About the Center

The Center for Great Plains Studies is a regional research and teaching program established in 1976 at the University of Nebraska. The mission of the Center is to foster the study of and appreciation for the people, cultures, and natural environment of the Great Plains.

  • A sparsely-populated region with highly variable weather set against grassy, rolling land, the Great Plains stretches westward from the Missouri River at Omaha and Kansas City to the Rocky Mountains, and northward from the Texas Panhandle into the Canadian Prairie Provinces.

  • The region invites inquiry into the relationships between its natural environment and the cultures brought to it by its various inhabitants, as scholars and residents work both to preserve healthy eco-systems and build thriving human communities.

The Center operates the Great Plains Art Museum, the Plains Humanities Alliance, undergraduate and graduate programs, various scholarly projects, and outreach programs; it publishes Great Plains Quarterly and Great Plains Research; it presents public lectures and interdisciplinary symposia.  Much of its work is accomplished by its Fellows and Associate Fellows.

Great Plains Map

About the Great Plains map

This map was created by the editors of the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, who took into account several factors including ecology, geography, culture, history, and more. The Great Plains is a vast expanse of grasslands that incorporates more than 1,800 miles north and south and more than 500 east to west. The region was once labeled “The Great American Desert,” but is now thought of as a more fertile, semi-arid grassland teeming with biodiversity, though agriculture-based irrigation is increasingly displacing the original prairie. The Plains is home to impactful history including the Dust Bowl, the massacre at Wounded Knee, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and many more events. It has been inhabited for more than 12,000 years, since Paleo-Indians hunted mammoth and bison, though the term “Great Plains” has only been widely accepted since the 1930s.

Any region is both a real place and a concept, leaving us with the challenge of defining borders via the human and physical environments. These borders are not hard ones, but they are logical according to the physical, historical, and cultural characteristics that inhabit the region. For more information on the Great Plains, please see the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains and The Atlas of the Great Plains.

-- Adapted from the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains