North Dakota: Devils Lake & the Bakken

Coming in at 92 pages, I personally print and bind these books, sequentially numbered in an edition size of 150 hand-made books. The slipcase design was built by Mikko Lautamo, then 3D-printed. From a custom-made sillicon mold I then cast every copy of the case using resin.

Order  in the Store.

*Shipping included, additional cost for slipcase and international shipment*

From the book:

“…Devils Lake was settled by Americans in the 1880’s, the Homestead era & the closing days of the Indian Wars. By opening up the land to settlers, the United States forever removed the land from the control of the indigenous population. Through treaties in 1867 & 1872, the Sisseton and Wahpeton Sioux bands were placed on reservations. The tribe, now known as the Spirit Lake tribe, was installed on the southern bank, and their historical memory of the lake’s fluctuation went with them.
For decades the land around the lake was settled. Towns including Devils Lake and Minnewaukan were established, and 160-acre Homestead farms grew in every direction. The area underwent major economic booms in the 1880’s and early 1900’s during times of railroad and Homestead expansion.
By the early 1940’s the lake had nearly dried up. Though Devils Lake didn’t completely run dry, geological records now show that it has several times in the past. The lake stabilized for much of the rest of the 20th century – until the mid-1990’s.
Devils Lake rests in a closed basin, meaning until the water reaches a certain level, it has no natural outlet – the level will just continue to rise. That elevation, 1,458 feet above sea level, was never much of a concern to the population. Before the recent rise, the highest registered level was 1,430 feet. Again, though, geological data shows that the lake has reached 1,460’ at least twice, the last time being around 4,000 years ago.
In 2011 Devils Lake grew to 1,454.30 feet. In the space of 15 years the lake had risen 30 feet, quadrupling its acreage in the process. According to the local newspaper, the level was still at 1,453.55 feet at the time this project was shot in April 2012. The town of Minnewaukan was losing ground steadily, and all around the lake the roads, power lines, and railroad tracks were being raised. Devils Lake and the surrounding towns and farms are in the process of learning how to adapt to this shifting environment.
Devils Lake is what brought me to North Dakota, but what I was hearing about Williston, center of the Bakken Shale oil boom, compelled a closer look.
To get to Devils Lake I had taken Greyhound and various other charter bus lines. It was a two and a half day trip, but the price was right. By the time I arrived in Salt Lake I started to meet people headed for Williston. Some were returning, many were headed there for the first time. During a long stopover in Billings I listened in on a conversation with someone who was heading back west after working in the oil fields. He said that afternoon the supervisor came up to his crew, handed them bus tickets, and told them to clear out their stuff.
Our bus route took us right through Williston. After hours of travel through the sparsely populated border area of eastern Montana and North Dakota, we began to see the activity out our windows. Fracking towers, flares, oil company billboards. Within minutes we approached Williston. The driver announced it as the “twilight zone,” and as soon as we entered town we hit heavy traffic. Large trucks everywhere, hotels under construction, brand new railroads, wells, oil tanks and flares. At the bus stop – the Williston Chamber of Commerce – the bus nearly emptied. Very few of us went further east.
After shooting for some time in Devils Lake I took the four-hour drive west in my rented Corolla. Unable to find a room (Halliburton had rented out the entire Super 8, and after a few calls and no vacancies found I gave up), I slept in the car that night, along with many others sleeping in their cars, at the Williston Public Library. I ate alone at the Applebee’s, one of many singles. In the morning everyone went to the McDonald’s for coffee and to use the bathroom. Everywhere I looked there were job openings and people sleeping in their trucks...”