Eggs for Donuts is a documentary short focusing on New Town, North Dakota the site where three small towns were flooded in 1953. My relationship to this location is unique in that I am a descendant of former residents; I am tied to the local narrative, and to the now defunct homestead. This connection is also what inspired my title, Eggs for Donuts, which was a phrase that came up repeatedly in interviews with locals who remembered trading eggs for donuts and coffee at my family's cafe. This expression also speaks to the experience retelling a history from multiple perspectives, which at times can feel like comparing eggs to donuts.
Eggs for Donuts began as research-based project focusing on the construction of the Garrison Dam and the subsequent flooding of three townships: Van Hook, Garrison, and Sanish. The project has since evolved in to a documentary short exploring historical and contemporary changes to this landscape and the migration of its inhabitants.
Ideally the film will have one primary channel and two peripheral channels that are only illuminated at specific moments punctuating the story by creating panoramic views.
Currently New Town is experiencing an economic boom due to the discovery of oil in the area. In contrast to the rest of the country there is virtually no unemployment there, and although North Dakota’s population was shrinking the number of residents is now increasing at an alarming rate.
This contemporary situation mirrors this town’s history and the earlier migration of populace within the Dakota landscape. New Town, for example, was established in 1951, to accommodate the residents displaced by The Garrison Dam and Reservoir Project. The flooding it caused formed the third largest man-made lake in the United States, Lake Sakakawea, which has a shoreline of 1,500 miles. Residents of the three towns were given notice of the project and had a window of time to arrange for their mandatory relocation.
This relocation was unnecessary for most Van Hook residents because only a portion of it would be flooded. In fact, only ten percent of the town is submerged. Main Street and the surrounding neighborhoods were never even at risk of flooding. However, Van Hook’s town council, or “Town Dads” as they were called then, received money from the federal government to relocate the town and its structures were either demolished or moved to New Town.
The only remaining features of Van Hook include a fire shed and a set of monuments for the American Legion Park; my Great-Grandfather constructed these cement fixtures in the 1940’s. The there streets are still in use by the Van Hook State Wildlife Management Area, but all of the buildings are gone. The building foundations were left, and those that are submerged continue to wash ashore in the form of smooth brick and cement pebbles.
- (35 days)