Welcome to Northwest Nebraska’s blog. 

Hindsight, foresight merge in 20/20 exhibit

By Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Tourism Director

Say the name Walter Reed and one thing likely comes to mind – Walter Reed Army Medical Center, now known as the Walter Reed

Pharmacy items from early pioneer days are part of the “Hindsight is 20/20” exhibit at the Sandoz Center.

National Military Medical Center. Half a country away, the medical center has treated hundreds of thousands of soldiers since its inception, a fact most of the population probably already knows.

But there’s a connection to Northwest Nebraska and the medical center’s namesake, Walter Reed, with which many might be unfamiliar. Dr. Reed, who earned his medical degree at age 17, was commissioned in the US Army Medical Corps in 1875 and spent five years serving on the American frontier. For three of those years, 1884-1887, he was stationed at Fort Robinson. His time there and a pharmaceutical collection of items from that period in the region are part of the new “Hindsight is 20/20” exhibit at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center.

Dr. Reed went on to become a major and served as the curator of the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C., and a professor at the Army Medical School. He discovered how both typhoid and yellow fever are spread. While at Fort Robinson, however, he was treating soldiers and area settlers, including Old Jules, famed pioneer and the subject of the book “Old Jules” written by Mari Sandoz. As the story goes about Old Jules, he suffered a broken ankle while digging a well and was found by Fort Robinson soldiers 18 days later.

As Dr. Reed examined his foot, black and green with infection, Old Jules reportedly threatened to kill the good doctor if he amputated.

“My orders are to amputate. But your wish to die in one piece shall not be ignored. And it would be just like your particular brand of damn fool to pull through,” Dr. Reed replied.

As Dr. Reed left Fort Robinson to continue his illustrious medical career, the local paper bid him farewell with this missive: “We doubt if Fort Robinson will ever contain a physician as affable and accommodating as the outgoing doctor has been, not only to the soldiers but settlers as well.”

The “Hindsight is 20/20” exhibit chronicles Dr. Reed’s life alongside a display of pharmacy items, including pill bottles and medicines. The section of the exhibit dedicated to Dr. Reed is just one of 20 collections being showcased through March 20. With the start of 2020, Laure Sinn and Holly Counts said it seemed appropriate for the Sandoz Center to look backwards and used the opportunity to display a variety of exhibits that depict everything from early Native American life in the region to agricultural advancements and law enforcement.

“It’s a way to show off a lot of the smaller collections of the region,” Counts said, noting that over the years many individuals have approached them about displaying their collections but didn’t have enough to fill the center’s full gallery.

A flintknapping display, for example, reveals the tools used and skills exhibited by early humans in their effort to communicate and survive. Another is dedicated to the Elite Theatre in Crawford, owned by Timothy and Georgianna Higgins in the early 1900s. The couple first operated a saloon and added the theatre in 1909. When Mr. Higgins died in 1912, it is believed that Mrs. Higgins became the first woman in the U.S. to own and operate a moving picture theatre, according to research provided by the Crawford Historical Museum. The theatre showed its first talkie in 1930, and Mrs. Higgins retired not long after that, but first constructed a new theatre building.

The Elite Theatre in Crawford is believed to be the first in the country owned by a woman.

Other exhibits are dedicated to the White River Mill, which was operated by the Hall brothers until 1915, the Native American Church, formed in the 1870s with a Pine Ridge Chapter blessed by Pope Paul VI in 1975, and to The Rev. George Philip Bechtel, who served the local German population and Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation from 1929-1943.

There is also a collection of Mari Sandoz’s music and letters, including one from a reader of her book “Slogum House.”

“The book is a curiosity. It is so rotten and so putrid it stinks. Yet, having been an inmate of the Insane Asylum, due to the fact that I did every thing I could think of to prevent its being published, you might pardon me. Your characters are well chosen and you would be amazed if you knew that I am quite well acquainted with several of your characters,” the reader wrote.  “You are a wonderful woman since you wrote a manuscript which causes the entire world to act like insane fools,” the letter writer continued and implored Sandoz to “Write a clean story, Mari Sandoz, which will help instead of destroying.”

The author responded to the 1944 letter explaining that she began writing the story as Hitler came to power and was attempting, through fiction, to visualize the methods an individual might use to dominate the world or a region. Sandoz refused to send the letter writer a copy of her book as she didn’t want it in the hands of a reader “unable or unwilling” to seek out its purpose.” She encouraged the woman to “learn to look at the world with a little more objectivity, seeing it as an observer, not as the personal center, you might find life less complicated and defeating, and certainly more fun.”

