An Inter-disciplinary Exploration of Culture, Material Culture, Social Concerns and Community Resilience in North Dakota’s Oil Field

A Proposal for Seed Funding for Collaborative Research

Submitted by

Carenlee Barkdull, Department of Social Work, University of North Dakota (PI)

William Caraher, Department of History, University of North Dakota

Bret Weber, Department of Social Work, University of North Dakota

Ann Reed, Department of Anthropology, University of North Dakota

Sebastian Braun, Department of Indian Studies, University of North Dakota

ND Oil Field Impacts Seed Money Proposal Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to identify the social and cultural impacts of the oil boom on communities in North Dakota. This study combines interdisciplinary approaches from anthropology, archaeology, history and social work, and is intended to gather baseline data for more comprehensive, longitudinal, externally-funded research.


The plan is to use the resources from this seed money grant to build connections with local communities (including tribal communities), survey and integrate relevant literatures from our varied disciplines to inform our research, and to begin fieldwork in several communities. Groundwork for an intensive summer of fieldwork in western North Dakota will be carried out Spring Semester. This study will combine interviews, focus groups, community forums, and archaeological documentation into an integrated study. The plan is to use this platform to leverage multi-year external funding for a more in-depth and longer-term study. External funding may also be sought to support a conference for dissemination of gained knowledge and to foster new regional collaborations. Our five-member UND-based faculty team is a new, interdisciplinary applied research collaboration comprised of individuals from four distinct academic departments. We are housed in two different colleges and represent perspectives from both the humanities and the social sciences. We intend to disseminate our study results through appropriate scholarly venues, and to share our findings with citizens and decision-makers. Our goal is that dissemination of findings will contribute to the development of sustainable and resilient North Dakota communities that, over the long term, adequately address people’s basic needs, promote healthy social functioning, and contribute to a high quality of life. This research proposal also supports goals enumerated within UND's Strategic Plan for Research, Creative and Scholarly Activity. It addresses "community, resources, culture, history, demography and economy" and aims to enhance the quality of life in North Dakota communities, including Native American communities. With an emphasis on social science and humanities research, and a focus on social, environmental, and economic justice, it builds on existing strengths at UND and creates new research synergies between departments and colleges to "address unique problems affecting rural and vulnerable populations" in the state. Finally, it is timely and relevant, and deploys UND research resources to assess pressing issues and best responses. Problem/Opportunity Statement The contemporary extraction of energy resources in the United States is often framed in popular media outlets as a win/win situation, providing jobs and economic returns for host communities while lessening American dependency on foreign oil reserves. North Dakota’s oil revenues tripled from $4.2 billion to $12.7 billion in just a five-year period from 2005 to 2009 (Kotkin, 2011), bringing thousands of new jobs to the state, and reducing its official unemployment rate to the lowest in the nation at 3.5% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October, 2011). The development of new drilling and extraction technologies, along with other favorable market dynamics, have combined to propel an oil boom in the western half of the state. Current projections estimate that populations in at least six communities in the northwestern part of the state could more than double by 2025 (Schramm, 2011). The rapid development of the Bakken and Three Forks Sanish shale oil deposits (Bakken/Three Forks) have signaled striking changes for communities in western North Dakota, such as the proliferation of man camps and increased traffic over largely rural roads. Given the relatively recent time frame of these rapid changes, and with the location of the state’s two largest universities on its eastern border, little scholarly research on the boom’s varied social impacts has yet been undertaken or made available. One notable exception is a recently-published survey of nurses and health care administrators in northwestern North Dakota (Graner & Pederson, 2011). Safe and affordable housing emerged as the greatest concern in this survey, followed by traffic-related problems, accidents and injuries, shortages of first responders, and social problems associated with the influx of young male workers (e.g., substance abuse, disorderly conduct, and vandalism). A recent online reaction to a Williston Herald article discussing a proposed truck bypass stated, “You can say goodbye to the Williston and surrounding prairie you once knew” (Smith, 2011). This statement speaks to the sense of loss that local residents are feeling as the natural landscape and social fabric change rapidly and dramatically. The demand for social services, including housing, has resulted in inflationary prices that often leave residents incapable of competing with outside resources. The increased use of roads, medical care, stores, water, and other public resources has also led to

