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. Our fall 2020 semesters are going online in a new format.
Great Plains: Anywhere
This fall, the Center for Great Plains Studies has revamped our Paul A. Olson Great Plains lecture series so that you can watch or listen to it anywhere. Throughout the rest of the year, we'll be publishing short talks with a wide range of Great Plains experts. Each episode will be available as a video and a podcast. Coming topics include Robber's Cave, extreme weather, and COVID-19 on the Great Plains.
Episode 1: New Director Margaret Jacobs
The first entry in our fall 2020 Great Plains mini talks is an interview with the new director for the Center for Great Plains Studies, Margaret Jacobs, Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For more information on her projects, visit: https://www.reconciliationrising.org/
Panel: Black Homesteaders in the Great Plains
Richard Edwards, Center Director, and Mikal Eckstrom, Post-Doctoral Researcher, will speak on their research about African American homesteaders in the Great Plains. Their project, funded by the National Park Service, seeks to bring to life a history that was nearly forgotten. Dr. Deanda Johnson, National Park Service, and Dr. Jeannette Jones, UNL history department, will comment on their research.Facebook Live video
Friends of the Missouri National Recreational River: "Befriending the Mighty Mo: Missouri River as Ally"
Nov. 21, 2019
The Missouri River, North America's longest river, is among the most important features of the Great Plains. Portions of this expansive waterway comprise a national park, the Missouri National Recreational River.
The Friends of the Missouri National Recreational River organization advocates for this river, focusing on its scenic and recreational opportunities, its cultural, historical values, and activities that help sustain the river's economic viability. Representatives will share insights on why this valuable river means so much to the Great Plains.
Daniel Peterson, Chief of Interpretation, Education, & Outreach for the National Park Service, Missouri National Recreational River. Over the course of the last decade Dan has worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a Wildlife Refuge Specialist, Visitor Services Specialist, and Park Ranger at three different areas.
Jarett C. Bies, writer/kayaker. For more than a decade Bies has supported efforts to get more people on the water as a member and past president of the South Dakota Canoe & Kayak Association.
The presentation will also include a short documentary film about conservation efforts being made on the Missouri.
Ann Weisgarber: "Discovering Rachel Dupree: Writing Historical Fiction in the Great Plains"
Weisgarber will speak about the process of constructing historical fiction in her first book, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. Her character, Rachel DuPree, an African American woman, left Chicago with her husband to claim homesteads in the Badlands of South Dakota in 1917. The book won the Stephen Turner Award for New Fiction and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction. In England, the novel garnered nominations for the 2009 Orange Prize and the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers.
Oct. 24, 2019
Weisgarber’s book, The Promise, was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and a finalist for the Spur Award for Best Western Historical Fiction and the Ohioana Book Award for Fiction. Her latest book, The Glovemaker, set in Utah, was released in 2019. Weisgarber currently lives in Galveston, Texas.
Bird Runningwater: "Our Stories Onscreen: Creating a Narrative with Native Filmmakers"
Oct. 10, 2019
Representations of Native Americans in film have a long history of stereotypes and generalizations. Bird Runningwater is the program director for the Native American Indigenous Program at the Sundance Institute, whose goal is to increase Indigenous visibility in American culture. Runningwater supports Indigenous artists from across the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and other countries, helping to bring their stories to the screen. Over the past 25 years, more than 300 Indigenous filmmakers have participated in the Sundance program. Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribes and grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. Based in Los Angeles, Calif., he oversees the Native Filmmakers Lab, the Native Producers Fellowship, and the Sundance Film Festival’s Native Forum. Runningwater also serves on the Comcast/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council and the Boards of Directors of the First Peoples Fund and Illuminative. He is also a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
This annual lecture from the University of Nebraska State Museum is possible thanks to generous contributions from Anne M. Hubbard, M.D. and the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation.
C.J. Janovy: "No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas"
Sept. 26, 2019
In the book, Janovy, an editor for public radio in Kansas City, MO, shares the diverse voices and experiences of LGBT community members living on the plains and working for social change. She won the Center's 2019 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize and will also receive a medallion and $10,000 award attached to the book prize during the lecture.
Angela Bates: "Home in the Promised Lands of Kansas: From Slavery to Homesteading"
Feb. 21, 2019
Bates, President/Executive Director of the Nicodemus Historical Society and Museum, will explore the personal and human element of the freedom experienced by Black homesteaders at Nicodemus, Kansas. The residents of this settlement shifted from slavery to land ownership in the free state of Kansas -- and they made Nicodemus their own. By highlighting the personal family stories of the settlers, Bates will examine how the concept of choice is introduced with emancipation.
