(2) National Expansion and Reform Subjects
Tales from Fort Atkinson: Feeding a Frontier Fort
When the Missouri Expedition was sent into the little known reaches of the Louisiana Purchase to establish a U.S. military presence, the Army failed to appreciate the difficulty of feeding its men on the frontier. Following a disastrous winter of 1819-1820, Colonel Atkinson was determined to keep his garrison healthy through cultivation of grain crops and vegetables. The agriculture program at Fort Atkinson not only provided a surplus of food for the men and their families, it also provided important information about farming on the plains for the settlers who would come later.
Trade Between the Lakota Sioux and Early White Traders
This program is about the changes in the Lakota language and culture due to the impact of the trade between the Lakota Sioux and early white traders. The value of the Lakota language is in the speakers ability to create words descriptively and instantaneously to any change or introduction of new items to their culture. The use of money started a whole new way of building words for measuring, weighing, credit, currency, budgeting and debt.
Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Carrie Nation
Come along on a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union crusade through the speakeasies, saloons and hoochie coochie tents of pre-prohibition times. Weiershauser and Kellogg share the stories of crusaders like Carrie Nation who, with bible in one hand and a hatchet in the other, sought to reform society through creation of a “sober and pure world.”
Frederick Douglass – The Voice of Abolition
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was the leading African American abolitionist of the nineteenth century. His “Narrative,” published in 1845, is a classic account of self-education as well as the most influential slave narrative. Douglass’s belief that the progress from slavery to freedom required mental liberation as well as physical liberation provides the theme for this presentation.
A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor
by Joe Starita
On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche received her medical degree―becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She earned her degree thirty-one years before women could vote and thirty-five years before Indians could become citizens in their own country. By age twenty-six, this fragile but indomitable Indian woman became the doctor to her tribe. Overnight, she acquired 1,244 patients scattered across 850 square miles of rolling countryside with few roads. Her patients often were desperately poor and desperately sick―tuberculosis, small pox, measles, influenza―families scattered miles apart, whose last hope was a young woman who spoke their language and knew their customs.
A Bad Man in a Better Place: Jesse James in Nebraska
by Jeff Barnes
The notorious Jesse James typically isn’t thought of in connection with Nebraska… but he was here. Nebraska was where the outlaw could find family and friends. It was where he could plan robberies, make a recovery or an escape, and even sit for his most famous photograph. He wanted to buy a farm here and some even say he started a family here! Author Jeff Barnes shares what’s known of the truth, the fiction, and the legend of Jesse James in Nebraska.
Buffalo Bill’s Nebraska
by Jeff Barnes
William F. Cody was born, raised, and died elsewhere but it was in Nebraska where he made his home and where the celebrity and legend of Buffalo Bill was born. What happened in the Cornhusker State to create a man who was arguably the world’s first “superstar”? Author Jeff Barnes tells the story of Cody in Nebraska, from his days as an Indian scout, as a hunting guide to the rich and famous, as the creator of “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” and his enduring legacy in the state, nation, and world today. PowerPoint presentation with historic and contemporary photos and images.
Voicing a Cause, Voicing a Self: Jane Addams of Hull House
Throughout her long career advocating the needs of impoverished immigrants, exploited laborers, youth criminals and war victims, Jane Addams valued Hull House, her settlement house in Chicago, as the center from which she and her colleagues could assist others and improve society, while adding meaning to their own lives. She trusted social democracy to restore dignity to the marginal. Her many publications reveal a person finding identity and purpose through her causes. The presentation, done in costume, helps to explain the path chosen by this Nobel Peace Prize recipient, as well as to convey the relevance of Addams’ work and ideas today.
Chief Little Crow of the 1862 Uprising
Kills Small presents the story of Little Crow, a Dakota leader, and his experience with the U.S. government culminating in the tragic events of 1862.
Mormon Trails and Communities in Nebraska
This program is about some 40,000 religious refugees, 1846-1866. They developed four trails and six communities in Nebraska. They published three early Nebraska newspapers, including the first in Omaha. A Mormon lawyer organized Nebraska’s first congressional election and devised a way to break the southern state’s deadlock on admission of Nebraska to the Union as a territory.
The Mormon Trail at the Missouri
This presentation explores the challenges facing the Mormons during their westward migration across the Missouri River and up the Platte River. Holmes discusses 90 Mormon communities in the Middle Missouri Valley which the refugees from western Illinois and southeastern Iowa built. There they regained their health and resupplied their covered wagons to go on another 900 miles to settle in the Great Salt Lake Valley.
