Our State Subjects

Nebraska’s Landmark Buildings

by Jeff Barnes

From the first trader cabins through the skyscrapers of today, the buildings of Nebraska tell the story of the state. They carry the tales of pioneers, of its emigrant and ethnic groups, of its famous sons and daughters, of its suffering through war, its prosperity in peace, and of its innovation and excellence.

Jeff Barnes, author of the new book 150 at 150: Nebraska’s Landmark Buildings at the State’s Sesquicentennial, features many of the buildings that have survived the decades, the architects who designed them, and the communities and people who used them. His talk also highlights Thomas Rogers Kimball, the state’s greatest architect and the newest inductee of the Nebraska Hall of Fame. Additionally, Barnes will also feature local landmarks for each community presentation.

Isaac Wiles & the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska

by John Schleicher

This program provides an overview of the history of the Nebraska Territory and Nebraska statehood and examines the origins of the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska through the life and times of Isaac Wiles, who settled in Cass County in 1856, led the 1st Nebraska Militia during the Civil War, and served in both the territorial and state legislatures. While serving in the state legislature, Wiles introduced a bill to provide a seal for the State of Nebraska and created the state motto “Equality Before the Law.”  

Walking With a Dream: John Neihardt's Preparation for Black Elk Speaks

by Timothy G. Anderson

John G. Neihardt and Nicholas Black Elk hit it off the first time they met. In a sense, both men had long been preparing for this meeting. Black Elk knew white storytellers from traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and Neihardt had spent years interviewing elderly Omaha tribal members near Bancroft, Nebraska. This allowed them to forge a bond that produced a 20th Century religious classic.


History of the Nebraska State Fair

by Jim McKee

Before Nebraska was even a state there was a Nebraska Territorial Fair, which was not only the first territory of the U. S. to have an official fair but it was the only territory to ever have a fair.  This program shows the development of the Nebraska fair from territorial days through the Omaha-based 1898 Transmississippi Exposition which replaced the state fair that year and the various cities which hosted the event before its “permanent” move to Lincoln and ends as the state fair moved to Grand Island.  

Up the Nebraska Cattle Trail and Songs of the West

by Joan Wells

When the Union Pacific built the railroad across Nebraska in 1867 cattle ranching was almost unknown in the state.  With a surplus of cattle in Texas, cattle drives brought hundreds of thousands of cattle to Nebraska by way of the Great Western Trail from San Antonio to Ogallala, where they were shipped to markets in eastern cities.  The cowboys on these four-month-long cattle drives would pass the time singing songs about life on the trail.  They’d calm the cattle at night with songs traced back to European folk songs.  Wells and Simon sing and tell the story of the origin of western music.

Tales from Fort Atkinson: Feeding a Frontier Fort

by Suzanne Gucciardo

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.

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.

John & Mona Neihardt

by Brad Kellogg by Raija Weiershauser

Sit down with John & Mona Neihardt, as he writes at his typewriter and she works on a sculpture.  Listen in as they reminisce about their lives together, including their long distance courtship as Mona studied under Rodin in Paris and John’s travels to South Dakota to meet Black Elk.

All Original, All Nebraska

by Dan Holtz

Holtz celebrates and commemorates people, places, and events in Nebraska history through original songs (accompanied by guitar and harmonica) and the stories and background behind them. The songs’ subjects range from a general celebration of Nebraska (“We’re Nebraska”); to a retrospective on the Sandhills; to a tribute to Susan LaFlesche Picotte, the first Native American woman to become a medical doctor; to a salute to Husker football; to a tribute to the migration of the Sandhill Cranes; and more.

Nebraska’s Outlaw Trail, Highway 12

by Marci Broyhill

Cowboy poetry, story, humor and a power point presentation, provide information regarding Nebraska’s colorful characters: Doc Middleton, Kid Wade, Jesse James and vigilantes. It also highlights the positive character and influence of ranchers, Ruth and Cal Thompson, owners of the White Horse Ranch. Travel the Outlaw Trail where universal forces of good and evil; past and present often intersect

Stories From Nebraska's Agricultural History

by Jody Lamp

Lamp honors Nebraska’s agricultural history with stories of the spaces, places, inventions, commodities, events, and people that made Nebraska one of the top agricultural states in the nation and gave rise to such slogans as “The Beef State” and “The Cornhusker State.” Lamp will enlighten and entertain with important and little know stories like the history of the Grand Island Horse and Mule Barn Markets.

More Than Football: George Flippin's Stromsburg Years

by Kathy Nelson

George Flippin, the son of freed slaves, is famous for being the first African American to play football for the University of Nebraska in the 1890’s.  He went on to become a doctor in Stromsburg. He was an eloquent speaker on behalf of African American’s everywhere, a world class doctor who delivered babies, healed the sick, and cared for the dying regardless of a families ability to pay. Nelson tells his story, which includes the first civil rights case in Nebraska.

A Perfect Understanding: The Romance of John and Mona Neihardt

by Timothy G. Anderson

John G. Neihardt, Nebraska’s poet laureate, proposed to Mona Martinsen—and she accepted—before they had set eyes on one another. He was a poet and author, and she was a sculptor, and together they built a life based on something they called the “higher values” of art and beauty. Though to a large extent she set aside her own art for the sake of her husband’s, Mona was integral to his work, advising him and contributing to a life that made his work possible.


