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2021 Mari Sandoz Symposium

Friday, September 24, 2021

8:00am to NOON Central Time

Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska Lincoln


7:30 am


Center for Great Plains Studies lobby


8:00 am


Lynn Roper, President, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society

Michael Smith, Chair, 2021 Symposium Committee


8:10 am


Dr. Jillian Wenburg, Sandoz Scholar Award Committee Chair, Park University


8:20 am


"Nebraska Border Towns to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation before and after the Wounded Knee Massacre"

This paper addresses the history of the Nebraska - Pine Ridge border town communities in Dawes and Sheridan counties before and after the Wounded Knee Massacre. Prior to many of the early non-Native settlers, the US military presence at Ft. Robinson and Camp Sheridan set a precedent of how local Natives and non-Natives met in social and economic settings throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. As the US military served more as a police force in western-Nebraska, calls from the east to remove Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies out of the state for the oncoming wave non-Native settlers came to fruition by 1878. Then as small groups of non-Native settlers found their way to western-Nebraska, they sought to take advantage of their geographic proximity to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for economic purposes. As quickly as the nearby border towns of Gordon, Rushville, Hay Springs, and Chadron formed, Nebraska became a major supply point for many legal and illegal goods and services to the reservation. As the 1880s progressed, the small border towns adopted many of the same social and racial views of that of the US military maintaining its presence in the region. As a result of these economic and social constructs, further animosities toward local Natives escalated through the spread of rumors among settlers leading up to and following the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. Often times, these tense moments were mostly rumors or hearsay, but the sporadic moments of violence after Wounded Knee, between Natives and non-Natives, shaped how settlers viewed their Native neighbor.

Speaker: Broc Anderson, 2021 Sandoz Scholar, University of Nebraska-Kearney

Moderator: Dr. Jillian Wenburg, Sandoz Scholar Award Committee Chair, Park University




9:25 am


"Mari Sandoz and Her Cities"

[Lincoln] "Greenwich Village in Nebraska: Mari Sandoz’s Bohemian Life on the Great Plains"

Before Mari Sandoz moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village, she lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, from 1919 to 1940, a period she once acknowledged as her “Greenwich Village time”—a time when she lived the bohemian life of a starving artist and fostered relationships with individuals who challenged conventions of gender and sexuality. Sandoz’s relationships, especially with a gay university professor named Melvin Van den Bark, reveal a dimension of her attitude toward gender and sexuality previously unexplored and may force us to reconsider the contours of her life.

[Denver] "Plains Spoken: The Voice of Mari Sandoz in the Mountain West "

Frisbee will share with the audience the development of Sandoz’s work and professional life in Denver and other parts of the Mountain West. As Sandoz left Nebraska to embark on new projects, she would use Denver as stepping stone to the life of a writer in the urban East who communicated in the language of the West. 

[New York] "From the Sandhills to the City: Mari Sandoz, Western Writing, and New York Living"

Nelson's talk will offer insight of the decades Sandoz lived in New York City. Many of her fans believed she resented her residence there because it was nothing like Nebraska. But Sandoz thrived in this eastern hub of artists, writers, intellectuals, performers, musicians, and eclectic characters. They fueled her with energy to write about some of the most complex and violent events in American history. 

Speakers: Jamison Wyatt, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Dr. Meg Frisbee, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Dr. Elaine Marie Nelson, University of Kansas

Moderator: Dr. Renee Laegreid, University of Wyoming




“Don’t Mind If You Won’t Find My Work Salable—I Won’t” Mari Sandoz’s Writing and Research Methodologies

Mari Sandoz’s activism shows the deep respect Sandoz held for the disenfranchised groups of Native Americans, women, and farmers and laborers she discussed. Misrepresentations in other texts and in Hollywood film adaptations disenchanted and infuriated Sandoz. Her frustration stemmed from both blatant intolerance and ignorance of tribal histories and a complete disregard for women and workers’ rights by those in power. This presentation focuses on Sandoz’s method in correcting the record and the resultant effects of her work. Specifically, I will discuss the strategies Sandoz used in her writing including her research methodology, her writing style and approach, interview tactics, and her response to criticism and publishers.

Speaker: Dr. Jillian Wenburg, Park University

Moderator: Heather Stauffer, University of Nebraska Press




“Pretty Hopeless with a Sealskin Jacket: Mari Sandoz and Hollywood”

Even before Old Jules was published, Mari Sandoz began fielding offers from major film studios. For 29 years, the silver screen beckoned with a surprising number of Sandoz works proposed for cinematic adaptation. Based primarily on correspondence, this talk will examine Mari’s experience with Hollywood throughout her life, as she came to terms with Hollywood and the modest financial windfalls from licensing film rights, culminating with the release of Cheyenne Autumn, acclaimed filmmaker John Ford’s last film and the only major studio production of a Sandoz work. Although her skepticism of the historical accuracy possible in a major studio film never waned, Sandoz’s desire to increase sales of her books held final sway.

Speaker: Dr. David Nesheim, Chadron State College

Moderator: Dr. Ron Hull




Additional Afternoon Activities


12:30-2:00 pm


Love Library, Room 29, University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus

(please see registration form for time slots)

Symposium participants may enhance their Sandoz experience with a thirty minute visit to the Special Collections archive at Love Library on the University of Nebraska Lincoln campus. A limited number of people will be able to attend one of three sessions for an opportunity to look behind the scenes of the work of this great writer.  Please meet outside of Love Library Room 29 at your appointed time.




211 N. 14th Street

Jamison Wyatt will lead an exploration of the life of Mari Sandoz while she lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, during a 90-minute walking tour. The starting point is located at 211 N. 14th Street (just north of Raising Cane's) and ends at the Abraham Lincoln monument at 14th Street and Lincoln Mall at the plaza on the west side of the Nebraska State Capitol building.