New Director Margaret Jacobs
"Great Plains Anywhere" is a series of Great Plains talks and interviews in video and podcast form that you can listen to anywhere. It's part of the Paul A. Olson lecture series at the Center for Great Plains Studies.
The first episode in these mini talks is an interview with the new Director for the Center for Great Plains Studies, Margaret Jacobs, Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For more information on her projects, visit:
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[00:00:00.260]This fall, the Center for Great Plains Studies
[00:00:02.470]has revamped our Paul A. Olsen Great Plains lecture series
[00:00:06.460]so that you can watch or listen to it anywhere.
[00:00:09.950]Throughout the rest of the year,
[00:00:11.510]we'll be publishing 20-minute mini talks
[00:00:13.980]with a wide range of Great Plains experts.
[00:00:17.160]Find the videos and podcast links
[00:00:25.833]On behalf of the Center for Great Plains Studies,
[00:00:28.330]I would like to begin
[00:00:29.410]by acknowledging that the University of Nebraska
[00:00:31.930]is a land grant institution
[00:00:34.180]with campuses and programs
[00:00:35.720]on the past, present and future homelands
[00:00:38.020]of the Pawnee, Ponca, Otoe-Missouria, Omaha,
[00:00:42.090]Lakota, Dakota, Arapaho, Cheyenne,
[00:00:45.240]and Kaw peoples as well as the relocated Ho-Chunk,
[00:00:48.820]Iowa and Sac and Fox peoples.
[00:00:51.390]Please take a moment to consider the legacies
[00:00:53.610]of more than 150 years of displacement, violence,
[00:00:58.010]settlement and survival that bring us here today.
[00:01:01.440]This acknowledgement and the centering of indigenous peoples
[00:01:04.450]is a start as we move forward together
[00:01:06.960]for the next 150 years.
[00:01:09.580]My name is Dijon DeLaPorte
[00:01:11.097]and I am the events coordinator
[00:01:12.850]for the Center for Great Plains Studies
[00:01:15.260]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:01:18.150]So my name is Margaret Jacobs.
[00:01:20.850]I am a professor of history
[00:01:23.130]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
[00:01:25.540]and now I am the new director
[00:01:27.720]of the Center for Great Plains Studies.
[00:01:30.690]Can you talk a little bit about your previous work?
[00:01:36.460]I've been historian since around 1996
[00:01:40.610]and around 2000,
[00:01:44.080]I got really interested in exploring a particular topic
[00:01:49.240]about how many nations,
[00:01:53.120]including the United States, Canada and Australia
[00:01:57.140]were carrying out a policy against their indigenous peoples
[00:02:00.050]starting in the late 19th century,
[00:02:02.300]where they were separating children
[00:02:04.770]from their families and removing them
[00:02:06.700]to very distant locations,
[00:02:09.540]in the case of the United States and Canada
[00:02:11.320]to go to boarding schools.
[00:02:13.370]And then later in the 20th century,
[00:02:16.220]all three of those nations
[00:02:17.350]started promoting the removal of children
[00:02:19.970]to indigenous children,
[00:02:21.930]to non-Indian or non-indigenous families for adoption.
[00:02:27.580]And I got really interested in that policy
[00:02:30.530]and the incredible,
[00:02:32.770]like, abuses of that policy
[00:02:36.610]and how troubling it was
[00:02:39.430]and how damaging and devastating it was
[00:02:42.100]to communities and families
[00:02:43.610]and how it was really severing the ties
[00:02:45.650]between indigenous peoples and their lands.
[00:02:49.470]So I worked for about 20 years
[00:02:52.430]on writing books on that topic and articles on that topic.
[00:02:57.920]And then around 2015,
[00:02:59.930]I decided to go to the final ceremony
[00:03:03.680]of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission
[00:03:06.650]that was about trying to come to grips
[00:03:10.240]with what had happened in that country
[00:03:11.720]with Indian residential schools.
