Dakota Datebook

The Royal Gorge

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Arizona has the Grand Canyon, Colorado has the Rocky Mountains, but the Ward County Independent reported that North Dakota has the Royal Gorge. The paper wasn’t talking about a geographic feature, but rather, a person. That person was Queen Marie of Romania and she visited North Dakota today in 1926.

The Independent reported that visitors of the Queen brought food, including homemade rolls, “which reports say she stowed away without butter,” and five mallards. The Independent continued, “The good queen of Romania just naturally gorged herself, right out where everyone could see her do it, and if this is not evidence of a royal gorge, then North Dakotans don’t know natural or unnatural wonders when they see them.”

This was just one example of the queen’s modesty. The train darted through North Dakota in one day on its way to the west coast, but Queen Marie made it a point to stop at various intervals to allow locals on board. The queen was extremely interested in the farming conditions and techniques that might be used in developing her own country’s agriculture. She also showed much interest for the homemakers, and was eager to learn all she could from these common people.

While most of her trip concentrated on the farmers of North Dakota, Queen Marie did make special appearances in Mandan, Dickinson, and Medora. In Mandan, Queen Marie stopped to meet with the Sioux Indians, who honored her with a headdress and welcomed her into their tribe. Chief Red Tomahawk addressed the queen. He said, “We want to honor you. A woman does not wear an eagle’s headdress unless she performed some splendid act of heroism. Our part in that great war has endeared you to us…Therefore, I present you with this honorable badge of bravery and give you the name ‘Winyan Kipanpi Win,’ (Calling Unto Her Woman) and you are my sister now…the name of Calling Unto Her Woman, or Calling For Her, was the name of the wife of Chief Big Head of the Hunkpapa Sioux. She is needed by her people, the Romanians, therefore the name is given.” The chief then drew blood from her forefinger and mingled it with his forearm.

The queen’s next visit was Dickinson. There, she left the train dressed in traditional costume to pay tribute to the Romanian people who settled there. The queen then proceeded on to Medora. There, a rodeo was held in honor of the queen. She and her two children, Princess Ileana and Prince Nicholas dressed in riding garb and rode in the rodeo. The people of North Dakota must have made quite an impression on the queen, for at the end of this one-day visit to the state, the queen said, “It has been one of the happiest days of my life.”

This was quite the compliment coming from who was considered Europe’s most beautiful queen at the time. But, if the “Royal Gorge” and her compassion for the North Dakota farmers and Native Americans wasn’t enough to convince North Dakotans of the queen’s humility, her departure from Mandan should. When the train lurched away from Mandan, the queen lost her balance and fell into the laps of the farmers visiting her. The queen did not act shocked, or disgraced, but rather found humor in the incident. According to the Independent, “It was said there were no objections on the part of the farmers—nor the queen.”

By Tessa Sandstrom

Sources:
“The Royal Gorge in North Dakota,” Ward County Independent. Nov. 18, 1926: 15.
“North Dakota does honor to Queen of Romania on visit,” Ward County Independent. Nov. 4, 1926: 1.
Ward County Independent. Oct. 21, 1926: 13.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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