trumped-up charge of espionage. In May 2009, an Iranian court suspended the sentence, and she was released.

Since her release, Saberi has joined others in bringing attention to the situation of human rights in Iran. Saberi has spoken at several human rights events; written articles published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Chicago Tribune; and been interviewed on news programs of organizations such as Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC, CNN, PRI, NPR, and C-SPAN, as well as shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Saberi has received the Medill Medal of Courage, the Ilaria Alpi Freedom of the Press Award, the NCAA Award of Valor, a POMED (Project for Middle East Democracy) Award, and an East-West Freedom Award from the Levantine Cultural Center.  She was named one of Jaycees’ 2011 Ten Outstanding Young Americans and was honored by the Japanese American Citizens League as an “Outstanding Woman.” In September 2011, she was chosen as a “commended” artist for the Freedom to Create Main Prize.

Saberi’s book, Between Two World: My Life and Captivity in Iran, was published by HarperCollins in March 2010.  Saberi was also a co-writer of No One Knows About Persian Cats, a film-documentary about underground music in Iran.

Saberi grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, the daughter of Reza Saberi, who was born in Iran, and Akiko Saberi, who is from Japan. She was chosen Miss North Dakota in 1997 and was among the top ten finalists in Miss America 1998. She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, with degrees in communications and French.

Saberi holds her first master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and her second master’s degree in international relations from the University of Cambridge. More information is available at

This program was sponsored in part by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

North Dakota Humanities Council


Alan Bjerga – June 3, 2012

Alan BjergaAuthor and journalist Alan Bjerga spoke on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at the Eagles Club. Bjerga is an American journalist, author of the book Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest, and the 2010 president of the National Press Club. He covers agricultural policy for Bloomberg News and in 2010-2011 was also the president of the North American Agricultural Journalists. In 2009 he was recognized for his work covering U.S. food aid and the famine in Ethiopia. He received awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the New York Press Club, the Kansas Press Association, the North American Agricultural Journalists, and the Overseas Press Club for this work. Before working for Bloomberg News, Bjerga won the NAAJ’s top writing award in 2005 while working for the Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau.

Bjerga, who grew up on a farm near the town of Motley, Minnesota, went to Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and English literature and edited the student newspaper, The Concordian. He earned a masters degree in mass communication from the University of Minnesota, where he was the managing editor of The Minnesota Daily. Bjerga began his career with the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota) and also reported for the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Argus Leader and The Wichita Eagle (Kansas).


Select photographs from Tanzania and Ethiopia taken by Rugby native Jared Mack (RHS ’98) were also on display. Photographs have been donated to Rugby High School.