Lonesome Dreamer: The Life of John G. Neihardt

by Timothy G. Anderson

This program, which draws on Anderson’s 2016 biography of John G. Neihardt, examines the life of Nebraska’s poet laureate. Beginning with his birth in 1881 and highlighting the 30 years he lived in Nebraska, Neihardt’s life story covers the triumphs and disappointments he experienced in a publishing career of more than 70 years and the personal life that he enjoyed with his wife and four children.


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.

Getting to Know Weldon Kees Through His Songs and Lyrics

by Helen Waring Johnson

Beatrice Nebraska native Weldon Kees, known primarily for his dark poetry, was also one of the mid-century’s most versatile and artistic personalities–an abstract expressionist artist, photographer, accomplished pianist and  composer-lyricist of popular songs. Singer-Songwriter Waring Johnson discusses Kees and performs from this little known repertoire focusing on Kees’ witty, intelligent lyrics of songs written in collaboration with San Francisco clarinetist Bob Helm.

Sand Hills and Sandlots: The Amazing Story of Rushville's Modisett Ball Park

by Jeff Barnes

The panhandle town of Rushville loved and played baseball like most Nebraska communities. Unlike all others, it was the recipient of a beautiful ball field from the state’s biggest rancher and the host of a Major League baseball school and try-out camp, whose students included a Nebraska boy who struck out Mickey Mantle. Barnes tells the fascinating story of Rushville’s 130 years with baseball and how residents past and present came together in 2014 to rebuild Nebraska’s own “field of dreams.”

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.

Peopling the Prairie: 19th Century Immigration to Nebraska.

by John Schleicher

You could say that everyone in Nebraska came from somewhere else. Ten thousand years ago, the forebearers of Native American tribes came into the Great Plains region. Two hundred and fifty years ago, French and English fur traders and Mexican traders and soldiers explored what became Nebraska. Nebraska’s greatest growth occurred between the Civil War and World War I, but especially in the decade of the 1880s. Schleicher focuses on this time when roughly half the new settlers came directly from foreign countries.

Mary Bewick Bridges White

by Laureen Riedesel

In period costume (late 1890s), Riedesel portrays Dr. Mary Bewick Bridges White, sister of Nebraska suffragist Clara Bewick Colby, with an emphasis on women’s rights and the split between practitioners of homeopathic medicine and the American Medical Association at the turn of the century.

Father Edward J. Flanagan of Boys Town

by Thomas J. Lynch

On December 12, 1917, Father Edward J. Flanagan founded a revolutionary boy’s home in Omaha, Nebraska. All boys were welcome regardless of their race or religion. This presentation will explore Father Flanagan’s views on racial and religious equality, and how they differed from accepted social norms of early 20th century America.

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.

Nebraska Goes to China: Research, Education and Relations with Asia’s Rising Power

by Patrice McMahon

Why has China become such an important trade and education partner and what kinds of activities are under way? What does it mean for the state and what’s behind the state’s interest in global engagement? McMahon discusses Nebraska’s current relationships with China.

Promise in a New Land: Migrating and Settling in Nebraska

by Cherrie Beam-Callaway

Beam-Clarke, as Mariah Monahan, with Irish brogue and period costume, depicts a Nebraska settler between 1845 and 1870. Based on historical fact, this is a first-person Chautauqua-style presentation. Through a spellbinding rendition, viewers are transported in time to sail the ocean, ride the wagon trail, feel the loneliness and fight prairie fires. Laugh and cry with stories of successful crops, dancing, hard work, grasshoppers, losing loved ones and becoming an American. The program has two sequels entitled “The Courage to Continue” and “Grit n Gumption.” Educational and entertaining. This program is appropriate for all ages.

The Courage to Continue: Changing Homesteads in Nebraska

by Cherrie Beam-Callaway

This is a sequel to the program “Promise in a New Land.” Beam-Clarke, in period attire with Irish brogue, depicts Nebraska life on the prairie, 1870 to 1885. Based on historical fact, she continues her story in a dramatic Chautauqua-style presentation. Selling the homestead, they begin again as cattlemen in the desolate Sandhills. Relive trials of building the sod house, lightning storms, crying for rain, rattlesnakes and the never-ending wind. Delight with the 4th of July, Christmas and American pride. The program has a sequel entitled “Grit n Gumption.” This program is appropriate for all ages.

Grit ‘n’ Gumption

by Cherrie Beam-Callaway

This program is a continuation of stories told in “Promise in a New Land” and “The Courage to Continue.” Reprising her role as Mariah Monahan, in period attire with Irish brogue, Beam-Clarke tells more captivating stories depicting Nebraska life from 1860 to 1895. Hear about children becoming lost in the prairie, dealing with injuries, lack of women in the country, living on cornmeal, need for music and the endless monotonous labor. Learn how they dealt with schooling, childbirth, tornadoes and Indians. Educational and entertaining. This program is appropriate for all ages.