[00:03:14.270]And when I went to that,
[00:03:15.920]I just was so overwhelmed and so interested
[00:03:18.380]in the way that Canada
[00:03:19.830]and then Australia too was wrestling with this history
[00:03:22.450]and trying to make some sort of amends for it.
[00:03:26.350]Both of those nations issued apologies to indigenous people
[00:03:29.760]for the policy for moving children.
[00:03:32.370]And they both provided reparations for indigenous families
[00:03:37.670]or descendants or members
[00:03:39.890]of those so-called stolen generations.
[00:03:43.380]And so it got me thinking, well,
[00:03:45.360]what's happening in the United States,
[00:03:47.030]is anything happening?
[00:03:47.990]We have the same policies,
[00:03:49.350]the same practices,
[00:03:50.840]they went on for over a century.
[00:03:53.880]So, lately I've just become really interested
[00:03:56.190]in the whole concept of truth and reconciliation
[00:03:58.460]around indigenous peoples in general,
[00:04:01.200]but indigenous children in particular.
[00:04:05.511]So I've been working on a number of projects
[00:04:07.470]that have grown out of that.
[00:04:09.540]And one is about the Genoa Indian school
[00:04:12.850]which was here in Nebraska from 1884 to 1934.
[00:04:18.340]It brought thousands of Indian children
[00:04:21.130]from around the Great Plains to a boarding school.
[00:04:25.220]The boarding school was the fourth largest
[00:04:28.820]in the United States.
[00:04:31.500]But many Nebraskans
[00:04:32.720]and many Americans know nothing about Genoa.
[00:04:36.310]And there's very few records available
[00:04:40.860]for Indian communities.
[00:04:42.060]So together with several partners here
[00:04:45.000]at the University of Nebraska,
[00:04:46.380]I've been working to try to locate government records,
[00:04:50.720]digitize them, and then make them accessible
[00:04:53.660]to tribal communities,
[00:04:55.230]at the same time as we're also trying to use those records
[00:04:57.810]to help educate people about the boarding schools
[00:05:01.240]especially to know 'em.
[00:05:03.160]And then I've been working on a book
[00:05:07.110]that's about truth and reconciliation
[00:05:08.780]between indigenous people and settlers.
[00:05:12.470]And I've had a lot of fun with that book.
[00:05:15.700]It started out being very top down
[00:05:17.690]about what's going on up at the national level.
[00:05:21.580]But as part of that book,
[00:05:23.030]I started a project
[00:05:24.230]with a local journalist named Kevin Abourezk
[00:05:27.230]and Kevin's a member of the Rosebud Sioux nation.
[00:05:29.950]And he and I started interviewing people
[00:05:32.710]around the Great Plains
[00:05:33.820]who were involved in doing
[00:05:36.330]some form of truth and reconciliation.
[00:05:38.410]In fact, we found a number of non-Indian landowners
[00:05:42.820]who've decided to give land back to Indian people.
[00:05:47.470]So we've been doing a podcast together,
[00:05:50.190]and then we decided to do a film together,
[00:05:53.900]and that has totally changed the nature
[00:05:56.680]of the book I'm working on
[00:05:58.060]because it went from being very top down
[00:06:00.920]to now being very grassroots.
[00:06:02.530]It's all about sort of what communities are doing,
[00:06:04.980]what churches are doing,
[00:06:06.180]what people are doing within their own small local areas
[00:06:11.770]about truth and reconciliation.
[00:06:14.300]So, that's sort of where I'm at as a scholar,
[00:06:16.750]these days of really thinking about
[00:06:18.450]how I can put my scholarship to work
[00:06:22.360]to help these efforts toward reckoning with our histories,
[00:06:26.880]and then making some sort of recompense
[00:06:29.670]for those abuses of the past.
[00:06:33.640]What are you most excited about as the new director?
[00:06:38.350]Well, I think I'm just,
[00:06:41.090]I've always been a really interdisciplinary scholar.
[00:06:45.790]And I've always really loved
[00:06:50.150]working with people across different parts
[00:06:52.480]of the UNL campus.
