Great Plains, Great Ideas: Paul A. Olson Seminars

The Paul A. Olson Seminars in Great Plains Studies offer an opportunity for interested scholars, students, and members of the community to come together to examine various topics related to the Great Plains. The seminars, offered monthly during the academic year, are free and open to the public. Audio for each lecture will be loaded up 2 to 3 days after the lecture. If you need an accommodation, please call 402-472-3964. Seminars are at at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St.

Fall 2016

Michel Hogue

September 29, 7 p.m.:
"Metis and the Medicine Line"

Michel Hogue, 2016 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize winner for Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People, Assistant Professor in History at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.

This talk examines the role Indigenous peoples played in the formation of modern political boundaries in North America. It focuses on the experiences of the Plains Metis and explores how these communities of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry were at the center of the efforts by nation-states to divide and absorb the North American West.

Listen to the lecture

Robin Kimmerer

HUBBARD LECTURE: October 25, 7 p.m. (public reception 6 p.m.):
"The Honorable Harvest: Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation"

Robin Kimmerer, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

This talk examines traditional indigenous approaches to the environment and the valuable lessons they teach.

The Center is hosting the University of Nebraska State Museum's annual Claire M. Hubbard First Peoples of the Plains Lecture

Lecture video

CI panel

November 3, 7 p.m.: "Contemporary Indigeneity 2016: Spiritual Borderlands Juror Panel Discussion"

The jurors for this year’s iteration of the exhibition were selected for their knowledge of and connections to the contemporary Native American art community and include Netha Cloeter, Director of Education and Social Engagement, Plains Art Museum, Fargo, ND; heather ahtone, James T. Bialac Associate Curator of Native American & Non-Western Art, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma; and Jill Ahlberg Yohe, Ph.D., Assistant Curator of Native American Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art. An informal panel talk with the guest jurors will provide insight on the selection process and address topics regarding the contemporary Native American art.

This panel was funded in part by  the UNL Faculty Senate Convocations Committee.

Previous lectures

Panel: Our Grass Earth: Conserving the Great Plains - April 20, 2016

Art and ecology panel with artists Robin Walter, Sebastian Tsocanos, Kate Schneider, and Prairie Plains Resource Institute Executive Director William Whitney

Anthony Schutz and Peter Longo - March 16, 2016

The Nebraska Constitution has been the social contract for Nebraskans since 1875. The Constitution's persistence continues to shape Nebraska's political landscapes and constitutional changes reflect evolving beliefs.

David Jachowski - March 2, 2016

Jachowski is an assistant professor at Clemson University and author of Wild Again: The Struggle to Save the Black-Footed Ferret. From 2002 to 2012, was a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a team that helped coordinate the black-footed ferret’s recovery.

Elizabeth Fenn - Oct. 28, 2015

Elizabeth Fenn, Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize winner for Encounters at the Heart of the World, history chair, Univ. of Colorado Boulder, "Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People"

Viktoria Keding - Sept. 9, 2015

Viktoria Keding, Founder and Director, NaDEET (Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust), "Teaching Sustainability in Namibia"

John Anderson and Eric Thompson - Feb.18, 2015

UNL professors John Anderson and Eric Thompson discussed "State Taxes in the Great Plains"

Roberto Lenton - March 18, 2015

Water for Food Institute Founding Executive Director Roberto Lenton discussed how storage is key to enduring adequate water, food, and energy for a growing world population in this lecture, titled "Storage Systems for Drought Management and Food and Water Security." 


Ken Winkle - April 15, 2015

UNL professor and award-winning Lincoln biographer Ken Winkle will deliver a lecture on "The Civil War in the Great Plains"

Panel: Local Food on the Great Plains - Nov. 12, 2014

A panel of experts in the local food scene spoke about where the movement is going and what challenges the Great Plains faces as the movement continues to grow. Journal Star story | Audio | Slideshow

William Powers, Executive Director, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society; Billene Nemec, State Coordinator, Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska; Renee Cornett, Prairie Plate restaurant; Bob Bernt, Clear Creek Farm; Ruth Chantry, Common Good Farms. Speakers were accompanied by several local food producers sampling food items after the lecture. Sponsored by the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society.

Samplers include: Common Good Farm, Darby Springs Farm, Clear Creek Farm, Branched Oak Farm.

Bernard Flaman - Oct. 22, 2014

Conservation architect, member of the Saskatchewan Association of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

"Architecture at a Crossroads" -- "Architecture of Saskatchewan, A Visual Journey" was conceived as an informational and educational document to engage a public audience rather than as a highly critical text on the state of architecture in the northern reaches of the Great Plains. Flaman will expand on projects illustrated in the book and share thoughts on a possible future for Great Plains architecture and the small and medium sized cities that populate the region. Flaman is the winner of the 2014 Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize for his work, "Architecture of Saskatchewan, 1930-2011." Audio download: Bernard Flaman >

T. Lindsay Baker - Sept. 18, 2014

Professor, W.K. Gordon Endowed Chair of Southwestern History, Director, W.K. Gordon Center for the Industrial History of Texas Coordinator, Public History Graduate Program, Tarleton State University

"How the Wind Did Human Work on the Farm" -- Green energy has become a popular topic among Great Plains people as fuel prices have risen, but for decades people in the region used the renewable power of the wind to do part of their physical work. Baker will speak about how Plains residents pumped water, ground grain, sawed firewood, ran machine shops, and generated their own electricity using the free power of the wind. Audio from Baker's talk >

Miguel Carranza - March 19, 2014

Potholes and Sinkholes on the Road to Immigration Reform
Professor of Latina/Latino Studies & Sociology, Director, Latina/Latino Studies Program, University of Missouri-Kansas City

"The arrival of 'newcomers' from other countries has happened since the earliest days of settling the United States. These newcomers – immigrants – have come to flee persecution and poverty in their own countries in hopes of making something of themselves and something for their families. Immigrants have frequently had the challenge of entering the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder and having to prove their worth in order to achieve the 'American Dream' and become an integral part of our society. 

My presentation focuses on how the climate has changed over time for immigrants and their perceived value to our society. This climate has an impact, not only on our national borders and shores but throughout the U.S., including the Midwest and Great Plains regions. Furthermore, the factors that influence this environmental shift have a great deal to do with any success in achieving immigration reform."

Derek Hoff - Feb. 26, 2014

A Prophet without Honor?: Malthus on the Great Plains
History department, Kansas State University, author of The State and the Stork: The Population Debate and Policy Making in U.S. History (University of Chicago Press, 2012), and, with John Fliter, Fighting Foreclosure: The Blaisdell Case, the Contract Clause, and the Great Depression (University Press of Kansas, 2012).

From late nineteenth-century Bonanza farming to President Roosevelt's assurances to Great Plains farmers that they could "Maintain Themselves on the Land" (despite his administration's other efforts to retire "submarginal" farmland and relocate farmers) to the uproar over the Buffalo Commons proposal, Great Plains residents and boosters have often welcomed and promoted population growth in particular locales. And yet the pessimistic ideas of British pastor Thomas Malthus -- who famously argued at the turn of the nineteenth century that population growth would eventually overwhelm natural resources -- have resonated to a surprising degree on the Great Plains. This lecture offers a first draft of the history of population thought in the region. 

Press release >

Timothy Schaffert - Jan. 15, 2014

Summer Souvenirs and "The Swan Gondola": Reinventing the World's Fair 
UNL English

The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898 (Omaha's World's Fair) consisted of palaces and gardens and also a midway of dirt roads and collapsible shacks, reflecting the split personality of Omaha. Schaffert will speak about the Expo and his book at this lecture.

Leon Higley - Nov. 20, 2013

Climate Change and the Insects of the Great Plains
Insect ecologist, professor, School of Natural Resources, UNL

Prof. Higley spoke on the effects of climate change on native insects and how those changes can change the landscape.

Recording of the talk

William Farr - Oct. 16, 2013

Blackfoot Redemption
Emeritus Professor, History, University of Montana, senior fellow and founding director of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West

As winner of the Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize for his book "Blackfoot Redemption: A Blood Indian's Story of Murder, Confinement, and Imperfect Justice," Farr spoke about his task writing it and how the themes translate to modern day Native American issues.

Allan McCutcheon - March 6, 2013

Welcome to the Elections from the Inside: Exit Polls and Election Projections for the Great Plains
UNL professor, Survey Research & Methodology/Gallup, Statistics, Sociology, Mathematics

Priscilla Grew - Feb. 20, 2013

Engaging Lifelong Learners in Natural History: The Land-Grant Mission of the University of Nebraska State Museum
Director, University of Nebraska State Museum

Tom Lynch and Susan Maher - Jan. 16, 2013

Artifacts and Illuminations: Critical Essays on Loren Eiseley
Associate professor of English at UNL and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota Duluth