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History | Past Programming

Dr. Thomas Fuchs and Christian Kulosa – “The Rebirth of East Germany since 1990”

September 26, 2018

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany that followed a year later, life in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) has undergone considerable upheaval. Economic integration with the former West Germany, environmental clean-up, and the alteration of historical memory are but a few of the many changes there. Some of these have also led to considerable social discontent across the provinces of the former East Germany. Such discontent has recently coalesced into the new populist, far-right political party “Alternative for Germany” (AFD), founded in 2013. Currently the third largest political party in Germany, the AFD holds 94 seats in the German national parliament. Students interested in opportunities to study abroad in Germany are especially encouraged to attend as Dr. Fuchs will also discuss study abroad opportunities at Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg and the Hochschule Magdeburg/ Stendal, both in the city of Magdeburg, which was once part of the former East Germany and dates to the year 805 A.D. Dr. Thomas Fuchs teaches English at the Hochschule Magdeburg/Stendal and is an alumnus of the German Academic Exchange Service (D.A.A.D.). His colleague, Christian Kulosa, is a member of the General German Cyclist Club that promotes green-transportation and environmental causes across German.

Professor Dee Garceau – ”Narrative and Counter -Narrative in Commemorative Performance: Native American Powwow Dancing and African-American Stepping”

March 27, 2018

Historian and filmmaker Dee Garceau discussed and presented clips from her two documentaries “We Sing” and “Stepping: Beyond the Line,” exploring powwow dances and songs of Blackfeet and Salish people in Montana, an intertribal drum in Idaho Falls, and African-American stepping, a percussive dance invented in the twentieth century by black fraternities and sororities. Both African-American and Native American dances and songs commemorate historic identities in ways that differ from conventional historical narratives about each group. In the process, they broaden audience perceptions about their cultures in the American West. In discussing her work, Prof. Garceau also looks introspectively, commenting on the challenges of her role as a white filmmaker who examines cultures to which she is an outsider.

Professor Darren Dochuk – ”Crude Awakenings: A Sacred History of Oil in the Early 20th Century American West”


 September 20, 2017

Oil has long inspired Americans to think about their future in sacred terms. Extracted from the earth in mysterious ways, often with the help of spiritualists, oil was at its origins imagined as the divinely sanctioned lifeblood of a modernizing nation. America’s powerbrokers and rank-and-file both ascribed a special status to this resource, and in turn used its wealth to construct and legitimate imposing corporate and church institutions, missionary organizations, and an expansive petro-state. This lecture explores how religion and oil together shaped existence for modern Americans, paying special attention to oil patches west of the Mississippi, 1890s-1940s, when, amid petroleum’s most violent boom-bust cycles, wildcatters and residents theologized their encounter with soil and its subsurface wealth and constructed a distinctive life geared to new logics of capitalism, technology, time, energy, environment, and political power.

Co-Sponsor Casey Cater – ”Public Dams, Private Power: The Fight for Clarks Hill, 1946-1957”

April 5, 2016

In the decade following the end of World War II, public and private forces collided over plans to construct a massive federal dam on the Snake River at Hells Canyon. The battle sparked national debates about nature, energy, economic development, and political power, as private interests successfully “unplugged” the New Deal in the US Northwest and ushered in an energy regime of private dams and public power. At the same time, Southerners too engaged in battles over whether the private or public sector should control their rivers. Clarks Hill dam on the Savannah River assumed a central position in regional and national questions about the fate of the New Deal. Casey Cater offers a comparative regional analysis for WSU’s Northwest audience. Despite important similarities between the Northwest and South, Cater argues that what Southerners got at Clarks Hill was the reverse of the outcome at Hells Canyon: public dams but private power. Private utilities “unplugged” the New Deal in the South, but plugged its machinery of hydropower into its increasingly coal-based network, reaffirming a Southern political economy based on state-sanctioned, federally subsidized private monopoly over nature.

Western History Association’s 55th Annual Conference

October 21-24, 2015

October 21-24, 2015, the Columbia Chair in the History of the American West and the Washington State University Department of History were sponsors of the Western History Association’s 55th Annual Conference, “Thresholds, Walls, & Bridges,” in Portland, Oregon. The event was the largest annual meeting of historians of the American West; it boasted dozens of academic sessions, book displays from publishers of western history titles, five local history tours and parallel exhibits, as well as an opening reception at the Oregon Historical Society, and a banquet honoring recipients of several awards bestowed on western historians. Several faculty and graduate students from WSU’s Department of History gave papers, lead tours, chaired committees, and otherwise participated in the conference. Download the official conference program

Co-Sponsor, Visiting Writer Series

October 6, 2015

Tthe Columbia Chair in the History of the American West helped to sponsor the participation of Terry Tempest Williams and Brooke Williams in the Department of English’s Visiting Writer Series.

Professor Renée Laegreid – ”The Legacy of the American West in Contemporary Italy”

March 25, 2015

In popular culture, connections between the American West and Italy rarely extend beyond consideration of America’s western films that invaded Italy in the post-World War II period and the rise of the so-called Italian Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s. Professor Laegreid’s research, however, expands and deepens our understanding of the reciprocal influences between the U.S. and Italy, focusing on the idea of the American frontier in Italy from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century. Based on research for her current book project, Professor Laegreid will speak on three waves of western American influences on Italy, and how Italians have used western American mythology for their own personal, political, and financial purposes.

Prof. Laegreid is the author of Riding Pretty: Rodeo Royalty in the American West (2006), and co-editor of Women on the North American Plains (2011) and “Finding the American West in Twenty-First-Century Italy,” Western Historical Quarterly (Autumn 2014).

