Ernie LaPointe, Great-grandson of Sitting Bull, visits Ball State U. class

On Monday, September 19 and Tuesday, September 20, 2016, Ernie LaPointe, a Great-grandson to Hunkpapa Lakota chief Sitting Bull, visited Ball State University to give a public talk and to speak with students. On Tuesday afternoon he visited my HIST/NREM 204: U.S. Environmental History course where he spoke on the topic, “Live in Tune with Mother Earth.”

Mr. LaPointe, author of the book, Sitting Bull: His Life and Legacy (2009) and the producer of the documentary film, Sitting Bull’s Voice (2013), shared his Lakota cultural perspective on both the history of human relationships with the natural world and the precarious future facing the human race if it does not heed the wisdom of the ancient knowledge carefully curated by the First Nation peoples and make changes in order to “live in tune with Mother Earth.”

LaPointe is the president and founder of the Sitting Bull Family Foundation, and he and his wife Sonja travel across the U.S. and abroad sharing the history of Sitting Bull and the cultural heritage of the Lakota people.

Historian Elizabeth Tandy Shermer visits Ball State U. history class

On May 2, 2016, historian Elizabeth Tandy Shermer made a “Virtual Visit” to my HIST 318/518: History of the American West course to discuss her book that I had assigned that semester, Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politics (2013). The students certainly found the political development that Shermer describes in her book to be particularly relevant to their understanding of the more recent history of the American West, but also to their understanding of national current events that are front and center during this presidential election year.

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Some students asked professor Shermer questions about why she chose to focus on Phoenix, Arizona and how long it took her to conduct the research and then write the book. Other students asked her if she believed that the rise of Western conservatism halted the progress of the civil rights movement, and to share her thoughts as to whether the rapid growth of Phoenix and other sunbelt cities will be sustainable. This was an exciting opportunity for these Indiana students-most of whom have never been to the west-to meet the author and to discuss her book.

Fun fact: Ellie was my first-ever research assistant when I was a post-doc at the University of Virginia and now she’s an award-winning professor at Loyola University in Chicago! They grow up so fast…😉

Historian Will Bagley visits Ball State U. history class

Last February, western historian Will Bagley joined my HIST 318/518: History of the American West class to discuss his recent book that I had assigned, South Pass: Gateway to a Continent (2014). Bagley regaled them with his fascinating stories from the “history salt mines” in a way that only he can.

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The students asked him questions ranging from how he began research for the book and how long it took him to write it, to if he personally visited South Pass and the Oregon Trail, and whether he thought that South Pass could also be interpreted as a monument to American capitalism. This terrific opportunity for students to meet the author resulted in the class period flying by!

But Wait…There’s More!

Arriving in my mailbox on the same day as the other volume, A Companion to Custer and the Little Bighorn Campaign contains a long essay, “A National Monument,” that I researched and wrote in collaboration with a former UNL graduate advisee Jason Heppler. This  is another examination of history and memory in an important landscape in the American West similar to my earlier journal articles on sites in New Mexico and Arizona. In addition to using traditional research methods, Jason and I also employed Digital Humanities text analysis tools to investigate the topics and rhetoric contained in two of the three editions of the official interpretive handbook for the Little Bighorn battlefield National Monument site. I hope that students of the history of the United States, the American West, and History & Memory, along with those who are fascinated with the Native American experience and the mythic figure of George Armstrong Custer, will find this piece a welcome contribution to that voluminous historiography.

This Just In…

What began as an invited lecture to speak to the faculty of Brigham Young University’s Religious Studies Center in Omaha, NE along the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail in the summer of 2012 has just been published! As the lead essay in this collection of twelve pieces, I trace the cartographic ideas of the Far West around the time of the Mormon exodus from Illinois to Utah in the mid-nineteenth century. The essay examines the significant works of cartography featuring the American West created just after the Lewis and Clark expedition through the constitution of the State of Deseret in 1849. These are the depictions of the region that Church leadership used to establish the stake of Zion, the settlement of the Great Basin, the proposed State of Deseret, the creation of Utah Territory, and eventually the state of Utah. I am pleased to see it in print and hope that it is of use to those who study cartography, Mormon history, the American West, and United States history.

Ball State gives Buffalo Bill’s Wild West a virtual makeover

October 12, 2015

Cowboys and Indians captivated the country when Buffalo Bill’s Wild West rolled through America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. More than a century later, Ball State digital artists have re-created the legendary showman’s outdoor exhibition.

Working with staff from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, artists and designers from Ball State’s Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts (IDIA) have crafted a computer-generated world that authentically simulates the Wild West show dramatizing frontier life.

“The visual look and feel of the project is something we’re really proud of,” said John Fillwalk, IDIA director and senior director of the university’s Hybrid Design Technologies initiative.

Fillwalk collaborated on the project with Jeremy Johnston, curator of the center’s Buffalo Bill Museum, and Ball State historians James Connolly and Douglas Seefeldt.

Read more at: http://cms.bsu.edu/news/articles/2015/10/ball-state-gives-buffalo-bills-wild-west-a-virtual-makeover

NEH honors two Ball State projects

National Endowment for the Humanities names What Middletown Read, The Real Buffalo Bill as ‘top grant projects’

September 30, 2015

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has singled out two projects with Ball State University ties as among the most significant projects the agency has funded. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding, the agency has selected what it describes as “the top grant projects from NEH’s history,” including What Middletown Read and The Real Buffalo Bill…

The Papers of William F. Cody, included in “The Real Buffalo Bill,” a series of NEH-supported projects that explore the life, legacy and impact of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody also made NEH’s list.  In his role as senior digital editor of the Papers of William F. Cody, Ball State’s Douglas Seefeldt, a history professor, has worked closely with the Buffalo Bill Center of the West on several projects, including The William F. Cody Archive and the Cody Studies digital research and scholarship platform. Ball State is one of the participating institutions.

Read more at: http://cms.bsu.edu/news/articles/2015/9/neh-honors-two-ball-state-projects