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2022 Mari Sandoz Symposium

Friday, September 23, 2022

Center for Great Plains Studies & The Lied Center for Performing Arts, Lied Commons (luncheon program), University of Nebraska Lincoln


8:00 am


Center for Great Plains Studies lobby


9:00 am


Lynn Roper, President, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society


9:15 am


"Such a Jolly Family: Mari Sandoz rewrites Elizabeth Bacon Custer"

Halverson’s presentation will be on Mari Sandoz’s last book, The Battle of Little Bighorn. Her focus is how its skeptical portrayal of Armstrong Custer responds to that offered by his widow, Elizabeth Bacon Custer, in her popular 1885 memoir Boots and Saddles.

Speaker: Dr. Cathryn Halverson, 2022 Sandoz Scholar, Sodertorn University in Huddinge, Sweden

Session Chair: Dr. Renee Laegreid, Member, Sandoz Scholar Award Committee




10:15 am

"Health and Wellness in the Writings of Mari Sandoz"

[Dr. Kimberli Lee] "Medicine and Malady: Sandoz Family Tradition of Wellness in the Sandhills"

This presentation examines Mari Sandoz’s general interest in medicine and medical issues. It will give a general overview of her childhood with Jules, and his medical interests, and her concern and advocacy for the Northern Cheyenne when their hospital was to be closed. Sandoz’s own health issues, such as we know about them, will also be discussed. Though she often kept quiet about many of her own health issues, there are indications that she took them seriously, though it must have been difficult for her. 

  • NOTE: Dr. Lee's paper to be presented by Dr. Renee Laegreid

[Courtney Kouba] "Illness and Injury: The Inspirations for Mari Sandoz's Miss Morissa"

Kouba's presentation will focus on the health-related events in Miss Morissa and the inspiration behind the work. Mari based the character on three different women and what they experienced as doctors on the High Plains. The talk will discuss these women, how they treated different illnesses and injuries, and how their lives played into Mari’s work. 

[Broc Anderson] "Health & Wellness of Lakota and Non-native Performers During the Wild West Shows"

Prior to 1890, the Buffalo Bill Wild West shows emotionally and physically strained Native performers. While on tour, Lakota actors from Pine Ridge faced many emotional and physical hardships being away from their homeland and because of the intense schedule of performances. Using newspaper reports, local observations, and outspoken Native leaders, Anderson will share his analysis of the overall health & wellness of Native performers as a result of the Wild West and other road shows featuring Lakotas.

Speakers: Dr. Kimberli Lee, Northeastern State University (Oklahoma), Courtney Kouba, Chadron State College, Broc Anderson, Buffalo County Historical Society/Trails & Rails Museum, Kearney

Session Chair: Dr. Renee Laegreid, University of Wyoming



"Health and Wellness on the Great Plains: Historic and Contemporary Views"

In this moderated discussion, learn of the challenges and opportunities experienced by medical professionals practicing in very different times.

Panelists: Dr. Siobhan Wescott, LaFlesche Professor of Public Health at UNMC, Omaha, NE and Joe Starita, Lincoln, NE

Session Chair/Moderator: Melodie Edwards, Wyoming Public Radio




Lied Commons, Lied Center for Performing Arts

“The Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Hospital Restoration Initiative”

Situated in the small northeast Nebraska town of Walthill (population 870) on the Omaha Indian Reservation, the Picotte Hospital opened its doors in 1913. Not only was it created by the first Native American woman licensed to practice medicine in the United States, it also was the first hospital constructed on a reservation without a penny of federal funding. Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, is one of the most extraordinary yet little-known figures in U.S. history. Her father, Joseph LaFlesche (last chief of the Omaha Tribe), sent her east to the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania where she studied medicine at a time when few women dared. After graduating as valedictorian in 1889, she chose to return to the reservation despite numerous prestigious job offers.

The Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Hospital was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992. Designed by noted Sioux City, Iowa, architect William Steele, it remains the one thing most closely associated with her life and work, is a symbol of her spirit, and is a powerful reminder of a woman the world is only beginning to appreciate. For 30 years a small group of Walthill residents has been struggling to maintain the building. Members of the group are aging and have limited funds available to pay taxes and keep it heated and watertight. The building is currently unoccupied and the recent threats to this important landmark were cause for immediate action to stabilize and restore it. The presentation will focus on the recent efforts to preserve the legacy of Dr. Picotte including the 2018 campaign that resulted in the National Trust for Historic Preservation naming the Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Hospital as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. 

Speaker: Dan Worth, FAIA, FAPT, Principal Emeritus, BVH Architecture

Presiding: Lynn Roper, President, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society


Additional Afternoon Activities


2:00 pm


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

Participants may enhance their Sandoz experience with a visit to the Special Collections archive at Love Library on the University of Nebraska Lincoln campus. A limited number of participants will have the opportunity to look behind the scenes of the work of this great writer.  Please meet outside of Love Library Room 29.




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.