Governor notes good behavior in North Dakota turkey forgiveness


Governor Doug Burgum pardoned two turkeys on Friday, noting its good behavior compared to past birds.

“I think in my time it’s the wisest turkey we’ve had,” the governor said as Sunflower the turkey stretched out one leg on a covered table in Memorial Hall at the state capitol. She gurgled throughout the traditional pre-Thanksgiving event.

Governor and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring presented frozen turkeys to representatives of the Adult Abuse Resource Center and Heavens Helpers Soup Cafe in Bismarck. The organizations each received 15 frozen birds for Thanksgiving on behalf of the North Dakota Turkey Federation.

North Dakota turkey farmers raise 1 million birds a year, but they’ve faced challenges due to a nationwide outbreak of avian flu, according to Goehring. Five of the eight main producers were affected and two were able to restock, he said.

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“It’s…a lot of stress on the family and a lot of stress on the community,” Goehring said.

Burgum noted the emotional and financial distress the country’s recent inflation can cause families.

“We hope these donations will inspire others to give generously during this time of year to support local organizations that support those who may be challenged during the holiday season,” he said.

Burgum pardoned Sunflower and Honey, two 19-week-old, 26-pound turkeys from the Wittenburg family’s flock near Wyndmere.

He read a poem that he recognized might not be suitable for the well-bred sunflower.

“It’s not easy to feel gratitude for a turkey with an attitude, so give thanks, Sunflower, that you are beautiful. It saved you the Thanksgiving kitchen,” Burgum said before raising his right arm and saying forgive the bird.

The vocal sunflower stretched her legs and looked around the room, with three frozen turkeys on the table with her. She also relieved herself on the table. The honey remained in a crate behind the table.

The Abused Adult Resource Center, which operates an emergency shelter and a transitional shelter, housed about 200 parents and children last year, and 240 through October 2022, according to executive director Michelle Erickson. She noted the relevance of the turkey donations coinciding with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

“People in our shelters are considered homeless, and they are so grateful to have a really good Thanksgiving dinner like they would have if they were in their own happy, safe homes,” Erickson said.

Soup Cafe ministry co-ordinator Dave Bender noted the high cost of meat: “So when we get a gift of protein, we know our soups and meals will be enough for people who are not just without shelter, but we are definitely serving the working poor, people who have the same limited income with more expensive gas and more expensive food.”

Governor Burgum's pardons weigh on the role of dependency and

Since taking office in 2016, Burgum has issued 167 pardons — for individuals — including eight this year.

The total includes 83 summary pardons issued by Burgum as part of a 2019 policy change streamlining the process for those convicted of low-intensity marijuana offenses.

Burgum said he thinks attitudes have changed towards alcohol and drug use disorders and he doesn’t think a person should be ‘hounded’ by a conviction that may involve their addiction .

Contact Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or


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