A Brief History of the Five Tribes of Nebraska: Omaha, Ponca, Pawnee, Santee, and Winnebago

by Nancy Gillis

A look at the origins, history, and current state of these five tribes. This can be easily adapted for age group appropriate K-12 or adult. 45-60 min.

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.

Neihardt – Nebraska’s Poet Laureate and So Much More

by Nancy Gillis

This program gives an in depth look at Neihardt’s  biography, including the variations of his long writing career, family background, marriage, as well as a brief biography of his wife, the artist Mona Martinson.

The Legacy of Neihardt and Black Elk

by Nancy Gillis

This presentation explores the remarkable legacy of a unique personal and spiritual friendship begun in 1931 between the Lakota holy man Black Elk and poet John G. Neihardt. It includes brief biographies of each man, their meetings, and its impact on adding to the knowledge of Lakota culture, Native American philosophies, and the possibilities of cross-cultural recognition and respect.

Echoes of an Era

by Paul Siebert

Using the Nebraska State Seal and Flag as a back drop, Paul presents a musical living history program of a family’s journey from Russia to Nebraska in the 1870’s.  Using original and period music with up to 7 different acoustic instruments, storytelling, personal family history, period costume and extensive knowledge on the subject of Blacksmithing/metallurgy, Paul presents an interactive family centered entertaining program.   The presentation is carefully adjusted to suit the specific age group, special interest, time constraints of the listener, and can include the specific event’s local Nebraska history.

O Pioneers! -- Willa Cather’s Second “First Novel”

by Andrew Jewell

Andy Jewell, editor of the Willa Cather Archive (cather.unl.edu) and co-editor of the new Selected Letters of Willa Cather, will discuss the story behind the writing and publishing of O Pioneers!, the 2013 “One Book, One Nebraska” selection that is also celebrating its 100th anniversary. The book, which Cather called her second “first novel,” emerged at a critical period in Cather’s life. In 1912, she had just left her job at McClure’s Magazine and ventured to Arizona to visit her brother. Her experiences there–and the confidence she regained–made her feel that her “mind had been freshly washed and ironed, and were ready for a new life.” With O Pioneers! she attempted a new kind of writing, something far afield from the Boston and London environs of her first novel, Alexander’s Bridge. With this new style, as she told her friend, she “hit the home pasture.” Jewell’s talk will draw heavily on Cather’s biography and, especially, her letters of the period to provide a behind-the-scenes look into the creation of O Pioneers!

The Forts of Nebraska

by Jeff Barnes

Nebraska’s forts were among the first, last and most important on the Great Plains, built to promote trade, to protect travelers and settlers, to fight the Indian tribes and then to keep the peace. During that time, they hosted some great names of American history, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Crazy Horse, George Custer, Robert E. Lee, Red Cloud, and Mark Twain. Barnes tells the story of Nebraska’s 12 military forts and what today’s visitors will find at the sites.

From Society Page to Front Page: Unsung Women of the Nebraska Press

by Eileen Wirth

In the 1880’s Nebraska’s women journalists included  Willa Cather, a major suffragist publisher and a crusader for food safety. Since then, Nebraska has produced women White House correspondents, war correspondents, “Rosie the Reporters,” noted weekly editors, significant broadcasters and  baby boomers who broke the barriers to the front page. Ask for a program tailored for your group.

Social and Political Structures of the Omaha Tribe

by Wynema Morris

This presentation examines the social and political structures of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, and how both structures complemented the other.  Recognition of dualities formed the basis for social structures, as well as to provide the basis for healthy populations. Use of power sharing, governing by consensus, and inclusion of spiritual ritual to “open” political proceedings are presented in-depth.

The Editor who Stopped the Floods: The Harry Strunk Story

by Gene O. Morris

When the Flood of 1935 roared through the Republican River Valley, Harry Strunk sprung into action. The lifetime newspaperman was able to get reservoirs built to hold back the floodwaters. One of the lakes was named after Strunk before he died. “Give ‘em Hell” Harry Strunk of McCook remains the only Nebraskan to be so honored. This presentation looks at the colorful life of the Editor Harry Strunk.

Why is Lincoln the State Capital and not Yankee Hill?

by Jim McKee

Nebraska’s original territorial capital was located in Omaha. Why, when statehood arrived, was the seat of government relocated to the tiny and insignificant village of Lancaster? Located on the edge of the “Great American Desert,” with a population of just 30, Lancaster was renamed Lincoln and selected as the site for the new state’s capitol building, the university, the insane asylum and the penitentiary. The reasons are complicated, fascinating and—according to McKee—it all boils down to mosquitoes and ice cream.

The History of the University of Nebraska

by Jim McKee

The location of the University of Nebraska in the state’s capital may seem like a foregone conclusion now, but in the 1860s the new state’s senators chartered 14 other locations before finally settling on Lincoln. The state’s academic stronghold might well have been the “University of Nebraska at Wyoming.” McKee takes a look at the university’s past.

The History of the Nebraska State Capitol

by Jim McKee

This slide-illustrated program tells the story of Nebraska’s two territorial capitol buildings in Omaha and three state capitols in Lincoln. Nebraska’s present capitol, built between 1922 and 1932, is discussed in detail from the design contest ultimately won by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, through its being named one of the ten most beautiful buildings in the world, one of the ten best built buildings in the world to one of the 50 most memorable works of architecture in the world.

Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X)

by Sharif Z. Liwaru

What did Malcolm X stand for and what significance does he have to the radical politics and movements of his time? I share his life as he describes it, as a “chronology of changes”, presenting a view of Malcolm’s life and the changes he underwent, as well as the relevance of his social, political, and even spiritual thought. The challenge is to take Malcolm X, all of him, and present this information in an accessible manner.

Grace Abbott: Children’s Crusader

by Helen M. Lewis

Grace Abbott’s Grand Island upbringing influenced her advocacy for education and social justice as  director of Chicago’s Immigrant Protective League. Writing and speaking for social reform–from women’s suffrage to world peace–Abbott became a leader in the struggle for federal child labor legislation. As Chief of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, Abbott shaped public assistance programs, especially to protect children. The presentation, done in costume, conveys the continuing relevance of Abbott’s work by exploring her efforts for the exploited. Lewis will adapt the program to meet the interests of the sponsoring group.

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.

Louise Pound: The Iconoclast

by Marie Krohn

A quest for individual excellence led Louise Pound to ignore Victorian Age gender restrictions and become a world-class athlete. She also developed an international reputation as a philologist, folklorist, and educator and advanced the use of American English over British English. She was a compassionate friend of her students and colleagues.

John A. Creighton: Blazing the First Internet

by Brian Kokensparger

Portraying John A. Creighton, Kokensparger helps the audience envision the building of the first “Internet”– the first transcontinental telegraph. Although his brother, Edward, was the chief superintendent of the project, John was in a unique position to observe the installation of the line and did his share to help the Creighton crew win the race to Salt Lake City. At the end of this Chautauqua-style program, Kokensparger comes out of character to make connections between today’s Internet and the telegraph network.

From Every Land

by Richard Kimbrough

This program is based on Kimbrough’s book “The Outsiders” (with Mourtazo Chadyev) which focuses on people of “other” cultures who have come to Nebraska. Among those featured are:-Arturo Coto, who went from being minister of health in El Salvador to hoeing beans in western Nebraska to becoming one of the top officials in the Nebraska Department of Health.-Leola Bullock, an African-American who came to Lincoln in the 1950’s and has become one of the nation’s foremost civil rights leaders.-Rauf Aliovsadzade, a world-class violinist and chess master who left Baku because he was married to a woman from the “wrong” country and who has become a member of the Lincoln Symphony—and an American citizen.

Songs, Dances and Games of the Lakota

by Jerome Kills Small

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.

Harvesting Foods and Medicines in the Dakota Tradition

by Jerome Kills Small

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.

Children Stories, Animal Stories and Traditional Lakota Stories

by Jerome Kills Small

Kills Small tells children’s stories and animal stories that have been passed down for generations as part of the Lakota and Dakota Sioux traditions. Among the types of stories covered are iktomi (trickster tales) and ohunkanka (old legends). When speaking to adult audiences, Kills Small also analyzes the Native American storytelling tradition.

Aaron Douglas, UNL Class of ’22: Visual Artist of the Harlem Renaissance

by Peggy Jones

This visual presentation will introduce the artist Aaron Douglas, the “Father of Black Art.” Douglas was the first Black graduate of the UNL Department of Art. His work is a celebration of Afrocentric Modernism, with which he established one of the earliest affirmative depictions of Black identity, history, and experience.

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe: The Forgotten Nebraskans

by Matthew "Sitting Bear" Jones

This program celebrates the Otoe-Missouria Tribes. Matthew Jones is a member of the Otoe-Missouria Nation. He will talk about the Nation’s impact on the state of Nebraska, the Territory (Louisiana Purchase) to Statehood. Come take the journey of discovery and learn how these aboriginal people and our state effected each other.

Kiowa Tales

by Matthew "Sitting Bear" Jones

These are the stories, tales and legends of Set-Angia, Sitting Bear’s Native American people. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, these stories reveal the Kiowa vision of the world—from the time of Creation to the coming of the white man. Attired in native dress, Sitting Bear brings to the audience through his storytelling the thinking and customs of his Kiowa people, legends such as why the Crow is black and how the Coyote got his yell.

Nebraska Archaeology: 10,000 B.C.E. to Circa 1800 C.E.

by Nolan Johnson

This program discusses the lengthy human occupation prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans in Nebraska. The human timeline is divided into Paleo-Indian hunters, Archaic hunter-gatherers, Woodland horticulturalists, Plains Villagers, Horse Nomads, Coalescent, and post contact. Archeological evidence, including stone and bone tools, architecture, floral and faunal remains, and settlement patterns, are used to illustrate prehistoric lifeways.

Wright Morris: Small Town Life through the Eyes of a Nebraska Writer

by Nancy B. Johnson

Wright Morris often questions if the images of his boyhood as they appear in his works are real or imaginary. Many of the real images he writes about can be seen in early 20th-century photographs of Central City, Nebraska. In this presentation, these photos and more recent photos of artifacts described by Morris are paired with narrative passages from his works. Johnson uses images and words to create a picture of small-town Nebraska life as experienced by the writer.

