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2023 Mari Sandoz Symposium Information

Mari Sandoz’s Homeland, Past, Present and Future: A Symposium on the High Plains
September 29-30, 2023
Chadron State College, Chadron, NE



Friday, September 29, 2023

8:15 am

Registrant Check-In, Coffee and Networking

Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, Chicoine Atrium


8:50 am

Opening & Welcome

Shannon Smith, President, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society and Mike Smith, Chair, 2023 Symposium Committee

Announcement of 2023-2024 Sandoz Scholar

Dr. Chris Steinke, Sandoz Scholar Committee Member


9:00 am

"Telling Our Stories” – Preserving and Sharing Plains Indian Culture and History Today"

Museum exhibits, public presentations, books, documentaries, films, music, and art tell the stories of Indigenous cultures around the world. In every medium there have been instances of cultural appropriation by non-Indigenous people and sometimes the narrative being told has come from an outside perspective that can promote inaccurate, insensitive, and even completely false characterizations. Mari Sandoz worked hard to dispel misconceptions about Plains Indian history and culture while telling unvarnished truths in appropriate and respectful ways in her stories about Native American dispossession. Today, Donovin Sprague also works tirelessly to share the culture of his people to help us better understand their past and present situations. In this talk Donovin will discuss his work as a public historian and his impression of the current state of affairs in preserving and sharing American Indian culture and how non-Indians can support their Indian brothers and sisters by learning more about them.

Speaker: Donovin Sprague, Sheridan, WY

Shannon Smith, Session Chair


10:00 am

PANEL DISCUSSION: "Preserving Local History in Sandoz Country"

Although Mari Sandoz did not complete any formal historical training or education, Sandoz relied on her own experiences growing up in northwest Nebraska to tell her stories. Not to downplay her time dedicated to the extensive and significant research in archives across the country, but it is Sandoz’s intimate connection to the High Plains region that she can describe these people and places in a much deeper and more meaningful narrative.  

Now in the twenty-first century, local residents and institutions seek to preserve and share this history within these northwest Nebraska communities. From this panel, the objective is to raise awareness and describe the importance of being able to preserve this local history within these respective communities. Thus, honors and continues Mari Sandoz’s legacy and research interests. The panelists, Christine Ambrose, of Chadron, Phyllis Krotz, of Rushville, and Harlen Wheeler, of Gordon share their own and institutional projects, plans, and efforts to preserve and maintain local history in the homeland of Sandoz country.  

Panelist: Christine Ambrose, Chadron, NE

Panelist: Phyllis Krotz, Rushville, NE

Panelist: Harlen Wheeler, Gordon, NE

Dr. Chris Steinke, Moderator


11:00 am

PANEL DISCUSSION: "Teaching With Mari Sandoz on the High Plains"

Matthew Evertson, Markus Jones, and Mary Clai Jones all teach in the English & Humanities Department at Chadron State College. This panel will explore how they teach using materials and themes related to the High Plains. Each panelist will briefly describe how they've incorporated elements of the High Plains -- whether it be Mari Sandoz's publications, the Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, or attributes of the high plains' landscapes -- into their writing and teaching. Then, panelists will open the floor for discussion by posing questions for the audience.  For example, the English Studies Major catalogue has recently included a regional component into their requirements. 

Panelist: Mari Clai Jones, Ph.D., Chadron State College

Panelist: Markus Jones, Chadron State College

Panelist: Matt Evertson, Ph.D., Chadron State College

Renee Laegreid, Ph.D., Session Chair


12:15 pm

Luncheon & Program

Chadron State College Student Center Ballroom

"The Battle of Greasy Grass"

This presentation will explore the historic Battle of Greasy Grass, popularly known as the Battle of Little Bighorn, from a Lakota perspective. Donovin will also discuss the new visitor center being constructed at the Little Bighorn National Battlefield National Monument, and the recent acquisition of land within the National Monument by Native American Tribes.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Donovin Sprague, Sheridan, WY

Dr. Renee Laegreid, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Board Member, Moderator




2:00 pm

Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, Chicoine Atrium

PANEL DISCUSSION: “The High Plains: Climate, Flora and Fauna, Past, Present, Future”

Conference Chair Michael Smith will moderate a probing discussion among three of Chadron State College’s knowledgeable natural scientists in exploring the place that is characterized by the High Plains environment and the life it supports.  Created by natural processes over eons of time, this place has supported human life for 15,000 years or more. What has changed, what is found today, what is its projected future and what might that mean for the peoples who depend on and love the land?  This is a key topic, one that Mari Sandoz explored in her writings and is ever more vital today. 

Panelist: Michael Leite, Ph.D., Chadron State College

Panelist: Steven Rolfsmeier, Chadron State College

Panelist: Teresa Frink, Ph.D., Chadron State College

Michael Smith, Session Chair


3:00 PM

Optional Friday afternoon activities

Tour of the Chadron State College Herbarium

Tour of the Sandoz archives at the Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center

Chadron State Park hike


Saturday, September 30, 2023

9:00 am

Casual Coffee & Discussion

Bean Broker Coffeehouse & Pub, 202 W. 2nd St., downtown Chadron