Cody Havard: "Us, Them, and We: Sport Rivalry in the Cornhusker State and Beyond"
March 6, 2019
Havard, associate professor, Sport Commerce at the University of Memphis, will discuss rivalry in sport, including implications drawn from the Cornhusker State and beyond such as conference realignment and responsible promotion of rivalry. The talk will feature what fans, organizations, and researchers can do to better understand rivalry address fan behavior. Discussion will also feature the Adventures with Sport Rivalry Man project that uses comics strips and cartoons to teach about rivalry and appropriate group member behavior.
Megan Black: "The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power"
April 3, 2019
An assistant professor of international history at the London School of Economics, Black's new book, The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power (Harvard University Press, 2018), explores an American project of global extraction spearheaded by the U.S. Department of the Interior in the twentieth century.
Co-sponsored by the UNL History Department, the UNL Political Science Department, and the UNL Faculty Senate Convocations Committee.
2018 One Book One Nebraska Reading and Discussion
Nov. 8, 2018
Join the editors and poets of Nebraska Presence: An Anthology of Poetry, the 2018 One Book One Nebraska selection, in the exploration and celebration of Nebraska's history and people through poetry. Anthology poets will read from their work and answer questions about the joys and challenges of writing about our state. Edited by Greg Kosmicki and Mary K. Stillwell, Nebraska Presence includes poems by more than 80 contemporary Nebraska poets, including Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States, Ted Kooser, Nebraska State Poet Twyla Hansen, former State Poet William Kloefkorn, and many others.
Mary Kathryn Nagle: "Sovereignty and Safety for Native Women"
Oct. 10, 2018
Sixth annual First Peoples of the Plains Hubbard Lecture from the University of Nebraska State Museum.
Safety for Native women is directly related to the sovereignty of our Nations. Throughout history, those who wish to strip Tribal Nations of their sovereignty attack Native women, with the understanding that women, as life givers, constitute the foundation of Tribal Nations and ensure the continued existence of tribal citizens. Ensuring the safety for Native women therefore ensures protection and preservation of tribal sovereignty. From Worcester v. Georgia to Dollar General Corp. v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the U.S. Supreme Court has played a pivotal role in upholding—and unfortunately sometimes erasing—the sovereignty of Tribal Nations. The lecture is made possible by contributions from Anne M. Hubbard and the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation.
Ted Genoways: "This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm"
Sept. 20, 2018
The winner of the 2018 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize is author Ted Genoways for his chronicling of the Hammond family farm from harvest to harvest in This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm. Genoways will give a talk on the book and receive the book prize at this event. Genoways is a contributing editor at Mother Jones, The New Republic, and Pacific Standard. His last book, The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for Writing and Literature. His other honors include a National Press Club Award, an Association of Food Journalists Award, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, and fellowships from the NEA and Guggenheim Foundation.
Walter Echo-Hawk: "The Sea of Grass"
Aug. 26, 2018
Attorney and legal scholar Walter Echo-Hawk will speak about his new book The Sea of Grass: A Family Tale from the American Heartland. Echo-Hawk spent time as a visiting scholar at the Center for Great Plains Studies while doing research to develop this book. The historical fiction novel is inspired by real people and events that were shaped by the land, animals, and plants of the Central Plains and by the long sweep of Indigenous history in the grasslands. Major events are presented from a Pawnee perspective. The oral tradition from 10 generations of Echo-Hawk’s family tell the stories of the spiritual side of Native life, and give voice to the rich culture of the Pawnee Nation. This event is part of the Nebraska Book Festival.
Elizabeth Rubendall Artist in Residence Henry Payer: March 2018
Henry Payer is a Ho-Chunk multidisciplinary artist who works primarily with collage and mixed media in a bold and contemporary way. His works reference the altered landscape through Indigenous cartographic methods of "picture-writing" with traditional aspects of spatial representation and symbolism combined with European modernist models of cubism, spatial distortion and collage. Each work offers a visual narrative of symbols and appropriated voices from American consumer society that reconfigures history, the landscape or the identity of a portrait. Henry represents the work of a new generation of artists seeking to expand the range and voice of their visual and cultural representation, while attending to forms of tradition.