Professor Coll Thrush – ”Indigenous London: Native Travellers at the Heart of Empire”

 March 03, 2014

Urban and Indigenous histories have usually been treated as though they are mutually exclusive. Prof. Thrush’s work, however, has argued that the two kinds of history are in fact mutually constitutive. In this presentation, Prof. Thrush will present material from his current book project, a history of London framed through the experiences of Indigenous people who travelled there, willingly or otherwise, from territories that became the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Stories of Inuit captives in the 1570s, Cherokee delegations in the 1760s, Hawaiian royals in the 1820s, and more—as well as the memory of these travellers in present-day communities—show the ways in which London is the ground of Indigenous history and settler colonialism.

Prof. Thrush is the author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place (2007), which won the Washington State Book Award for History/Biography, and co-editor of Phantom Past, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American History & Culture (2011).

Chairman Michael O. Finley – ”Contemporary Pathways in Indian Country”

February 01, 2012

Michael O. Finley, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and co-author of Finding Chief Kamiakin: A Life and Legacy of a Northwest Patriot (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2008), will be speaking on issues confronting Native Americans in the United States, in particular from the perspective of Native Americans whose ancestral homes are in eastern Washington state.

Professor Kathleen Brosnan – ”Old Vines, Global Wines: ”

November 09, 2011

Kathleen Brosnan is an environmental historian whose first book is Uniting Mountain and Plain: Cities, Law, and Environmental Change along the Front Range (2002). She will be speaking at WSU on her projected three-book series that deals with the history of the wine industry. The first projected book focuses on how industry and consumerism shaped the environment of the Napa Valley. The second examines European viticulture as a form of ecological imperialism around the world. The third investigates how U.S. land grant institutions’ roles in the development of food products, including wine, have shaped environments.

Professor Andrew Kirk – ”Doom Towns of the West”

September 21,  2011

Andy Kirk’s research and teaching focus on the intersections of cultural and environmental history in the modern U.S. with a special interest in the American West and public history. His recent publications include Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism (rev. ed., 2011) and “From Wilderness Prophets to Tool Freaks: Post WWII Environmentalism” in The Blackwell Companion to American Environmental History. His current work includes “The Art of Testing and the Culture of Secrecy at the Nevada Test Site.” His talk at WSU, “Doom Towns of the West,” concerns the nuclear industry and western places.

Professor Kate Brown – ”A Tale of Two Nuclear Cities,”

November 04, 2010

Kate Brown earned her Ph.D at the University of Washington. An expert in Russian and Eastern European history, Professor Brown’s publications have included Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Border to Soviet Heartland (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). It won the George Louis Beer Prize from the American Historical Society given in recognition of outstanding contributions to modern European international history. Her current project is “A Tale of Two Nuclear Cities,” which explores and compares the histories of Chernobyl in the former U.S.S.R. and Hanford in Washington state.

Professor Andrew H. Fisher

October 11, 2010

Andrew Fisher received his Ph.D. from Arizona State University. His research and teaching interests focus on modern Native American history, environmental history, and the American West. His recently completed book is Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010). It examines off-reservation communities and processes of tribal ethnogenesis in the Columbia River Basin of the Pacific Northwest. You can find more on this important work at

Heartsong of Charging Elk, Spring 2010

March 27, 2010  

World-renowned Seattle composer Wayne Horvitz presented his oratorio “Heartsong of Charging Elk” at Pullman.

Horvitz’s oratorio for four voices and ten chamber instruments is based on James Welch’s novel The Heartsong of Charging Elk (New York: Doubleday, 2000). Welch (1940–2003) was one of the best-known Native American writers of his time. Of Blackfeet and Gros Ventre ancestry, Welch studied writing under Richard Hugo at the University of Montana. His early works include Winter in the Blood (1974) and Fools Crow (1986).

Heartsong, which is inspired by actual historical events, tells the story of Oglala Sioux Charging Elk who, while touring with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, was hospitalized for broken ribs and influenza in 1889 Marseilles, France. The Wild West Show moved on, leaving Charging Elk, now recovered from his illness and injuries, stranded and speaking neither French nor English.

“Using that historical predicament for his springboard,” Horvitz has written, “James Welch conjures a poetic narrative of Charging Elk’s displaced existence following his abandonment in The Heartsong of Charging Elk.”

Wayne Horvitz is a native of New York and now resides in Seattle. He is an internationally known keyboardist, composer, and producer. Perhaps best known as a jazz musician, nevertheless, Horvitz works in many musical genres. He has had commissioning grants from Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Arts Council, the Mary Flagler Carey Trust, the Seattle Arts Commission, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, the Fund for U.S. Artists, and a Rockefeller MAP grant. He has composed and produced music for PBS programming and even for film director Gus Van Sant.

In addition to this performance and Horvitz’s discussion of his music, the event will also bring to campus two speakers, Professors Kathryn Shanley and Raymond J. Demallie, who are experts on James Welch and on Black Elk, a real Sioux man who did travel with the Wild West Show and actually was stranded in France, eventually making his way to England and then back to his home on the Great Plains.

Professor Kathryn Shanley earned her Ph.D. in English and Native American literature at the University of Michigan. A member of the Assiniboine Tribe, Shanley is now a professor of Native American studies and assistant to the president and provost of the University of Montana. She has edited Native American Literature: Boundaries and Sovereignties (2001) and is working on a book on James Welch.

Professor Raymond J. Demaille is chancellor’s professor of anthropology and adjunct professor of folklore, director of the American Indian Studies Research Institute, and curator of North American ethnology at the Mathers Museum at Indiana University. Demaille has researched and written extensively on Great Plains tribes. In 2008 he annotated a new edition of John G. Neihardt’s famous Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, first published in 1932.