Train Songs and Tales
by David Seay
What is it about trains that so easily engages one’s imagination? Climb aboard with David as he shares a variety of railroad inspired songs and stories that offer peeks into the past from a wide variety of points of view. This upbeat excursion is accompanied by guitar, banjo, harmonica, whistles, and a sing-along or two.
The Universal Sacred Hoop
by Nancy Gillis
Presentation explaining and exploring the concept of the sacred hoop image from a variety of tribal traditions, including the interpretation given to John G. Neihardt by the Oglala Lakota Holy Man Black Elk. Emphasis on the cultural and spiritual context. Approx. 45 min.
To Live and Die on the Plains
by Jeff Barnes
It wasn’t all sunsets and songbirds in crossing the Great Plains. Death was a frequent and indiscriminant fellow traveler on the wagon trails and he took many forms – disease, gunshot, stampedes, nature, accidents, Indian attack and many more. Author Jeff Barnes presents an interesting look at how you could have “bought the farm” on the Platte River Road, or at least have made a down payment. Rarely seen historic maps, paintings, photographs and other images are used to tell these tales of tragedy from the pioneers. NOTE: Some of the historic images presented are graphic in nature and may not be appropriate for younger audiences.
Understanding American Indian Tribal Governments
Morris asks what it means to be an enrolled tribal member, which leads to the issues of tribal jurisdiction, tribal sovereignty, Las Vegas-style gaming and relationships with the U.S. government. Morris explains the role and function of tribal governments and how the interaction between Indian tribes and early Europeans during the Age of Discovery forged legal and political ties that continue to have an impact today.
Legends and Leaders of the West
Learn about leaders and legends who shaped the American West. Sacagawea, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley, Doc Middleton and others are the focus of this program of original songs, stories and poems. Student activities based on the program are available on request.
The Heart’s Compass: Women on the Trails
This is an account of pioneer women crossing the Plains in the 19th century. Carpenter-Nolting and Messersmith present original poems, songs and stories, as well as actual diary entries of women who journeyed on the Oregon Trail.
by Marla Matkin
This is a Chautauqua-style program about Elizabeth Bacon Custer, the wife of Gen. George Armstrong Custer. As “Libbie,” Matkin introduces her audiences to the Civil War, the 7th Cavalry, the Kansas Plains, the Little Bighorn and her husband and Golden Cavalier, General Custer. Based on historical fact, it is a personal account of the Custers from the first furtive glances of romance to Libbie’s last remembrances as widow, author and lecturer.
Frontier Military Posts (And the Women Who Called Them Home)
by Marla Matkin
This presentation is designed to introduce audiences to the lives and times of these extraordinary women. Audiences learn about the different classes of women on post, their day-to-day routines, their social interactions and, on a more personal note, how they functioned under Victorian and military constraints. At the conclusion of the program, Matkin demonstrates a Victorian tea, which was a source of comfort, relaxation and reflection for officers’ wives.
Cattle Towns and Soiled Doves
by Marla Matkin
Possessing a twinkle in her eye and a tantalizing sense of humor, the Contessa is in rare form as she deftly transports you to the frontier of cow towns, painted ladies and the riveting characters that strode the streets and rode the range. Movies, television and novels have long kept the West and its saga alive, but it takes the insight of a charmer such as the Contessa to immerse you in the history and lore of such an unforgettable moment in time. Her invitation is an appeal to suspend 21st century reality and travel back to the boomtowns where men lived by the gun and women lived by their wits. It’s the Victorian Era on the wild side. As the Contessa, Matkin employs ample supplies of humor, sensitivity and skill to navigate the nuances of the subjects of this presentation.
Music of the Plains
by David Marsh
Pioneers who settled the Plains traveled from far and wide, yet endured many similar joys and hardships. David’s goals with this program are twofold: 1) to demonstrate the various cultures represented by these courageous folks and 2) to share stories and sing songs that arose out of their common experience of early life here. Though music, audiences learn about homesteading, cowboys, children’s games and the wonders of the wide open prairie.
The Klondike Goldrush , Seen Through the Eyes of Robert W. Service, Bard of the Yukon
In a Chautauqua-style presentation, Lynn portrays the Scottish-born poet Robert W. Service. Lynn revives the age-old art of storytelling with personal recollections and renditions of ballads about the Klondike gold rush. Service lived and wrote in the Yukon between 1903 and 1910. The program introduces listeners to such characters as Dangerous Dan McGrew, Sam McGee, Blasphemous Bill McGee, Salvation Bill and others.