[00:06:54.430]I was the director of women's studies here
[00:06:56.520]for a number of years
[00:06:57.590]and got to know people in the law school
[00:07:00.310]and school of journalism and the business school
[00:07:02.750]and the college of education.
[00:07:04.570]And I'm based in the college of arts and sciences.
[00:07:06.830]So, I'm really excited to continue
[00:07:10.540]to be a kind of interdisciplinary person
[00:07:12.700]who gets to meet people from all over the Lincoln campus,
[00:07:17.990]but also I'm really excited
[00:07:19.820]that this is a four campus program
[00:07:22.160]and that I'll be getting to work with people from UNMC
[00:07:26.290]and UNO and UNK as well.
[00:07:30.426]I'm also just,
[00:07:32.440]as you can probably tell from the projects I'm working on,
[00:07:35.330]I've gotten really much more interested
[00:07:37.620]in kind of community engagement.
[00:07:39.860]So, rather than working away as we historians usually do,
[00:07:43.470]and kind of a single focused solitary fashion,
[00:07:47.420]I'm doing a lot more collaborative work now
[00:07:50.540]and a lot more work with various community partners.
[00:07:54.290]And so I'm really excited
[00:07:56.240]about doing that as director of the center,
[00:07:59.100]because the opportunity
[00:08:01.130]to be kind of a liaison
[00:08:05.130]between what we do at the university
[00:08:06.880]and what is going on out in the communities
[00:08:10.250]across the Great Plains is exciting to me,
[00:08:12.700]the fact that we can be a kind of conduit
[00:08:18.470]between the university
[00:08:20.160]and all it's doing
[00:08:21.990]and communities across the Great Plains,
[00:08:24.890]but also bringing concerns
[00:08:28.000]and priorities back from communities to the center
[00:08:30.840]and to the university as well.
[00:08:32.760]So I'm very excited about that.
[00:08:34.840]What would you suggest that people check out
[00:08:37.660]in the Great Plains, either a location or a top.
[00:08:42.230]Until pretty recently,
[00:08:43.970]I wasn't exploring the Great Plains
[00:08:45.940]as much as I could have been,
[00:08:49.430]but since I'm a historian,
[00:08:51.210]I get really excited when I go to places
[00:08:54.520]that I've been reading about or learning about.
[00:08:58.570]And then I can kind of almost imagine
[00:09:01.430]that history taking place there.
[00:09:03.480]So, one place I really love in the state of Nebraska
[00:09:06.830]is the Niobrara region,
[00:09:09.300]the town, and that is the homelands of the Ponca people.
[00:09:15.140]And, when I went there for the first time,
[00:09:17.740]which was just a couple of years ago
[00:09:19.360]and was staying up in one of the bluffs
[00:09:21.570]that's along the Missouri river,
[00:09:23.590]and then also overlooks the Niobrara river,
[00:09:27.490]I just was imagining what it was like
[00:09:30.770]when the Ponca were based there
[00:09:33.510]and how, what a sense of loss it would have been
[00:09:37.210]to have to be removed from there
[00:09:39.890]as they were,
[00:09:41.870]and it's such a beautiful place and such a wild place still.
[00:09:47.450]So I would really,
[00:09:48.700]that's one place I would really recommend people go
[00:09:50.867]is the Niobrara region
[00:09:52.950]and not just tanking down the river,
[00:09:55.060]but just exploring the land around there.
[00:10:00.600]Another place I really love on the Great Plains,
[00:10:02.720]one of my favorite places is Winnipeg, Canada.
[00:10:06.030]And, if you're watching this during the COVID crisis,
[00:10:10.040]we can't go there right now if you're American,
[00:10:12.270]but, someday I hope you'll get to go to Winnipeg.
[00:10:18.154]It's based at two rivers.
[00:10:20.410]There's a place called The Forks in Winnipeg,
[00:10:23.210]where this was a place where indigenous people
[00:10:25.820]and European fur traders used to meet and trade
[00:10:28.800]and all the time.
