Community pageants, Eastmans, Nicodemus, Kan., in GP Quarterly

Released on 03/10/2008, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., March 10, 2008 -- , March 10th, 2008 —

In the winter issue of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Great Plains Quarterly, researchers wrote about myths of white settlement in the west as viewed through community pageants; Charles Eastman and Elaine Goodale Eastman during the end of an era of U.S. Indian policy; and the real meaning behind the naming of Nicodemus, Kan.

In her article, "The Pageant of Paha Sapa: An Origin Myth of White Settlement in the American West," archaeologist and ethnohistorian Linea Sundstrom writes about the social evolution of the pageant movement using Custer, S.D., as her focus. "History as expressed in Custer's pageant leaped from primitive perfection to historic chaos to a modern, orderly community. Modifications to the script and performance over the years imply points of tension between the local women's early post-frontier origin myth and new views of frontier history at mid-20th century," writes Sundstrom.

Friends University historian Gretchen Cassell Eick focuses on U.S. Indian policy in 1865-90 as viewed through the lives of Charles A. Eastman and Elaine Goodale Eastman. Eick writes, "These 25 years were a watershed time for two regions -- the South and the Great Plains. In the South the federal government would struggle with what to do with 4 million freed people. . . In the Great Plains, the government engaged in a parallel struggle over what to do with 300,000 Native Americans."

In her article, "Naming a Place Nicodemus," Rosamond C. Rodman, assistant professor of religious studies at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, takes an in-depth look at Nicodemus, one of the first all-black settlements in Kansas, and the sole remaining western town founded by and for African Americans at the end of Reconstruction. Rodman writes, "Most scholars think that the name of the town derives from a legendary slave rather than the biblical character." Her essay challenges that consensus, contending the name Nicodemus refers to the biblical character, which "conveys, in veiled form, significant meanings for African Americans," said Rodman.

Great Plains Quarterly is published by the Center for Great Plains Studies at UNL. The journal may be purchased in the Great Plains Art Museum gift shop at 1155 Q St., or by calling the center at (402) 472-3082. Order forms are available online at