The Sandoz Center will host speakers and demonstrations in conjunction with the show and also is introducing a new feature with its exhibition of the “Hindsight is 20/20” show. A plus-one exhibit is on display at the show-sponsor Bean Broker Coffee House and Pub in downtown Chadron. The collection of photographs by Dwight Kirsch were taken in 1939 for a planned MGM movie based on Sandoz’s book “Old Jules.” The movie never went into production, however, as producer Irving Thalberg fell ill and had to scrap the project.

“When we first came to town, we thought, we have this great gathering spot in downtown Chadron,” said Dave Feddersen, who purchased the Bean Broker with his wife, Paige, a year ago. “We want to be Chadron’s living room, where the doors are open and everyone is welcome.”

The pictures of Nebraska’s beautiful landscapes are starting to attract attention from the business’ customers, including one local rancher who realized one of the historic photos was taken near his parents’ homestead, Feddersen said.

“I think people are starting to look at it and appreciate it. I think it’s engaging. People enjoy it and they like to see variety here,” he said.  

The plus-one exhibit at the Bean Broker, which was put up in December and will run through the end of March, is dubbed “Foresight is 20/20.” Feddersen hopes to continue the concept in other ways once the show is over, possibly through other Sandoz exhibits, or with other artistry depicting Northwest Nebraska for visitors to enjoy when they stop.

“It’s a way to partner with the Sandoz Center, the college, and others to drive awareness about the resources we have in this area,” Feddersen said.

The famed Chadron to Chicago Horse Race of 1893 is one of 20 exhibits currently on display at the Sandoz Center.

If You Go

  • What: Hindsight is 20/20 Exhibit
  • When: Jan. 20 – March 27, Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. – Noon & 1-4 p.m. & Fridays 10 a.m. – Noon
  • Where: Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center
  • Additional Opportunities
    • Foresight is 20/20: Dec. 6, 2019 – March 31, 2020 at the Bean Broker Coffee House & Pub
    • Demonstration: Flintknapping by Dave Nixon Jan. 23, All Day
    • Speaker: Matt Brust “Lady Beetles” Feb. 11, 3 p.m.
    • Demonstration: Flintknapping by Dave Nixon Feb. 13, All Day
    • Speaker: Mark Hunt “Sheriff Patches of Nebraska” Feb. 19, 1 p.m.
    • Speaker: Steve Rolfsmeier “High Plains Herbarium at 60” Feb. 25, 2 p.m.
    • Demonstration: Flintknapping by Dave Nixon March 19, All Day
    • Speaker: Matt Brust “Butterflies” March 24, 3 p.m.

Rich NWN history makes a perfect road trip

By Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Tourism Director

The famous Chadron to Chicago Horse Race of 1893 started at the Blaine Hotel in downtown Chadron.

The murder of an Army scout, the Cheyenne’s run through the buttes after fleeing Fort Robinson, and railroad camps and tent cities that boomed with the coming of the railroad all share one thing: geography.

Northwest Nebraska is rich in history; the story of the West unfolds in Dawes and Sioux counties, from Native American heritage to the era of fur-traders and homesteaders. Nearly three dozen historical markers provide historical context for the people and places that shaped Northwest Nebraska.

Before the West was carved up by homesteaders and the free range fenced, Native American tribes walked the land of Northwest Nebraska and during the fur-trade era, many conducted business with the traders. James Bordeaux opened his Indian trading house in the mid-1840s near what is today the Museum of the Fur Trade. Bordeaux’s trading house was once attacked by Crow warriors, who were eventually driven off by friendly Sioux Indians. He traded the Indians’ buffalo robes, furs and ponies for guns, powder, blankets and whiskey for nearly three decades in Northwest Nebraska.

But as westward expansion surged, disputes over land erupted. In September 1875, the Allison Commission met with thousands of Sioux Indians under a lone cottonwood tree near present-day Whitney. The commission members hoped to convince the Native Americans to part with the Black Hills, but negotiations failed. While the Council Tree or Treaty Tree died decades ago, its general location is still marked along Old Highway 20.

The story of the Native American people continued in Northwest Nebraska as more settlers arrived, the military established outposts and tribes were assigned to dedicated “agencies,” where they were to live. A few years after the Allison Commission failed in its negotiations, a band of Cheyenne, led by Dull Knife, fled a reservation in Oklahoma, seeking to return to their homeland in Wyoming and Montana. Nearly 150 of the Cheyenne were captured and imprisoned at Fort Robinson, refusing to return to Oklahoma. In January 1879, several of the younger Cheyenne Warriors used smuggled weapons and broke out of the barracks, fighting a running battle across the Fort’s parade ground, eventually reaching the White River, scaling the nearby cliffs and escaping. The Cheyenne evaded troops for 12 days but were discovered hiding along Antelope Creek Jan. 22. The outbreak resulted in the deaths of 64 Cheyenne and 11 soldiers.

Other Native Americans worked with the military, such as Baptiste “Little Bat” Garnier, who served as Chief of the Fort Robinson Scouts. Garnier’s father was French-Canadian, but he was raised among his mother’s Sioux people, earning a reputation as one of the best interpreters and big game hunters in the Rocky Mountain Region of the Nebraska Territory, according to “Fifty Years on the Old Frontier” by James Cook. Little Bat took part in General George Crook’s Black Hills Expedition, worked as a scout with Col. Merritt’s 5th Cavalry and was acting as a military interpreter during Wounded Knee when fighting broke out.

This marker pays tribute to “Little Bat” Garnier, an Army Scout at Fort Robinson who was shot and killed in Crawford.

He was shot and killed Dec. 16, 1900, in a Crawford saloon by local bartender James Haguewood. After being shot, Little Bat stumbled into the street and was taken into a nearby building, where he died, Cook wrote in his book. His life and death are paid tribute with a plaque on the side of what is today known as the Corner Bar, where the fatal shot was fired. Haguewood was acquitted on a plea of self-defense.

Little Bat’s death and interment records read that he was “brutally shot while wholly unarmed and without cause or justification.”

The City of Crawford itself is recognized with a historical marker, having its start as a tent city in 1886. Named after a soldier at Fort Robinson, the town served as an important supply depot for the military outpost, and a center of entertainment for the soldiers stationed there. The historical marker telling the city’s story is located at the site of the Visitor’s Center at the junction of Highways 2/71 and 20.

Crawford isn’t alone in its historic status; the village of Harrison is also recognized with an official state marker. Originally established as a railroad camp in 1884, the town was initially named Summit thanks to its elevation of 4,876 feet. It remains the highest town in the state today.

Just west of Harrison was the Coffee Siding. Cattle ranching was king in Northwest Nebraska, and one of the largest cattle barons, Charles Coffee, constructed a railroad siding between Harrison and Lusk in order to ship cattle to Chicago and avoid Wyoming’s higher freight charges. Agriculture remains a key industry in Northwest Nebraska but trucks have taken over what was once the railroad’s domain.

The complete list of Northwest Nebraska’s historical markers can be found at http://discovernwnebraska.com/museums/. Plan a day or weekend trip this winter to visit as many of them as possible and push those winter blues aside by enjoying Northwest Nebraska year-round.

Pulliam preserving family’s ledger art legacy

By Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Tourism Director

Throughout history, generations have learned about those who came before through song, stories and art. Nowhere are those traditions more imperative than in the Native American culture. Plains Indians who populated what is today known as Northwest Nebraska passed their traditions from one generation to the next.

“Indigitized” by artist Joe Pulliam is a piece of ledger art that represents Native American’s struggle to keep one foot in the past and one foot in the present.

Today, artist Joe Pulliam continues the custom of his ancestors as he creates ledger art. Ledger art takes its name from the source of paper Native Americans began to use as European settlement moved westward. As tribes came into possession of ledgers, ink and pens, their artists expanded their craft, which had primarily consisted of using bone fragments and earth pigments to paint on shields and robes.

“This really represented the next step in art,” Pulliam said. “They were adapting to new materials.”

A native of Pine Ridge, Pulliam worked as a graphic designer for 10 years before learning about the connection of his people to ledger art after being introduced to the medium by Nebraska artist Daniel Long Soldier.

“The historical aspect of ledger art drew me to it,” Pulliam said during a recent stint as the artist-in-residence at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron.

When Pulliam discovered his great-great-uncle, Amos Bad Heart Bull, had been a prolific ledger artist, it cemented his decision to carry on the tradition. Bad Heart Bull’s father served as the historian for the Oglala Lakota and after becoming a scout for the U.S. Army, which included time at Fort Robinson, Bad Heart Bull followed in his father’s footsteps detailing the history of his people. According to Northern Plains Reservation Aid, Bad Heart Bull created 415 ledger art drawings on used ledger pages over the course of 20 years. The drawings depict Oglala Lakota life before 1856, followed by the conflicts with the Crow from 1856-1875 and the Battle of Little Bighorn, in which his father fought.

Artist Joe Pulliam answers questions about his ledger art in front of a ledger art creation done by his great-great-uncle, Amos Bad Heart Bull.