Stained Glass Windows of Nebraska

by Barbara Johnson

Johnson discusses how stained glass windows are produced; the role of immigrants in designing, producing, and bringing these works of art to Nebraska; and some of the most interesting meaning and detail in religious, educational, governmental, commercial, and residential settings. (In addition to this general program, Johnson offers one reflecting on stained glass in the world and writings of Willa Cather.)

Willa Cather in the Digital Age

by Andrew Jewell

Using the Willa Cather Archive (http://cather.unl.edu) as an example, this presentation looks at how the digital medium is enabling new ways to explore and learn about the humanities. In addition to unprecedented access to materials, the online environment offers fresh ways of visualizing, publishing, and generally communicating and learning about the humanities.

Willa Cather’s My Ántonia: The Story Behind Its Writing and Publication

by Andrew Jewell

Drawing on biography, history, photographs, interviews, and archival materials, this presentation tells the story of the creation of Willa Cather’s great novel “My Antonia”, a book with a long foreground in the author’s life, and, as recently-discovered letters illustrate, one that marked daring new ambitions and achievements in her career.

Willa Cather’s Life in Letters

by Andrew Jewell

Drawing on Jewell’s experience co-editing the first book of Cather’s letters, this talk explores the way Cather used letters to communicate her ideas, maintain her relationships, and think through her life and experiences. Cather’s letters are being published for the first time in 2013, and this program features readings from the lively, but largely unread correspondence of the great American author.


My Two Friends: Mari Sandoz and John G. Neihardt

by Ron Hull

John Neihardt, Mari Sandoz and Ron Hull produced many hours of television programs during the 1960s and ’70s. The substance of these planning sessions provides anecdotes and stories about their lives and work. Sandoz and Neihardt were friends, and their approach to their art and the methods they used were vastly different. The examples given are corroborated in Helen Stauffer’s “Mari Sandoz: Story of the Plains and Letters of Mari Sandoz.”

Mari Sandoz: A Personal Reminiscence

by Ron Hull

Mari Sandoz and Ron Hull became friends in 1956 and their friendship lasted through their final visit in New York City just before her death in 1966. During these years Sandoz and Hull created 18 half-hour television programs. This presentation is based on those conversations about her approach to creative writing, which she reveals a great deal about herself, her career and her life.

Nebraska through Song and Story

by Dan Holtz

Nebraska has not only a rich tradition in literature but also a rich, less-publicized tradition in music. This program interweaves songs, accompanied on guitar and harmonica, with excerpts from works by Willa Cather, John Neihardt, Mari Sandoz and Bess Streeter Aldrich. In a narrative from about 1850 to 1904, it tells the stories of the people who came to and through early Nebraska, the pioneers who crossed the overland trails, the settlers and the Native Americans. This program can be tailored for either a young audience or an adult audience.

Poetry of the African-American Cowboy

by Vicki Troxel Harris

A selection of stories from the African-American history of Nebraska have been put to rhyme as only cowboy poetry can be presented.  Harris draws from her research to share stories and poems of love, adventure, and respect, often with a bit of humor.  Those who have already heard the stories told in “African-American Homesteaders and Cowboys of Nebraska” will especially enjoy this program of history in the rhythm and romance of the range.

African-American Pioneers and Entrepreneurs of Nebraska

by Vicki Troxel Harris

African-American doctors, barbers, music teachers and innovative and prosperous orchard owners are some of the people who come to life in this presentation. Harris collected many oral histories while researching African-American settlements in Nebraska. Through her scholarship, Nebraska history has a fascinating new chapter.

African-American Homesteaders and Cowboys of Nebraska

by Vicki Troxel Harris

In the 1854 census of Nebraska, there were 14 blacks listed as slaves. After the Civil War, African-Americans came to Nebraska as cowhands, laborers, cavalrymen and homesteaders. Harris recounts many of the oral histories she has collected about cowboys, such as Jim Kelly and Amos Harris from the Lexington area and Roy Hayes of Cherry County “who could catch anything with legs.”

Hartley Burr Alexander: A Living History

by Robert Haller

Those who quote “Not the victory but the action; not the goal, but the game; in the deed, the glory” or “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen” may not know that the author of these inscriptions is Hartley Burr Alexander.  He was nationally prominent as a philosopher and educational theorist, but put much of his energy into Nebraska institutions—the Capitol Building for which he was thematic consultant, the Pageants of Lincoln, Ak-Sar-Ben, the culture of native peoples, and prairie populism. For this program I impersonate Alexander, presenting in his own words, reflections on his upbringing in Syracuse and his years as a philosophy professor, writer and producer of pageants, architectural consultant, poet, curriculum specialist, advocate for Native culture, and scholar in many fields.

Willa Cather and Quilts

by Evelyn Haller Harris

Willa Cather’s earliest memory of art was sitting under quilting frames as a child. This early experience of art as craft — listening to stories and looking at thoughtfully arranged materials of everyday life — remained with Cather. Throughout her life Cather chose to work in places that recalled the small space under the quilting frame, including the attic room in her Red Cloud home, the attic sewing room Isabelle McClung prepared for her in Pittsburgh and the tent where she wrote in Grand Manaan. Slides illustrate quilts Cather names in her fiction as well as related Cather sites and materials.