Riding for Glory: Missionary Travel to the Oregon Territory: 1836-1838
Join Lewis as she describes six women, their backgrounds, their missionary goals, and their ultimate sacrifice of travel as newly-weds to the Oregon Territory
Meet Buffalo Bill
by Terry Lane
William F. Cody reflects on his life as express messenger, teamster, buffalo hunter, scout, actor, showman and builder of the West through a series of true-life adventures–from Bill’s perspective, of course. Length and content can be varied according to audience.
Songs, Dances and Games of the Lakota
Kills Small describes the history and origin of Native American songs and dances. A lecturer and storyteller who makes hand drums and pow-wow-size wood drums, Kills Small also is a singer of Lakota songs who has traveled extensively as a member of the Oyate Singers of Vermillion, S.D.
Dr. Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa)
Charles Alexander Eastman was 32 when he accepted his first appointment as a physician for the Indian Bureau at the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1890. He witnessed the Wounded Knee Massacre and later recounted what he saw and did in his autobiography “From the Deep Woods to Civilization.” In this living-history presentaion, Kills Small portrays Eastman and describes the many changes he went through and his service in many areas of Dakota and Lakota Sioux life.
Harvesting Foods and Medicines in the Dakota Tradition
In this presentation, Kills Small describes the medicinal foods and plants that grow in the Missouri River valley, on the Great Plains and on up to the Rocky Mountains. He talks about the universal uses, legends and history of the plants in Native American life.
Ho For America! Northern European Immigrants to the Midwest
Stories of immigrants who settled Nebraska contain fascinating accounts of sacrifice, courage and endurance. The journey to America was a difficult process that is examined in three parts: the decision, the journey and the adjustment. The presentation includes packing an actual immigrant chest and other essential baggage needed by the immigrant for the ocean voyage and the new life on the prairie.
Away and Across the Plains: Pioneer Trails through Nebraska
Discover how pioneers passing through Nebraska territory in their journey west had a profound influence on the settling of the state. This presentation focuses on the lives and experiences of the emigrants and the pioneer inhabitants. It includes authentic artifacts used on the trail pertaining to the areas of transportation, food, clothing, tools and bedding.
Myths of Women’s Madness on the Plains
This presentation examines the myths of Plains women—as they are promoted by authors of fiction and history—and the realities, based on recently published works, including diaries and journals. Johnson shows that the lives of Plains women were as varied as the pieces of a crazy quilt. She focuses on Nebraska women 1870-1900. This program is designed for adults.
Overland Trails: The Children on the Trail
With over 352,000 emigrants traveling the Oregon, Mormon or California trails, one in five were under the age of 16. Many of these youths kept journals. This program discusses how these children traveled and relates some of the stories from their journals. This program is appropriate for all ages.
The History of Trick Roping and the Wild West Show
by Joan Wells
Wells uses the vanishing folk art of trick roping to bring the color and history of the Old West alive. South of the border in Old Mexico, the charros created rope spinning -making intricate flower designs with ropes. When Vincente Otopeza introduced this trick roping tradition to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1894, he gave American cowboys a different perspective on trick and fancy roping. Wells follows the evolution of trick roping through the heyday of Will Rogers and his affiliation with the Texas Jacks Wild West Show and the Ziegfeld Follies in the first decades of the 20th century.
A Modern-day Encounter With the Santa Fe Trail
by Les Vilda
This program is presented by a scholar who has traveled the Santa Fe Trail twice by historical means: once walking with a pack donkey (1984) and once with a horse and wagon (1987). The program juxtaposes the history of the trail with Les’s experiences in the 1980’s, comparing the routes, modes of transportation and clothing used in modern-day historical reenactments to those of the 19th-century trail traveler. Sites along the trail are discussed regarding their historical significance in the heyday of the trail, as well as their present-day roles in interpreting the history of the trail.
Our Plains Indian Heritage
Stone, a descendant of Chief Iron Shell, an elder of the Rosebud Sioux tribe and a Sun Dancer, explains the uses and traditions of handmade items she brings for this presentation — items from both past and present American Indian cultures. Dressed in a traditional Sioux woman’s dress, she speaks about the life of the Rosebud Sioux as she shares artifacts. She describes life on the reservation and how her family combines their Indian heritage with other interests. Also included in the talk are artifacts and legends of the Mountain Man and the relationship of that culture to the Indians of the Plains.