Bad Heart Bull’s original pieces were buried with his sister, Dolly Pretty Cloud, but were documented by photographer Helen Blish, said Laure Sinn, of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center. Staff at the center discovered Blish’s book in the center’s archives – a gift to Mari Sandoz at some point – and Bad Heart Bull’s connection with Northwest Nebraska and created the current gallery showing “Native American Legacies.” The show, which runs through Dec. 13, includes reprints of many of Bad Heart Bull’s ledger art pieces, as well as original creations by Pulliam.

Using Blish’s work as a focal point, the show also features Honoring Quilts donated by Roxie Puchner and a display calling attention to missing and murdered indigenous women. Blish herself has connections to the region, as her father, William, was assigned to work with the Oglala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation while employed with the Department of Interior’s Indian Bureau, according to History Nebraska. After graduating from college in 1922, Blish taught English in Gordon for a time before returning to her native Michigan. When it came time for her to write her master’s thesis, she began looking for examples of Plains art, an endeavor that led to her 1934 manuscript “A Photographic History of the Oglala Sioux” featuring Bad Heart Bull’s work.

Pulliam said research is a key part of his ledger art as he finds ways to preserve the culture and history.

“I’m exploring new ways to portray history in a modern light,” he said.

A piece he calls “Indigitized” represents Native American’s struggle with identity as they always have “one foot in history and one foot in the present,” Pulliam said. “Warrior Society” depicts fierce defenders in Oglala Lakota history who were also among the most generous people of the tribe, proving they were equally valuable in times of peace as they were in war. Pulliam hopes his art inspires the return of those values to society while additionally calling injustices to light, as he does in another piece inked on an 1892 Sheridan County land deed, to represent government-ignored treaties.

While his great-great-uncle used present-day ledgers for his creations, Pulliam scours the internet, antique shops, thrift stores and yard sales in search of ledgers to use in his work.

“The search is always on,” he said.

Pulliam is also active in social justice issues and is a supporter of the White Clay Maker Space, an effort to provide economic sustainability to Lakota living in the area. A recovering alcoholic, Pulliam said while the maker space’s business-aspect is important, he is more focused on empowering himself and his people through art and providing the healing he finds in the creative process.

Improvement Grant Applications Being Accepted

The Dawes and Sioux County Travel Boards are each accepting applications for improvement grants to enhance visitor attractions in both counties.
Applications will be reviewed by each board in January, and interested public and non-profit entities are encouraged to begin the application process now. Attractions must apply for the improvement grant in their respective county only.
Improvement grant funds are available to expand or improve existing visitor attractions, acquire or expand exhibits or construct visitor attractions. The grants are funded by the proceeds of a lodging tax on motel/hotel/campground lodging in Dawes and Sioux counties, as authorized under the Nebraska Visitors Development Act.
“We are continuing to see increased interest in Northwest Nebraska, and improved attractions will allow us to build on that momentum,” said Northwest Nebraska Tourism Director Kerri Rempp.
Dawes County applications are due Dec. 27, and Sioux County applications are due Jan. 1, 2020. Applications and a complete list of guidelines can be found at DiscoverNWNebraska.com.
Each county also offers promotional grants to assist with advertising, signage and other promotional materials. The Dawes County Travel Board reviews applications for promotional grants each month; Sioux County accepts those grant applications on Jan. 1, April 1 and Oct. 1. Visit Discover NWNebraska.com or call 308-432-3006 for more information.

909 Nebraska Passport participants travel to every stop

This summer, travelers celebrated the Nebraska Passport Program’s 10th anniversary by touring the state and collecting stamps in record breaking numbers. This year, 909 participants submitted Passports with all 70 stops stamped, versus 769 in 2018 and 469 in 2017. These “Passport Champions” hail from Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington.
 
“Over the 2019 Passport season, I heard so many wonderful stories from our participants. Ranging from someone who takes their 98-year-old grandma around Nebraska every year to how a young boy begs his mom to take him back to Springfield Drug because he loved their milkshakes so much,” said Madison Schlake, Passport Program Coordinator. “Almost every day I was flooded with stories of family, friendship and genuine love for our beautiful state. Our “Passporters” are what makes this program so successful.”
 
2019 Nebraska Passport Statistics:

  • From submitted Passports, 154,755 total stamps were collected.  
  • Participants included residents from 448 Nebraska communities and 37 states.
  • Passport participants ranged in age from 3-months-old to 98-years-old.
  • Participants submitted over 600 stories of their travels on nebraskapassport.com.
  • There were 22.5% more accounts on the Nebraska Passport app in 2019 than 2018.

