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Black Hills State University student Nick Gale, history education major from Belle Fourche, won the Black Hill Chapter of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society's 2013 Essay Contest.
Nick Gale is not German nor is he originally from South Dakota; however, the Black Hills State University student’s interest in history prompted him to research and write an essay on both of those topics.

Gale, history education major from Belle Fourche, won the Black Hills Chapter of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society’s 2013 Essay Contest – University Level for his paper titled “Russia’s gift to the Dakotas.”  The Society’s goal for the essay contest is to get people interested in discovering the common history unique to Germanic-Russians and to preserve the many elements of their rich heritage.

Gale entered the contest after learning about it from Dr. Sasha Pursley, BHSU associate professor of history.

He said he has a strong interest in history but knew little of the German-Russian background in the Dakotas. “I definitely have a better understanding of it now. I learned an awful lot about South Dakota.”

Gale and his wife moved to South Dakota from Idaho three years ago, but Gale is originally from Texas.

In his essay, Gale describes the migration of Germans from Russia to South Dakota. According to Gale, many Germans had migrated to Russia in the 1760s when Catherine the Great needed good farmers to settle in the areas of the Ukraine and Red Sea. For their settlement, the Germans received free land, religious freedom and military deferment. However, a century later those privileges were being revoked so many German colonists came to America, many of them settling in the Dakotas. They brought a variety of winter wheat seeds with them helping South Dakota become a major wheat producer.

“They came for the land, stuck around and built communities, and their influence and desire is what built the Territory,” Gale said.

For his winning essay, Gale received a plaque and $150.