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2020 Virtual Pilster Lecture & Sandoz Symposium Recap

"Immigration in the American West, Sandoz Country"


Links to Watch the Session Recordings

Thank you to Southeast Community College (Lincoln) for recording the program and to Chadron State College for hosting the recordings.


Download the Pilster Great Plains Lecture Paper


About the Event

The 2020 Pilster Great Plains Lecture & Panel Discussion took place on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Titled "Borderlands, Latina/o, American West, Immigration" the lecture and panel discussion explored immigration in the American West from a national perspective.

Dr. Omar Valerio-Jiménez, the Pilster keynote, is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas San Antonio, was born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and grew up in Taft, Corpus Christi, and Edinburg, Texas. After graduating from MIT, he worked as an engineer for five years before attending UCLA, where he obtained his master’s and doctorate degrees. He has taught courses on borderlands, Latinas/os, immigration, race/ethnicity, and the American West at universities in California, New York, Texas, and Iowa. His first book, River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands (Duke University Press, 2013), explores state formation and cultural change along the Mexico-United States border during the 18th and 19th Centuries. He is a co-editor of Major Problems in Latina/o History (Cengage Learning, 2014), scholarly essays and primary sources on the migration and racialization experiences of various Latino populations. He is also a co-editor of The Latina/o Midwest Reader (University of Illinois Press, 2017) an interdisciplinary anthology that examines the history, education, literature, art, and politics of Latinas/os in the Midwest. His current book project, Remembering Conquest: Mexican Americans, Memory, and Citizenship, analyzes the ways in which memories of the U.S.-Mexico War have shaped Mexican Americans’ civil rights struggles, writing, oral discourse, and public rituals. His next project explores the efforts of scholars to challenge the omissions and negative characterizations of Tejanos in the state’s history and in public school textbooks during the mid-twentieth century. He serves on the editorial board of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Studies in Midwestern History, Journal of Texas Archeology and History, and is a series editor of Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest Series (University of Illinois Press). 

Dr. Danielle Battisti, panel member, is an associate professor of U.S. History at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she specializes in immigration and ethnic history. Her book, Whom We Shall Welcome: Italian Americans and Immigration Reform (Fordham University Press, 2019) examines both the liberal and conservative elements of Italian American efforts to influence American immigration policies in the 1950s and 1960s.  Whom We Shall Welcome was awarded the 2019 Best First Book Award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society.  Dr. Battisti is currently engaged in two new research projects. The first seeks to address gaps in political discourse, the academy, and popular memory about the history of "illegal" European migration to the United States by looking at unauthorized Italian immigration from the 1920s to 1950s and the immigration laws that largely facilitated Euro-Americans’ efforts to adjust their status from “illegal alien” to “legal permanent resident.”  Her other new research examines American involvement in the creation and operations of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, a postwar NGO created in 1952 and charged with resettling European Displaced Persons to the Americas and Oceania. 

Dr. Kurt E. Kinbacher, panel member, is an Associate Professor of History at Chadron State College. He has served on the Board since 2013 and has chaired the Pilster Lecture and Sandoz Symposium Committee since 2016. He completed his PhD at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2006.  He is author of Urban Villages and Local Identities: Germans from Russia, Omaha Indians, and Vietnamese in Lincoln Nebraska; co-editor of Reconfigurations of Native North America; and author of several articles and book chapters that focus on identity construction, human migrations, and region. 

Shannon D. Smith (Moderator) is the Executive Director and CEO of the Wyoming Humanities Council. Prior to that she was an Associate Director and Research Fellow at EDUCAUSE in Boulder, Colorado and taught history and humanities for seven years at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She is a historian and author of several works on women of the American West including Give Me Eighty Men: Women and the Myth of the Fetterman Fight, a 2009 book award winner from the Wyoming State Historical Society. She has written several articles and book chapters featuring Mari Sandoz and aspires to write a biography of Mari's amazing life. Shannon was the Executive Secretary of the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society from 1990-92 and has served on the board since then.

The 2020 Mari Sandoz Symposium Panel Discussion took place on Thursday, September 17, 2020 and featured four Nebraskans discussing the major groups who settled Sandoz Country, including but not limited to: the Latina/os; Volga Deutsch; Japanese; Irish; Blacks and Native Americans. Attendees learned how the traditions these immigrants brought to the area have shaped the rich cultural tapestry we enjoy today.

Broc Anderson is the Community Engagement Director for Trails & Rails Museum in Kearney, Nebraska. He is an Alliance High School and Chadron State College graduate who found his passion in history early in life. He's pursing his Master's in history through the University of Nebraska at Kearney researching borderland histories of Gordon, Rushville, Hay Springs, and Chadron to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The introduction of non-native immigrants to the region that was once traditional land of the Lakota resulted in fears and animosities of the "other." He will also discuss the settling of Sandoz Country by the Volga Deutsch. 

Dr. Marty Ramirez is a retired Counseling Psychologist, after 38 years at the University of Nebraska –Lincoln. Marty started working at UNL as a counselor for the Department of Minority Affairs in 1973.  Upon receiving his Ph.D. Marty worked with UNL’s Counseling Center and later worked for the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services.  In 1992 Marty was a recipient of Weber State’s Minority Lectureship Program in Ogden, Utah. A Scottsbluff native, Marty received his BA from Chadron State College and his MA and Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Marty has presented numerous local and national workshops on mental health, career planning, diversity and cultural competence. In 2013 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Chadron State College. He is a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart.

Vickie Sakurada Schaepler is Coordinator of the Japanese Hall and History Project at the Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering, Nebraska. She is working to preserve the history of the Japanese on the High Plains through the preservation of a Japanese Hall built in 1928 and moved to the Legacy of the Plains Museum to showcase the history. She was a member of the 2019 Japanese American Delegation to Japan sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. She spent her career working with individuals with disabilities and medical conditions. She has served as a director, manager and counselor at Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Railroad and the State of Nebraska’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. She was a trustee for History Nebraska Board and the Buffalo County Historical Society Board. Ms. Schaepler completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Kearney State College.  

Becci Thomas has been the Director of the Knight Museum & Sandhills Center in Alliance for 26 years.  She oversaw a $5.3 million renovation, wrote an introductory film, wrote an Arcadia Alliance pictorial history book and curated the new displays. She was born and reared in Alliance and likes to think that she is sharing “her family’s history” with those who visit the museum. Her educational background is also homegrown as a graduate of Alliance High School and life in the Panhandle community.  An avid history buff, she says her job is like getting paid to have fun. She just finished her term as President of the Nebraska Museum Association. The heart of the museum is the Heritage room and she says that is her specialty as a genealogist for over 30 years. It also makes immigration a strong influence for her English, Austrian, Irish heritage. In her spare time she is a mixed media artist, loves chasing her 5 grandchildren and is patiently awaiting her first great granddaughter soon.

Michael J. Smith (Moderator) of Lincoln served as Director/CEO of the Nebraska State Historical Society (now History Nebraska) from 2006 until his retirement in 2016. Smith’s 44-year career in history and museums included several executive leadership positions in midwestern and eastern institutions. Today, he lives with his wife Mary in Lincoln where he retains an interest in the humanities and public life.

This program was funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment