2022 Symposium




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Great Plains Conference: April 6-8, 2022

The 2022 Great Plains conference asks how residents of the Great Plains can best reckon with the violence, conflict, and abuse that has occurred in our region and move toward healing, justice, and reconciliation. It invites us to remember and honor the painful past, and then to imagine and build new relationships and communities based on respect and dignity for all. People on the Great Plains have suffered dispossession, exile, violence, discrimination, exclusion, exploitation, forcible assimilation, and family separation. Typical accounts of the region often downplay or erase these events. Yet past abuses have contributed to current disparities and inequalities, and our failure to confront them has limited our possibilities to create a fully inclusive and thriving society.

This conference will bring together a wide variety of speakers and activities to reckon with the past while also highlighting the resiliency of people and culture moving forward. The event is designed for community members, local and regional leaders, student groups, the academic community, and anyone interested in these issues. Keynote speaker Walter Echo-Hawk will kick off the following two full days of speakers, cultural events, panels and workshops. Attendees can also enjoy the Contemporary Indigeneity exhibition at the Great Plains Art Museum.

Supported by

The Center for Great Plains Studies


  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • Office of Research & Economic Development
  • Office of the Chancellor
  • College of Law
  • College of Education and Human Sciences
  • Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts
  • Institute of Ethnic Studies
  • Office of the President
  • Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor
  • Diversity Officers Collaborative

Outside UNL:

  • University of Nebraska at Kearney
  • Humanities Nebraska

Proposal submissions are now closed.

Those who have submitted proposals will hear back on or before Nov. 15, 2021

Featured conference speakers


Walter Echo-Hawk is President of the Pawnee Nation Business Council. As an author, attorney, and legal scholar he was the Dan and Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair on Democratic Ideals at University of Hawai’i’s Law School (2018). He authored The Sea of Grass (2018); In The Light Of Justice (2013); In the Courts of the Conqueror (2010); and Battlefields and Burial Grounds (1994). A Pawnee Indian with a BA, Political Science, OSU and JD, UNM, he practices law in Oklahoma. In addition to his tribal government duties, he is Chair, Board of Directors, Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM); and is a Knowledge Givers Advisory Board member, First American Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a staff attorney of the Native American Rights Fund (1973-2009), he represented Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians on significant legal issues in the modern era of federal Indian law, during the rise of modern Indian Nations in the tribal sovereignty movement. He litigated indigenous rights pertaining to religious freedom, prisoner rights, water rights, treaty rights, and reburial/repatriation rights.

Hannibal Johnson

Hannibal B. Johnson, a Harvard Law School graduate, is an author, attorney, and consultant. He has taught at The University of Tulsa College of Law, Oklahoma State University, and The University of Oklahoma. Johnson serves on numerous boards and commissions, including the Federal 400 Years of African-American History Commission and the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. His books, including Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples With Its Historical Racial Trauma, chronicle the African American experience in Oklahoma and its indelible impact on American history. Johnson’s play, Big Mama Speaks—A Tulsa Race Riot Survivor’s Story, was selected for the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival and has been staged in Caux, Switzerland. He has received numerous honors and awards for his work and community service.

Tara Houska

Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe) is a tribal attorney, founder of Giniw Collective, and a former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders. She spent six months on the frontlines fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and is currently engaged in the movement to defund fossil fuels and a years-long struggle against Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline. She is a co-founder of Not Your Mascots, a group committed to positive representation of Native peoples.

She is a TED speaker, the 2017 Harvard “Public Interested” keynote, received an “Awesome Women Award” from Melinda Gates, a 2019 Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award and is featured in “Women: A Century of Change” by National Geographic. Tara has written for the women-led climate anthology “All We Can Save”, the New York Times, the Guardian, Vogue, and Indian Country Today. She lives in a pipeline resistance camp in Northern Minnesota.

Tristan Ahtone

Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and editor-in-chief at the Texas Observer. He previously served as Indigenous Affairs editor at High Country News. He has reported for Al Jazeera America, “PBS NewsHour,” “National Native News,” NPR and National Geographic. Ahtone’s stories have won multiple honors, including investigative awards the Gannett Foundation and Public Radio News Directors Incorporated. He additionally led the High Country News team that received a George Polk Award, an IRE Award, a Sigma Award, a Society of News Design Award and a National Magazine Award nomination. A past president of the Native American Journalists Association, Ahtone is a 2017 Nieman Fellow and director of the Muckrock Foundation.

Jerilyn DeCoteau

Jerilyn DeCoteau, is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. She currently serves as Chief Justice for the Supreme Court of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso and has helped them develop a Judicial Branch. As a lawyer, she has pressed for the rights of Indian tribes to govern themselves, control their resources and ensure human rights. She has worked at the Native American Rights Fund and the U.S. Department of Justice, litigating treaty, fishing, land, and water rights. She served as Director of the Indian Law Clinic for the University of Colorado, as counsel for her tribe, and has taught law courses at the University of Denver, Yale, and Turtle Mountain Tribal Community College. DeCoteau is a founding member and past president of the Board of Directors of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. She was instrumental in establishing Indigenous Peoples Day in Boulder, Colo., and is a co-founder of a local grass roots group, Right Relationship Boulder, designed to build relationships with Indigenous people and tribes. She is Co-director for Toward Right Relationship, a national project that offers workshops and presentations on the impacts of colonization.

Paula Palmer

Paula Palmer is a sociologist, writer, and activist for human rights, social justice, and environmental protection. She co-directs Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, a program of Friends Peace Teams. With guidance from Native American educators, Paula created workshops titled, “Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change: Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples” (for adults) and “Re-Discovering America: Understanding Colonization” (for middle schools and high schools). She coordinates the work of Native and non-Native facilitators who present these workshops nationwide.

In 2017, Paula co-founded Right Relationship Boulder, a community group that works with local governments and organizations to lift up the history, presence, and contributions of Indigenous peoples in the Boulder Valley. As the 2016 Pendle Hill Cadbury Scholar, she conducted research and produced articles and videos about the role Quakers played during the era of the Indian Boarding Schools.

Conference schedule

Coming soon