ND Oil Field Impacts Seed Money Proposal


problems with the upkeep of infrastructure that was not planned to meet current uses. On the other hand, the influx of new resources is also regarded as an opportunity to develop mostly rural, often relatively isolated communities, offering a chance for local residents to improve their livelihoods and to secure the future of their communities. The true costs and benefits of the development of North Dakota’s oil fields must include the human side of this equation. Corporations, elected officials, and news outlets tend to create the dominant discourse surrounding this emergent economic boom; however, long-term sustainable development must include the perspectives of all residents. Research concerning the global experience of booms involving sudden influxes of resources, population, power, and wealth, is vast (e.g., Turner, 1995; Welker, 2009; West and Richardson, 1978). Too often, that experience fails to create sustainable local development. Repeatedly, outside interests siphon off the economic profits until resources are exhausted. Local communities then face the same systemic problems that previously led to their under-development, along with the new social, environmental, and infrastructural problems caused by the boom. The boom-related social science research in the United States, primarily from the 1970s and 1980s, examines the socials impact on communities that experienced energy-related growth including oil and/or other resources. Prominent in the literature is support for the social disruption hypothesis, which essentially states that boomtown “communities enter a period of generalized crisis and loss of traditional routines” as a result of rapid growth and declining community services (e.g., England & Albrecht, 1984, p. 230). However, there is also evidence that communities may be somewhat resilient in the face of such activity (e.g., Forsyth, Luthra, & Bankston, 2007). A growing body of research postulates that communities can be assisted to do more to “ensure their own resilience and regain control over their destiny in the face of disruptive risks” (Community Resilience System Initiative, 2011, p. vii). Methodology First, our preliminary research will help to identify the key issues at stake for the affected communities by speaking directly with them, providing an important baseline for future phases of this work. To establish this baseline, we will first conduct two focus groups with County Social Service Directors and other leaders in the human services field. This will be followed by an intensive summer 2012 fieldwork period in which the researchers will live in and conduct research in western North Dakota. Constructivist grounded theory informs this flexible, multi-method, interdisciplinary work. Theories generated from data collection, analysis, and interpretation will be rooted or “grounded” in the data obtained from the field; attention is paid to complex multiple realities, social processes, and hierarchies of power within this framework (e.g., Charmaz, 2006; Clarke, 2005). Research will employ an ethnographic approach that combines interviews, focus groups, field notes, and archival data. Based on the initial focus groups and other professional contacts, snowball sampling will be used to identify additional individuals to host community forums to gather information about additional key issues. We will also conduct focus group discussions of smaller groups of three to six individuals who are similarly situated demographically (e.g. by gender, age, insider/outsider status). Questions to explore within the context of this fieldwork may include variants of the following: Beyond the headlines from media outlets, what other problems are on the minds of community members? Have people’s sense of personal and/or community identity changed and in what ways? Do people perceive changes to their quality of life? What demographic shifts are occurring and how are these perceived by longer-term and newer residents? And, how do the influx and distribution of new resources change community cultures, communication, celebrations, and values? Members of the research team will transcribe focus group sessions together with the interviews, and compile and analyze data to ascertain the most salient themes. We also hope to continue dialoguing with community members through social media, blogs, and chat rooms after our fieldwork, to stay current with ongoing and developing issues, and build the groundwork for longer-term research. Data analysis and interpretation will be informed by both the fieldwork gathered from communities and by a comparative approach. Due to the acknowledged primacy of housing-related issues and concerns, concurrent fieldwork will focus on the archaeology of current "man camps" and other new concentrations of population in the western part of the state to document the material signature of temporary housing. Over Spring and Summer Semesters of 2012, this phase of the