[00:10:30.540]And so when I go there,
[00:10:31.800]I just can imagine that happening.
[00:10:34.010]And it's also a really neat town.
[00:10:37.660]The Canadian Human Rights Museum is there,
[00:10:40.770]the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation is there.
[00:10:44.940]So here at the middle of the Great Plains
[00:10:49.490]in a very "unsexy place,"
[00:10:52.230]in some ways,
[00:10:53.310]it's just a really amazing little city
[00:10:57.640]with amazing resources,
[00:11:00.120]a very vibrant indigenous community, indigenous art scene,
[00:11:04.670]and a really beautiful environment.
[00:11:08.870]The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations
[00:11:11.990]to operate different.
[00:11:14.090]Can you share how you envision
[00:11:15.760]the center functioning this year
[00:11:17.490]with respect to the pandemic's impact?
[00:11:20.440]Yeah, I mean,
[00:11:21.273]it's really true that COVID-19 has forced all of us
[00:11:25.400]out of our comfort zones.
[00:11:27.990]And, you know,
[00:11:30.490]I certainly don't wish that we'd had this virus
[00:11:33.390]and nobody does.
[00:11:35.080]But I do think it's actually been good for the center
[00:11:37.330]because it's stretching us
[00:11:40.180]and it's encouraging us to reach new audiences in new ways.
[00:11:45.320]And so for example,
[00:11:46.890]we are recording this and putting it out there
[00:11:49.360]in a very different way.
[00:11:50.310]We have our Olsen lectures that we do every year,
[00:11:54.010]we usually do those in person,
[00:11:55.490]and now we're able to do them as podcasts
[00:11:59.530]and as these kind of short videos,
[00:12:02.100]and we have a number of them coming up this fall,
[00:12:04.900]maybe up to 10.
[00:12:07.380]We also always have our journals
[00:12:10.310]that are accessible online.
[00:12:13.300]Our art museum is open.
[00:12:15.480]It's in a very large space
[00:12:17.960]so it allows for people to be very safe
[00:12:20.330]when they come in
[00:12:21.730]and we have a lot of protocols in place.
[00:12:25.590]So, we're being forced to do things differently,
[00:12:28.880]but I actually think it's a blessing in disguise
[00:12:31.970]that it'll allow us to reach more people
[00:12:35.150]and kind of,
[00:12:39.030]I know I as a scholar
[00:12:40.710]and being stretched and learning new things.
[00:12:42.830]And I just think learning new things
[00:12:44.450]is always good for us even technically.
[00:12:47.500]What is something that most people
[00:12:49.130]would be surprised to learn about?
[00:12:51.040]I was really into music as a child.
[00:12:52.990]I almost went to school and majored in music.
[00:12:55.730]I was a singer.
[00:12:57.850]I actually performed in several operas when I was 18,
[00:13:02.540]and I used to play the piano and the violin.
[00:13:06.150]And then recently,
[00:13:07.330]I took up the guitar.
[00:13:09.010]And right now,
[00:13:09.890]I take flamenco guitar lessons
[00:13:12.430]from a really wonderful local teacher named Daniel Martinez
[00:13:17.230]who's originally from Peru.
[00:13:19.560]And sometimes, I play in a flamenco group
[00:13:22.580]that he started.
[00:13:24.570]That's super fun.
[00:13:26.320]And don't get excited though,
[00:13:28.140]because it doesn't mean
[00:13:29.920]I'm a good flamenco guitar player,
[00:13:32.120]just means I have fun doing it.
[00:13:35.540]And it's a great stress relief
[00:13:37.490]and a lot of fun, so yeah.
[00:13:40.950]We'd like to thank Margaret Jacobs,
[00:13:42.730]the new director of the Center for Great Plains Studies
[00:13:45.180]for joining us in our first
[00:13:46.680]of these many Great Plains talks.
[00:13:49.230]Join us again this fall
[00:13:50.470]for topics such as extreme weather, COVID-19
[00:13:53.560]and the Great Plains and environmental art.
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