Louise Pound, Nebraska Athlete and Scholar: Biography or Living History

by Evelyn Haller Harris

Louise Pound was the first woman elected to the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame. The confidence she gained from her notable athletic achievements, including a man’s letter in tennis at the University of Nebraska and many long-distance bicycling awards, contributed to her setting high academic goals for herself and persevering to their attainment. At a time when women rarely went on to higher education, she excelled, achieving a doctorate in German language (philology) in record time. On her return to the University of Nebraska, Pound coached women’s basketball and disagreed with the policies of Mabel Lee who was among the first women trained in physical education. Academically, Pound gained national recognition for her pioneering contributions to the study of American language and folklore.

Hildreth Meiere: The Woman Artist Who Had Eight Commissions for the Nebraska State Capitol

by Evelyn Haller Harris

As a designer in tiles, Hildreth Meiere worked in a durable medium of architectural magnitude, including the original mosaics in the Nebraska State Capitol. Meiere is not as well known as many artists of her generation because her works are affixed to walls, ceilings and floors. They cannot be transported, and slides only partially convey the wonder of these achievements. Meiere’s life (1892-1961) was filled with significant work accomplished when there were few women in her field. Haller talks about what Meiere did before and after she completed the eight commissions for the Nebraska State Capitol.

The Great Body of the Republic: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Plains

by Kenneth Winkle

Abraham Lincoln considered the Great Plains important for America’s future. As president, however, Lincoln subordinated the interest of the Great Plains and the people who lived there because of his efforts to win the Civil War.  Professor Winkle investigates how Lincoln’s wartime policies changed the history of the Great Plains forever and left an indelible impression on the lives and culture of the people who live here today.

Ponca History and Heritage

by Phil Wendzillo

A member of the Ponca tribe and director of cultural affairs for the Ponca tribe of Nebraska, Wendzillo speaks on the history of the Poncas in Nebraska. Among featured topics are the Trail of Tears and the tribe’s termination and ultimate restoration to federal status. Among the possible areas of coverage:  Chief Standing Bear and the effect his struggles and court victory had on Native American civil rights, Native Americans and Christianity, Lewis and Clark Among the Indians

Nebraska and the Civil War

by David Wells

Few people realize that Nebraska was involved in one of the most tragic events in our history, the Civil War, from 1861-1865. The territory sent 1/3 of its male population to the war, and more than 200 died or were killed. After the war, thousands of veterans came to Nebraska. By 1890 more than 100,000 veterans lived here, and they played a major role in the development of Nebraska from a territory to statehood. They helped found many of the cities. This presentation looks at these early settlers and the role they played—geographically specific to the program site.

Our Plains Indian Heritage

by Phyllis R. Stone

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

by Phyllis R. Stone

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

The Conversation Through Time: An Introduction to Poetry of Nebraska

by Mary K. Stillwell

When Ted Kooser was named poet laureate, we were reminded that Nebraska offers a well-stocked literary breadbasket, heaped with books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction.  Mary K. Stillwell focuses on our state’s rich heritage in song and poetry, from Pawnee times to present-day writers who continue the conversation about who we were and who we are into our time.

Bright Leaves Flying: An Introduction to U.S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser

by Mary K. Stillwell

Nebraska resident Ted Kooser made headlines when he was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2004. He served from 2004-2006.  Stillwell places Kooser within the rich tradition of Nebraska poetry and provides an introduction to the poet and his work.  Kooser, born in Ames, Iowa, moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, to study with Karl Shapiro at the University of Nebraska in 1963, and has made his home in the state ever since.  Stillwell will talk about his life and how it influenced his work.  The talk can be tailored to the specific wishes of the audience.

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.

The “Tradition” in Traditional Folk Music

by David Seay

David Seay examines how over the generations folk traditions of different cultures have merged to become our own traditions as immigrants have found their way to Nebraska. This presentation features demonstrations and stories of folk instruments such as harmonica, penny whistle, Lakota style flute, ocarina, pan pipes, yak horn, bugle, musical saw, banjo, singing bowl, and limbertoys. This show is very flexible and works for audiences of any age.

The People Who Made it Work: A Centennial History of the Cushman Motor Works

by Mary Kay Quinlan

Based on a 2001 project for the Cushman Motor Works centennial celebration, this presentation tells the history of the Lincoln, Neb., company from its beginnings when the Cushman cousins perfected a modification of a two-cycle engine to its end in 2002 when the product line was moved out of the state. The speaker uses quotes from oral history interviews and a Power Point slide show.

Introduction to Nebraska Authors

by Laureen Riedesel

This program consists of readings from six Nebraska authors, with a short biography of each author and an introduction to each piece. Readings and authors include Mari Sandoz’s “Winter Thunder,” Willa Cather’s “My Antonia,” Wright Morris’ “Will’s Boy,” John G. Neihardt’s “All Is But a Beginning,” Bess Streeter Aldrich’s “A White Bird Flying” and Loren Eiseley’s “All the Strange Hours.”