ND Oil Field Impacts Seed Money Proposal project will focus on collecting spatial and archaeological data for newly constructed man camps and consider their impact on the local topography and settlement patterns. We will accomplish this task through standard archaeological tools including GPS units, photography, and on-site illustration. Our methods will involve an opportunistic (and well-documented) sampling of man camps throughout the study area. These spatial data will be combined with fieldwork findings, census data, and other reports that will allow us to consider both the nature and impact of changing settlement on a regional scale, and provide important information for community residents and decision makers trying to manage growth and impacts over the short- and long-term. Collaboration Plan, External Funding, and Dissemination of Results Carenlee Barkdull, the Principal Investigator, will assume lead responsibility for convening meetings to ensure that work is accomplished according to schedule, and for management of grant funds. The entire team will meet face-to-face as a whole at least once monthly throughout the life of the project; sub-group assignments will likely necessitate at least biweekly meetings. A Community Blackboard site will be developed to post announcements, archive relevant resource documents, produce collaborative documents, and facilitate electronic communication. Key Tasks for Spring Semester, 2011 • Convene initial planning meeting • Conduct focus group with County Social Service Directors (scheduled for January 12) • Identify sampling strategies for ethnographic and archaeological field work • Develop GANTT chart for project and assign sub-teams • Determine specific methods to be employed and cross-train team members • Develop detailed plan and schedule for Summer fieldwork Key Tasks for Summer Semester, 2011 • Conduct focus group with domestic violence agency and shelter directors (tentatively scheduled for May, 2012) • Conduct minimum of four field trips to collect ethnographic data • Conduct minimum of two field trips to collect archaeological data • Undertake monthly team debriefing meetings to share challenges, findings, and adjust data collection plan as necessary • Begin data transcription and analysis • Explore external funding opportunities Key Tasks for Fall Semester, 2011 • Continue data analysis and interpretation • Apply for external funding as appropriate source(s) are identified • Develop dissemination plan and timeline • Pursue publication in various academic journals • Write and submit Final Report for this project


The current research team is uniquely qualified to tackle this multi-disciplinary project. It consists of a historian who is also trained in archaeology; an economic anthropologist who has worked in a comparative global context; a social worker who has worked with both rural and Native communities; a social justice historian who is also a social worker; and an environmental anthropologist who has worked on the Plains. Together, this team can deploy multiple, overlapping strategies and bring their experiences and our collective professional contacts to bear on this multifaceted phenomena. A systematic review of local, state, regional, and national foundation and government sources will be undertaken as we plan to submit a major regional or national grant to support an expanded program based on the results of the preliminary study. Seed money for this preliminary study secured from a Collaborative Research Grant through UND will provide a vital platform for such efforts. Foundations for consideration include the MDU Resources Foundation, the Northwest Areas Foundation and the Bill and Flora Hewitt Foundation. An interdisciplinary grant for the social and behavioral

ND Oil Field Impacts Seed Money Proposal 5   sciences, such as the National Science Foundation’s grants for Interdisciplinary Research Across the Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Sciences may also be an appropriate venue to explore for public sector funds. The proposed research is timely, and its applied focus will help with the pressing need to document and address the varied social and cultural impacts of economic growth in the western part of the state. Housing remains a central concern as anecdotal reports from affected communities and press accounts draw attention to soaring costs. Additionally, there is a critical need to systematically document the effects on old and new residents, especially vulnerable populations (e.g., people with disabilities, children, Native Americans, and individuals and families in poverty). Dissemination of findings will yield important scholarly contributions and timely information for elected and appointed officials, and for residents seeking to maximize the boom’s opportunities to build and sustain vibrant and resilient North Dakota communities. References Charmaz, K. C. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Community Resilience System Initiative (CRSI) (August, 2011). CRSI Steering Committee Final Report: A Roadmap to Increased Community Resiliency. Retrieved November 29, 2011, from Clarke, A. (2005). Situational analysis: Grounded theory after the postmodern turn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. England, J. L., & Albrecht, S.L. (1984). Boomtowns and social disruption. Rural Sociology, 49 (2), 230-246. Graner, B., & Pederson, S. (2011). The North Dakota oil boom: Changing the landscape of a community’s health. Prairie Rose, 80 (1), 10. Kotkin, J. (2011, March 15). Why North Dakota is booming. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from Ondracek, J., Witwer, K., & Bertsch, A. (2010). North Dakota communities acutely impacted by oil and gas development: Williston housing demand analysis final report. Retrieved from Schramm, J. (2011, January 6). Accommodating needs: Cities need to build to meet forecasted housing needs. Smith, Nick. (2011, November 15). Meeting Reveals Details of New Bypass. Williston Herald, from Turner, Terence. (1995). An Indigenous People’s Struggle for Socially Equitable and Ecologically Sustainable Production: The Kayapo Revolt Against Extractivism. Journal of Latin American Anthropology, 1(1). from United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011). Local Area unemployment statistics: Unemployment rates for states [Data file]. Retrieved from Welker, Marina A. (2009). “Corporate Security Begins in the Community”: Mining, the Corporate Social Responsibility Industry, and Environmental Advocacy in Indonesia. Cultural Anthropology, 24(1). from West, Stanley A., & Richardson, Sue E. (1978). What Happened to Fairbanks?: The Effects of the Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline on the Community of Fairbanks, Alaska. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

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