By Candace E. Kraft | Jamestown
“Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage for your children and children’s children.” - Theodore Roosevelt, former Republican president of the United States
There are so many problems with the proposed Bison World amusement park in Jamestown that I don’t even know where to start. What is Jamestown’s root problem? It sure is not “attracting” more money here.
What we do have in Jamestown, N.D., at the present moment: low wages, drug addiction (and related crimes), rampant alcoholism, lack of affordable health care (medical, vision, dental), food insecurity, lack of affordable child care, lack of affordable ways for kids to get involved in afterschool activities that are of actual interest to them, lack of transportation during non-business hours - the list of these community failures can absolutely grow.
Overstating the “economic boom” to the community from Bison World by providing more (predominantly) low-wage jobs to Jamestown is insulting. Why aren’t we investing in our own town, as it currently exists? We can’t clean up after more tourists when we can’t even help our own community members.
Furthermore, as an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, I cannot even bring myself to consider how disrespectful it is to denigrate the legacy of the American Bison with a giant, trash-generating amusement park. Bison bison is my teacher and my friend. I have spent a lot of time out in the North Dakota Badlands with them at safe distances. The economic premise of this proposed park is ethically and morally wrong on so many levels including the cultural insensitivity of transforming viable buffalo pasture into an ugly, commercialized park.
Finally, what are we teaching to the children of Jamestown? Community means nothing in the face of money. The children of Jamestown deserve more. If Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. must spend extravagant amounts of money on tourism, invest instead in the National Buffalo Museum or the Frontier Village. These valuable entities actually respect the buffalo’s contribution to education, history and natural science.
“Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” - Teddy Roosevelt