Swedish Pioneers in Nebraska

by Laureen Riedesel

In the latter half of the 19th century, Swedes were among the largest groups that emigrated to Nebraska. They caught “Amerikafeber” and came to claim their “free land,” full of hope and promise. The construction of churches and schools followed the building of their soddies and barns. An outstanding example of this pattern can be told through the story of Salem Church in rural Kearney County and the Carter School, originally located in Harlan County. These National Register of Historic Places properties are a continuing legacy of the Swedish pioneers in Nebraska.

Nebraska’s Musical Smorgasbord: Music from Various Ethnic Groups in Nebraska

by Chris Sayre

This program explores the rich diversity of folk music that has been a part of Nebraska’s history from the time it was a territory to the present day. Performing on the button accordion, concertina, dulcimer, guitar, mandolin, musical saw and zithers, Sayre invites his audience to experience the music of the ethnic groups that have called Nebraska home.

History of the University of Nebraska Medical Center

by John Schleicher

Schleicher presents the history of the University of Nebraska Medical Center exploring the colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and school of allied health professions.

Nebraska Frontier Physician: Robert Ramsay Livingston, M.D

by John Schleicher

Schleicher shares the story of Dr. Robert Ramsay Livingston of Plattsmouth, one of the outstanding pioneer figures in Nebraska medicine.  Livingston began practicing medicine in Plattsmouth in 1859, captained the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, helped organize the Nebraska State Medical Society and was one of the first delegates from Nebraska to the American Medical Association.  Among varied accomplishments, he served as Chief Surgeon of the Burlington Railroad in Nebraska, Mayor of Plattsmouth, and President of the Faculty of the Omaha Medical College. Schleicher can present the program as living history by portraying Dr. Livingston in period attire or as a lecture presentation.

Nebraska Territory Stories

by David Seay

In this upbeat presentation David performs folk music that existed at the time Nebraska became a state on March 1, 1867. Between tunes he discusses how these songs provide glimpses into history by telling stories of everyday life of the pioneers during the 13 years before Nebraska statehood.  This cheerful show works particularly well for family audiences as it has opportunities for volunteers to come up front and participate. Instruments featured are banjo, harmonica, whistles, and mountain dulcimer.

Germans From Russia in Nebraska

by John Schleicher

During the political and religious upheaval of the 18th century, Germans migrated to the American colonies and to the Russian empire of Catherine the Great. Lured by free land, religious and cultural freedom and exemption from military service, many Germans migrated to Russia, beginning in the 1760s. After more than 100 years, these privileges were threatened, and the Germans from Russia began to immigrate to the Plains states of the U.S. This illustrated program looks at these people and the contributions they made to Nebraska in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The History and Evolution of Local Nebraska Jails — 150 Years of Change

by Kurt Sandquist

This presentation chronicles the development of local jails from 1850 to the present. Factors that influenced the location, design, and operational needs are charted with a video display of jails through Nebraska. It also examines the development of current jails in light of historical events and decisions by the courts, legislature and local governing officials.

The Making of a Monument

by Robert C. Ripley

An exploration of the history, art and architecture of the Nebraska State Capitol, “a jewel among historical monuments,” this program explores the complex history of the Capitol, the symbolism embodied in its sculptures and mosaics, the philosophical integration of elements and the building’s place in 20th-century architectural design. The presentation helps audiences better understand and appreciate the powerful message embodied in this prairie monument.

Clues to Clara: The Rediscovery of Local Women’s History

by Laureen Riedesel

While researching the origins of the Beatrice Public Library, Riedesel and Diana Church came across a footnote naming Clara Colby as the founder, uncovering a chapter in Nebraska history that was nearly lost. Clara Bewick Colby was one of the most active and versatile participants in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. This presentation introduces us to a remarkable woman. Riedesel also shows how state, regional and national resources can be used to rediscover local history.

Discovering the Celtic World in Nebraska

by Charles E. Real

With the defeat of the ancient tribes of Gaul by Julius Caesar, the Celtic people were forced to the edges of the known world in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Britain. Charles Real takes listeners on an 8,000-year journey that explores the origins and culture of the Celts and how the sons and daughters of the Celtic fringe influenced place names, early pioneers and settlers on Nebraska’s prairies and in its river valleys.

Voices from the New Land: Danish Immigration to Nebraska

by Dawn Nielsen by John Mark Nielsen

Danish immigration to Nebraska is explored through dramatic readings from immigrant letters, journals and diaries, as well as slides of old photographs, drawings and scenes of present-day Denmark and Nebraska. The presentation focuses on the stories of individuals—what motivated them to emigrate, how they struggled with the land and faced the hardships of drought and the deaths of loved ones. The Nielsens describe how immigrants experienced the joys of community and the satisfaction of realizing their dreams.

General George Crook: His Life and Times

by Greg Nestroyl

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.”

Storytelling of the Dakota

by Joyzelle Gingway Godfrey

This presentation demonstrates the historic societal structure of the Dakota people through the medium of storytelling. The adventures of the first set of twins born in the world will give a glimpse of the family structure, food gathering and beliefs of their tribal people.