Richard Sutton: Reading the Nebraska Landscape: Feb. 2018
What is there we like (or don't) about the Nebraska landscape? Dr. Richard K. Sutton has been thinking and interacting with the Nebraska landscape for nearly 70-years and has crafted his own enviro-aesthetic approach to that question. His book manuscript of 16 chapters and 323 pages takes the reader place by place and step by step through the process of reading Nebraska's landscape. He connects scenery, exploration of our shared history and description of our community of people and plants, suggests an understanding of the impacts of natural and cultural places, and projects the future of a shared landscape.
Lance Morgan: Claire M. Hubbard First Peoples of the Plains lecture, "Tribal Economics: A Dark Past and Promising Future" - Oct. 24, 2017
University of Nebraska State Museum's annual lecture series.
Lance Morgan, CEO and President of Ho-Chunk Inc. and a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, shared how new economic initiatives are dramatically improving the future for Nebraska Tribes. Morgan launched Ho-Chunk, Inc. in 1994 as the economic development corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Part of the University of Nebraska State Muesum's Hubbard lecture series.
Karen Hansen: "An Encounter on the Great Plains: Spirit Lake Dakota and Scandinavian Settlers" - Oct. 4, 2017
As part of this event, we launched the new book, "Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History," produced by Center Director Rick Edwards and former Great Plains Graduate Fellows Rebecca Wingo and Jake Friefeld. Copies will be available for purchase and signing.
Two epic processes in U.S. history—immigration and dispossession—collide on a remote Indian reservation in the early 20th Century. Using oral histories with elders and land records, Hansen explores life on the Spirit Lake Dakota Indian Reservation where Scandinavians began homesteading, with the sanction of the U.S. government. In effect, as land takers and land purchasers, they dispossessed Dakota Sioux while living as their neighbors on the reservation. The coexistence of these two profoundly different peoples reveals conflict over the meaning of land and their mutuality as they both sought to maintain their language, practice their culture, and honor loyalties to more than one nation. Hansen, Professor at Brandeis University, has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her most recent book, "Encounter on the Great Plains," won the 2016 Chaudhuri Book Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians.
Dan Flores: "Losing and Recovering the American Serengeti" - Sept. 14, 2017
At one time, the American Great Plains functioned as a North American version of the Serengeti or Masai Mara in Africa. Flores will talk about this time period and describe how, in one of the greatest destructions of wildlife in world history, we unthinkingly destroyed the American Serengeti in the 19th and 20th centuries. Flores delves into the remaining possibilities to restore at least some places on the Great Plains to their former glory as a world-class wildlife reserves. Flores is the 2017 Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize Winner for American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains. He is a writer and historian who specializes in environmental and cultural history of the American West. Before his retirement, Flores held the A.B. Hammond Chair in Western History at the University of Montana. He is also the author of Coyote America, winner of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award.
"Could the People of the Great Plains Have Distinctive Character Traits?" - April 20, 2017
Is it possible that just by residing in the Great Plains, we have our own set of deep and distinct identities, values, philosophies, creeds, and personalities? Based on a recent journal article in Great Plains Research, John Hibbing explores how we might answer these questions and what it says about the Great Plains as a region. Hibbing studies how biological variations change the way people respond to politics and the environment. Hibbing is a Foundation Regent University Professor in Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
"Human Trafficking in the Great Plains" - March 14, 2017
Becky Buller, Geographer, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Many people—including some victims, survivors, service providers, and law officials—have recognized that human trafficking regularly takes place within the contemporary Great Plains. Yet, for the most part, the general public is still largely unaware of the phenomenon. This talk, with special emphasis on Nebraska, will briefly introduce the basics of human trafficking in the Great Plains, its impact on the region, and practical ways in which individuals can realize, recognize, and respond.
"Radical Presence: Black Faces, White Spaces & Other Stories of Possibility" - Feb. 2, 2017
Carolyn Finney, Professor in Geography at the University of Kentucky.
In her recently published book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors (UNC Press), Finney explores the complexities and contradictions of the African American environmental relationship. Drawing on “green” conversations with black people from around the country, Finney considers the power of resistance and resilience in the emergence of creative responses to environmental and social challenges in our cities and beyond. Using imagination and a little true grit, these individuals challenge us to see differently and do differently in our changing world.
Contemporary Indigeneity: Spiritual Borderlands Juror Panel Discussion - Nov. 3, 2016
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.
The Honorable Harvest: Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation - Oct. 25, 2016
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
Watch the lecture
Metis and the Medicine Line - Sept. 29, 2016
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.
Panel: Our Grass Earth: Conserving the Great Plains - April 20, 2016
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."
Download audio (MP3)
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"
Download audio (MP3)
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
Panel: 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
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
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