Winner of Great Plains book prize leads off Olson Seminars Sept. 19

Released on 09/05/2007, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2007

WHERE: Great Plains Art Museum

Lincoln, Neb., September 5th, 2007 —
Michael Tate
Michael Tate
Tate book dustjacket
Tate book dustjacket

Michael L. Tate, who received the Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize for his book, "Indians and Emigrants: Encounters on the Overland Trails," will deliver the fall's first Paul A. Olson Seminar in Great Plains Studies Sept. 19 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Tate's presentation will begin at 3:30 p.m. at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St.

James Stubbendieck, director of UNL's Center for Great Plains Studies, said, "Tate will receive a cash award and a medallion created for the book prize and will talk about his book, which will give our audience a chance to hear about his research on overland trails." The book prize was created to stress the interdisciplinary importance of the Great Plains in today's publishing and educational market.

"Among the most ubiquitous symbols associated with America's westward migration are the incessant Indian attacks upon intrepid pioneer wagon trains," Tate said. "Art works, dime novels, movies and other popular culture mediums have repeatedly celebrated the theme of conflict between Native American and Euro-American emigrants along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails."

In pursuing the real story of the overland trails, though, Tate found the reality of transcontinental migration was much different than public perceptions. "Between 1840 and 1860, probably fewer than four hundred overlanders out of a half-million were killed in Indian attacks along these heavily traveled byways," he said. "Far more died from disease, accidental gunshot wounds and other trail mishaps than died in actual combats. In truth, acts of cooperation and even compassion more accurately define the trail experience during the mid-19th century, even though the two peoples operated in exceedingly different cultural worlds."

Tate's presentation will focus on understanding those acts of cooperation, the diverse motivations behind them, the complex set of intercultural relationships between peoples, and the reasons for increasing conflict in the late 1850s.

Tate is professor of history and Native American studies and the Charles and Mary Martin chair of western history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he teaches Native American history and the history of the 19th-century American West. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toledo. "Indians and Emigrants" was published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2006. Tate is also the author of "The Frontier Army in the Settlement of the West" (University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), which won the Nebraska Book Award.

Tate's lecture is free and open to the public, as is a reception following the talk.

Two other Olson seminars are scheduled for the fall semester (both begin at 3:30 p.m. in the Great Plains Art Museum and are free and open to the public):

* Oct. 17: "Global Treasures: The Origins of Plants that Sustain Life," P. Stephen Baenziger, Eugene W. Price distinguished professor, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, UNL.

* Nov. 14: "What Kinds of Farms and Ranches Can Survive in Urbanizing Areas? Hobby and/or Commercial? Temporary and/or Lasting?" J. Dixon Esseks, visiting scholar, Center for Great Plains Studies, UNL, and emeritus professor of public administration, Northern Illinois University.

The Olson Seminars series was named after Paul A. Olson, foundation professor emeritus of English at UNL, who was the one of the creators of the Center for Great Plains Studies and its first director. Olson initiated the seminar series in 1976 and moderated each program until 1995.

For more information, contact the center at (402) 472-3082 or visit

Contact: Kim Weide, Center for Great Plains Studies, (402) 472-3964 (

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