Lifestyles of Lakota Women
As a descendant of Chief Iron Shell, a peace chief of the Rosebud Sioux, Stone shares her expertise on the lifestyle of a Lakota woman from birth to death. She describes changes that have come about in modern times, contrasting the contemporary lifestyles of Lakota women with past traditions. The degree to which Lakota women lead lives separately and distinctly from men in their tribe is discussed, and variations of practices that can be found among women in the tribe are described. Stone’s intimate knowledge of her Rosebud Sioux people and their ceremonies, her native attire and artifacts make this a rich and unique experience for young people
I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice
by Joe Starita
Joe Starita discusses the legal, social and political importance of the landmark 1879 decision in which a judge declared that Ponca Chief Standing Bear was “a person” within the meaning of the law and entitled to the same Constitutional protections as white citizens.
General George Crook: His Life and Times
Dressed in period costume, Nestroyl introduces General George Crook with a program of entertaining history from an American Indian War veteran and humanitarian. Nestroyl presents reflections and experiences from on and off of the field of battle through the eyes of the man who was called the “Greatest Indian fighter in the U.S. Army.”
Speaking of Ella Deloria
Deloria wrote the book “Waterlily” and the anthropology companion textbook “Dakota Way of Life” based on the extensive Sioux elder interviews she began compiling in the early 1920s and from her own knowledge as a Dakota woman raised among and with family ties to Lakota families. This presentation is about the woman and her work.
Sitting Bull Family Story
The history of this family told by the daughter of Sitting Bull covers the time from prior to Euro-American contact up to and including the Massacre at Wounded Knee. The historical events that are recorded about the life of Sitting Bull are also the record of the events that led to the massacre.
The Voice of Native American Women
by Nancy Gillis
This presentation is a compilation of excerpts from primary documents in which Native American women’s comments, pleas and advice have been recorded, from the earliest records of negotiations with the colonists to contemporary women, including professionals, artists and activists. In a series of readings, interspersed with background material, it explores the way native women have spoken out in political, social and spiritual settings in humor, pathos, anger and celebration, passing their legacy to the next generation.
The Plains Tribes and the Homestead Act
by Nancy Gillis
While many tribes inhabited the immense tract of land called The Great Plains, interacting with their environment, neighboring tribes, and even European explorers and trappers for centuries, two decades prior to the American Civil War and the two decades following the Civil War brought tremendous changes due to increased tensions in the East and legislation enacted in Washington – the Homestead Act of 1862. Nancy Gillis will examine why and how these changes occurred on the Plains for the tribes by looking at changes in foods, clothing, housing, family structure, gender roles, land control, and political relationships.
The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley
Excess Baggage: Riding the Orphan Train
Charlotte Endorf traveled more than 15,000 miles, seeking the last surviving riders and descendants to document the real-life stories of the children who rode the Orphan Trains between the years 1854 and 1929. Dressed in period attire, she entertains and educates audiences of all ages about this little known Nebraska history. She found she was related to an Orphan Train rider after thousands of miles of speaking about the subject. Could you be too? Charlotte wrote four books, produced two DVDs and a CD about this subject. She took an actual 94-year-old Orphan Train rider to New York City to open her records that dated back to 1917. The rider, who lived to be 100, traveled about 100,000 miles with her as she spoke. She was one of the last of the Orphan Train riders Charlotte knew, and is sorry to note that she died in 2014. This talk is great for many purposes, including women’s club meetings, libraries, town festivals, schools, nursing homes, and senior centers.
Maria Rodaway: Prairie Pioneer
Maria (portrayed by her great-great granddaughter in period attire) looks back at her life as a prairie pioneer in Otoe County, Neb., where she homesteaded in 1867. Maria crossed the Atlantic Ocean with seven children to reunite her family after a 7½ year separation. She endured grasshoppers, hail, drought, tornadoes, blizzards, and the loss of her husband and six of her 13 children as she worked to become a citizen and a land owner in a new country. Resilient and resourceful, she lived a life of usefulness to her family and large circle of friends with her loving deeds and kind acts, delivering babies and nursing the sick. Program suitable for children grade 4 to adults.
Nebraska: Crossroads of the Western Fur Trade
This humorous, one-hour presentation, composed from literature, is an entertaining and amusing summary of the history of the fur trade, including trading companies, personalities and the achievements of fur traders and mountain men who lived in or passed through Nebraska. This tabloid-style review of the oddities and ironies of the industry has been carefully researched but is humorously presented in a sensationalized style. It recounts some of the bizarre happenings that resulted in the most important discoveries of land and routes enabling the U.S. to claim and populate the West.
Daniel Freeman: America’s First Homesteader
Hear Daniel Freeman’s amazing story as Darrel Draper portrays “Old Number One” in full costume. It is a Chautauqua-style, humorous and historically factual account of America’s first homesteader and the impact of the Homestead Act in settling the West. Recommended for ages 10 to adult.