1862-2012 is focus of symposium hosted by UNL, Homestead Monument

Released on 02/23/2012, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2012, through Mar. 30, 2012

WHERE: Various venues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Homestead National Monument

Lincoln, Neb., February 23rd, 2012 —

            On March 28-30, researchers from across the continent will make their way to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a three-day symposium focused on exploring the impact of four landmark pieces of legislation passed by Congress in 1862 that fundamentally shaped the Great Plains.

            That year, Congress passed the Homestead Act, the Morrill Act that created the nation's land-grant colleges and universities, the Pacific Railroad Act and the act that established the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Also, 1862 saw the Dakota War, a conflict that set the nation on a path of military suppression of the region's American Indians.

            The symposium, "1862-2012: The Making of the Great Plains," is sponsored by the University of Nebraska's Center for Great Plains Studies in collaboration with Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice.

            "We wanted this symposium to showcase those early acts of Congress and the Dakota conflict for the hugely important consequences, some positive and others negative that flowed from them," said Richard Edwards, director of the center and symposium co-chair. "They were central features framing the development of the Great Plains. The legislative acts focused on long-term payoffs in settling the western part of the U.S., developing a new kind of higher education, and creating a government agency to foster agriculture."

            Mark Engler, superintendent of Homestead National Monument, said "Homestead National Monument of America is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act this year with a number of related events. It seemed a natural progression for us to team with the Center for Great Plains Studies to produce this symposium. We look forward to the dialogue and welcome the opportunity to host the closing events Friday evening at Homestead."

            Ten nationally known speakers will talk on their areas of expertise. In addition, 74 presenters will give research papers in concurrent sessions, and another 23 scholars will present electronic posters of their work. The featured speakers include:

  • Sarah Carter, Henry Marshall Tory Professor and Chair, Department of History and Classics and Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta
  • Myron Gutmann, Head, Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation, and Professor of History and Director, Population and Environment in the U.S. Great Plains Project, University of Michigan
  • Martin Jischke, President Emeritus, Purdue University
  • William Thomas III, John and Catherine Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor and Chair of History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • David Von Drehle, Editor-at-Large, Time Magazine
  • Elliott West, Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, University of Arkansas
  • Richard White, Margaret Byrne Professor of American History, Stanford University
  • Daniel Wildcat, Director of the American Indian Studies Program, Haskell Indian Nations University
  • David Wishart, Professor of Geography and GIS Science Faculty, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Donald Worster, Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Professor of U.S. History, University of Kansas

            The symposium will also feature performances by Jack Gladstone, award-winning singer/composer sometimes called "Montana's Blackfeet Troubadour."

            The symposium opens March 28 with a presentation by Worster at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St. Worster’s talk, "An Unquenchable Thirst: How the Great Plains Created a Water Abundance and Then Lost It," is cosponsored by the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues. Worster's talk is free and open to the public, but requires tickets available through the Lied Center, www.liedcenter.org or 402-472-4747.

            Three other symposium events are free to the public:

  • Electronic poster session, March 29, 9:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m., Centennial Room, Nebraska Union, 14th and R streets;
  • "Railroads, Art and the Making of Modern America," March 29, 7 p.m., lecture by William Thomas, Sheldon Museum of Art, 12th and R streets, jointly sponsored by the Sheldon (free tickets available at the door; seating is limited)
  • "Indian-White Relationships in Historical Perspective," March 30, 1:45-3:30 p.m., panel discussion with Sarah Carter, Daniel Wildcat and David Wishart, Nebraska Union.

            The conference will close March 30 with a trip to Homestead National Monument, where attendees will be enriched by a performance by Gladstone, and West will summarize the symposium topic with "What Have We Learned?"

            For more information and to register for the symposium visit www.unl.edu/plains or call 402-472-3965. The full symposium agenda is available at the website. Advance registration before March 21 is $85 and includes tickets to luncheons and special events. Student registration is available at a reduced rate.

            Additional symposium sponsors are BNSF Foundation, Cooper Foundation, Kimmel Foundation, National Park Service, Nebraska Humanities Council and Nebraska Cultural Endowment, and UNL's Vice Chancellors for Academic Affairs, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Research and Economic Development.

            The Center for Great Plains Studies is an interdisciplinary, intercollegiate, regional research and teaching program chartered in 1976 by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. This is its 38th annual interdisciplinary symposium. Homestead National Monument of America is a unit of the National Park Service located four miles west of Beatrice.

Writer: Linda Ratcliffe

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