Manitoba Historical Society
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MHS Field Trips: Fall 2005 - “History and Present Status of US-Canadian Boundary Issues”

Friday, 16 September to Sunday, 18 September, 2005

Lead by Dr. Jock Lehr (University of Winnipeg)

As all Manitobans are aware, we share the world’s longest undefended border with the United States. Although celebrated as a model of international cooperation it does not mean that boundary issues have not played a crucial role in Canadian history. This field trip will explore the history and present status of US-Canadian boundary issues, primarily the water issues that are currently a source of tension between the State of North Dakota and Manitoba. The trip will focus on the controversial proposal to channel the waters of Devils Lake into to the Sheyenne River, which drains into the Red River, but will also give us a good introduction to the history of North Dakota.

Bryan Oborne, president of Panterra Management, will guide the trip. Bryan is a frequent contributor to the Winnipeg Free Press on environmental and water issues. He has been intimately involved in watershed planning and management, as well as agriculture and consumer communications.

The trip will leave from the north steps of the Manitoba Legislature at 6:00 pm on Friday evening, 16th September, and will return to its starting point at about 6:00 pm on Sunday, 18th September. On Friday evening we will journey down to Grand Forks, ND where we will stay overnight. On Saturday morning, accompanied by a step-on guide we will examine the flood history of Grand Forks and view the protection works established after the flood of 1997. Following this we will journey to Devils Lake to examine the flood problem that the town is facing. After lunch we will tour the historic centre of the town and visit points in the surrounding district to get a better understanding of the history of the fluctuations in the level of Devils Lake and a thorough appreciation of the background to the lake drainage controversy. Our dinner will be an elegant four-course meal at the Totten Trail Historic Inn located in the former Lieutenants’ quarters in Fort Totten Sate Historic Site. We will spend Saturday night at the Spirit Lake Casino and Resort. On the Sunday morning we will have a guided tour around Fort Totten, the best surviving US Army fort from the Indian War era. It has been at various times an army base, an Indian residential school, a sanatorium and, latterly, a state historic site. We will then drive north back to Canada passing through Crystal City to La Riviere where we will have lunch at the restaurant at Holiday Mountain Golf and Ski Resort. Following this we will pass through the area where wind power turbines are now in operation before we visit the Tobacco Creek watershed area to learn about contemporary watershed management practices in southern Manitoba.

As we will be crossing an international boundary participants must have photo-identification (preferably a valid Canadian passport) although I understand that a Canadian Drivers Licence and birth certificate are acceptable. If you are not a Canadian citizen be advised that you must ensure that your documentation is in order for travel to the United States. We also require that you purchase health insurance to cover you while in the United States, unless you are covered by Manitoba Blue Cross or other additional health insurance plan.

This will be an eye-opening trip for most of us who have little understanding of the severity of the problems faced by the Devils Lake area. I’m sure that after the trip you will be well qualified to offer a very informed opinion on the dispute and that you will have a really good background in the history of cross-border water disputes and management issues.

Please see the reservation sheet included in this edition of Time Lines for more details of cost and accommodations. The cost of the trip includes all taxes and gratuities, transportation by air-conditioned, washroom equipped, Grey Goose bus, two nights’ hotel accommodation, breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday, and breakfast and lunch on Sunday. Refreshment breaks are also included. Your place on the trip will be confirmed by receipt of payment in full.


  • Tour of Grand Forks’ flood history with step-on guide
  • Tour of Devils Lake historic district with local guide
  • Tour of Devils Lake area flooded areas with local experts
  • Visit to historic Fort Totten with local experts (Fort Totten is the best example of a US Army fort from the Indian Wars era)
  • Four course dinner at the Totten Trail Historic Inn
  • Tobacco Creek watershed management area


  • Grand Forks: Best Value Inn
  • Devils Lake: Spirit Lake Casino and Resort

Cost of Trip

The price of the field trip is $198.00 (Canadian) double occupancy (add $55 for single occupancy) and includes two nights accommodation, continental breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday, full breakfast and lunch on Sunday. Any refreshment breaks will also be included. All entry fees, gratuities and taxes are also included.

** Wine and beer will be available at the dinner on Saturday night at a cost of US$3.00 per drink. This is NOT covered in the registration fee!

Important Note

In order to accommodate a full itinerary in the Devils Lake area we will not be passing through Rugby, ND and re-entering Canada at the International Peace Gardens, but at a point of entry further east.

Please contact the MHS Office for more details and to reserve your spot on this exciting trip.

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