“I’m not a native Nebraskan, so I’ve been able to use the Passport Program to help me explore the state in the three years that I’ve been here. This year I made it to 51 stops!” said John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism Commission executive director. “This program has continued to grow and every year it’s exciting to see how many people in Nebraska are exploring the state beyond their backyard.”

In 2017, the Nebraska Passport program generated nearly $6 million in travel spending throughout the state and $469,500 in state and local tax revenue, according to a study done by Dean Runyan & Associates.
 
Be a 2020 Nebraska Passport Stop
Not only does the Nebraska Passport program benefit travelers through helping them create life-long memories, the program greatly benefits the 70 chosen Passport stops through increased traffic, sales and awareness.

Applications are now being accepted for Nebraska Tourism’s 2020 Passport program. Any Nebraska destination is welcome to apply to become a Passport stop. Past stops have included museums, restaurants, outdoor adventures, retail stores, etc.

To complete the 2020 Passport online application, as well as to view information about Passport stop requirements, how the program benefits Passport stops, and details about the application process, go to: http://nebraskapassport.com/passport-details/application/. The application deadline is December 31, 2019. Questions about participating in the program can be directed to info@nebraskapassport.com


The Trading Stories Native American Film Festival at the Chadron Public Library, sponsored by the Chadron Library Foundation, highlights the Native American history of the region. The library has an extensive Indigenous Peoples of North America collection of books, films and music.

Window to the World: Trade stories at the Chadron Public Library
By Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Director of Tourism
Mention the word library, and most folks think of nothing more than shelves of books. But as the world has changed, so too have our local libraries. The abundance of books and the importance of the written word remains, but libraries have become centers for makerspaces, educational classes, access to computer programs and the internet.
In Chadron, the public library hosts yoga classes, virtual reality events, craft sessions and more. In October, the Chadron Public Library and the Library Foundation reached a milestone with its sixth annual Trading Stories Native American Film Festival. Traditionally held during the annual Fur Trade Days celebration, the library this year moved the film festival to October as a standalone event.

For three days, the library screened documentaries and films, hosted speakers and offered traditional Native American food to pay tribute to the often-forgotten stories of the people who called this region home before European settlement. Films such as “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” and “Tiger Eyes” and the discussions that accompanied them provided opportunities to connect across cultures and served as a reminder that we all share the same human experiences.
Filmed on the Pine Ridge Reservation, “Warrior Women” depicted the contributions of mothers and daughters during the American Indian Movement of the 1970s. Documentaries like “Rumble” brought the connection across generations as it detailed the important influence Native American musicians have had on the music to which we listen.

Nancy Gilles was one of the featured speakers at the Native American Film Festival, speaking about Native tribes and the Homestead Act.

“Ohiyesa, The Spirit of an Indian” told the story of Charles Eastman, who cared for injured Native Americans at Wounded Knee. The film was so popular during the festival organizers ended up showing it three times instead of once, as intended.
Trading Stories films were screened for more than 200 people, with many individuals traveling to Chadron from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Hot Springs and Rapid City, South Dakota.
For anyone with a desire to learn more about Native American culture, history and its impact on life in the Pine Ridge region, the annual Trading Stories event is a great place to start.
But don’t wait until next year’s event to visit the Chadron Public Library. The library has an extensive Indigenous Peoples of North America Collection. Designated by a red sticker or the IPNA code, the materials include Native American music, films and books.
And if you’re looking for something else, it’s likely you’ll find it at the library as well. With nearly 79,000 items in its collection, the Chadron Public Library is sure to hold something of interest for anyone. Staff also host frequent events, including preschool story time each Thursday at 10:30 a.m., a Game/STEM Club on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m., and Lego Club on the first and third Mondays of each month, also at 6:30 p.m. The Friends of the Library also opens the annex next door to the library during the second weekend of each month with great bargains on books of every genre.
The Chadron Public Library is planning a Halloween Party for Nov. 2 from 2-4 p.m. and will host a Christmas party later in the year.
Also coming up is the Innovation Studio Maker Fair. The Chadron Public Library has been a host site for the Innovation Studio Maker Space since July. The library’s six months are almost up, however, and the makerspace stations will be moving on. To celebrate the creativity inspired by the presence of the Innovation Studio equipment, the staff will host a Maker Fair Nov. 9 and are inviting everyone who created items in the makerspace to bring their creations to display.
The Chadron Public Library is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Library cards are available to residents of Dawes, Sioux and Sheridan counties, as well as residents of Hemingford. For more information, contact the library at 308-432-0531, stop by at 507 Bordeaux Street or visit chadronpubliclibrary.com.

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