Czech-Americans in Nebraska

by Bruce Garver

The late 19th century saw the first mass migration of Czechs to Nebraska and other Great Plains states. This talk explains the causes for immigration and describes the experience of dislocation and the consequences of demographic changes in American towns and cities—with emphasis on the years after World War I and the more recent waves of immigration in 1948 and 1968. The presentation looks at both the family life of new Czech-Americans and aspects of intellectual and cultural life. Also described are the principal public institutions established by Czech-Americans—both religious and freethinking.

Nebraska’s Mexican-American Legacy

by Jose Francisco Garcia

A full 150 years before the 1st pioneer families entered Nebraska territory, Mexican traders, soldiers and explorers left their imprint on the land and its culture. Jose’s presentation takes you along on a journey of exploration that began in 1720 and continues in Nebraska to this very day.

Growing up Czech in Nebraska

by Lorraine J. Duggin

This presentation features various aspects of Czech-American culture and history, including arts and literature, folk songs and dance, folktales and lore, traditional costumes, Czech festivals of Nebraska and the following areas of interest: The Roots of the Poet’s Song: Growing up in South Omaha; Czech Neighborhoods of Omaha.

Maria Rodaway: Prairie Pioneer

by Karen Wyatt Drevo

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

by Darrel W. Draper

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.

The History of Nebraska as Told by Peter Sarpy

by Darrel W. Draper

Dressed in period costume and speaking in his native French accent, “Peter Sarpy” describes the transformation of Nebraska from French colony to statehood. This dramatic one-act play uses humor, interactive audience participation and factual historical anecdotes to captivate youth and adult audiences alike. This living-history presentation is appropriate for schools, civic groups, churches, museums and festivals.

J. Sterling Morton: Author of Arbor Day

by Darrel W. Draper

This history program introduces the audience to the life of J. Sterling Morton, from his birth in upstate New York to his rise to power and fame in Nebraska. Within five years after his arrival at Bellevue, Morton was twice elected to the Territorial Legislature, appointed Clerk of Supreme Court, became Territorial Secretary and was made acting Governor at the age of 26. The founder of Arbor Day would later become secretary of agriculture. The presenter, in costume and in character, uses humor and pathos to give us new insight into Morton’s failures and successes, educating and entertaining audiences of all ages.

Daniel Freeman: America’s First Homesteader

by Darrel W. Draper

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.

Nebraska’s Winding Road to Statehood: In the Footsteps of a Female Settler

by Sara Brandes Crook

Barbara Kagi Mayhew Bradway, a female settler, recounts the issues of Nebraska’s territorial days. In a first-person portrayal, Sara Brandes Crook recounts Bradway’s impressions as an early permanent white settler. She also explores the Underground Railroad. Bradway was the older sister of John Kagi, who was a close confidant to John Brown.

The Burckhardts: An African-American Epic

by Dawn R. Connelly

The extraordinary lives of Rev. Oliver and Ann Burckhardt come to life in a colorful slide presentation depicting the significant contributions this African-American couple made to the Lincoln, Omaha and Brownlee communities during 1890-1949. Rev. Burckhardt was one of the founding fathers of Lincoln’s NAACP and the Lincoln Urban League, and he organized the Saint James Church in Brownlee in 1910 for African-American settlers. Anna taught art in her studio in Lincoln for 40 years and was nationally known for her portrait oil paintings and china painting.

The Irish in Nebraska, 1850-2000

by James P. Cavanaugh

This program is a review of the Irish in Nebraska from the days before the Nebraska Territory to the present.

A Visit With Lady Vestey

by Beverly Beavers

Beverly Beavers comes in costume and character to tell the fascinating story of Lady Vestey.  Lady Vestey became the highest paid woman executive in the world in the early 1900’s. As an employee of the Vestey Cold Storage Company she traveled extensively and learned many languages. She was instrumental in providing food for the Allied troops during World War I and lived in London during the bombing of Britain during World War II.  She joined the English nobility when she married her boss, William. They bought their own cruise ship named the Arandora Star and lived in a huge house in London named Kingswood. Lady Vestey traveled far, but she never found a place that she liked better than Nebraska. This program provides stories and information that appeals to all ages.

Sharpie: Nebraska’s Queen of the Air

by Diane R. Bartels

This Power Point presentation is based on Bartels’ extensive research and book about Evelyn Sharp, a pioneering, teenage
aviatrix who became a war hero. Sharp taught men to fly and was one of the first women to ferry U.S. Army Air Force fighters during World War II, freeing men for combat.  The program is appropriate for students as well as adults.

Custer in Nebraska: The Royal Buffalo Hunt of 1872

by Jeff Barnes

Already established as an Indian fighter on the Great Plains, George Armstrong Custer’s 1872 visit to Nebraska wasn’t for war, but for entertainment. It was here he met the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia and Buffalo Bill Cody to engage in what is possibly the best-known big game hunt in the history of the world. This 140th anniversary presentation – told through the newspaper accounts, photographs and illustrations of the day – also covers the rapid transition of the five-year-old state of Nebraska, beginning with the fastest growing city on the frontier and ending with the relocation of the Indian tribes and disappearance of the buffalo herds of the Great Plains.