Northern Plains Peoples and Places

Home page of Northern Plains Peoples and Places

The Center for Western Studies Digital Collections debuted in 2011 are evolving.

Click here to enter the site.In the fall of 2015, CWS embarked on a new partnership with Augustana University’s Mikkelsen Library to create Northern Plains Peoples and Places (NP3), a continually growing online database of digital resources related to the Northern Plains and its inhabitants. The database includes primary source material from the Center for Western Studies archives, university publications, and scholarly research and creative endeavors by university students and faculty.

Content on NP3 spans a long period of Northern Plains history from early missionary work during the Civil War era to the present. Topics range from local Sioux Falls and Augustana history to regional literature, religious, social, and political history. To browse a list of subjects in NP3, check out the Topics page.

Highlights of Northern Plains Peoples and Places include:

  • Letters from Stephen R. Riggs, missionary to the Dakota before, during, and after the Sioux Uprising, relating his visits to Native American prisoners and meetings in Washington, D.C., to discuss Native American affairs
  • Letters and other documents of William Hobart Hare, first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota, discussing funding for Native American schools and his accusations against missionary Samuel Hinman for impropriety
  • Letters between John R. Milton, founding editor of the South Dakota Review, and regional authors such as Herbert Krause and Frederick Manfred
  • Letters of Nellie Zabel Willhite, South Dakota’s first woman pilot (who was also deaf) discussing her secret flight lessons, the naming of her plane, and the financial woes of the Great Depression era

The database represents only a small fraction of what is available in the CWS archives, but staff regularly update NP3 with new collections to give scholars a better sense of the broader content that is available for in-person research. The digitization focus this year is documents with the intention of adding photographs and oral recordings from the CWS collections in coming years.

The partnership with Mikkelsen Library allows CWS to migrate its digital collections to CONTENTdm, a robust management and hosting platform that offers many useful tools for researchers. These include in-depth keyword search capabilities, detailed item and collection descriptions, and an integrated PDF viewer that makes examining documents easier. 

Content that was digitized prior to fall of 2015 is still available via the PastPerfect-Online platform. This includes nearly 3,000 historic images of Sioux Falls and the surrounding area from the 1860s to the 1970s, over 1,100 images of nearly 600 artifacts from the Blue Cloud Abbey-American Indian Culture Research Center Collection, and correspondence of Dr. Paul A. Boe, a Lutheran pastor who found himself in legal trouble after refusing to testify about what he saw at Wounded Knee during the 1973 occupation. This content will be migrated to the new CONTENTdm platform during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Primary source materials available in the Center’s digital collections may be protected under specific copyright restrictions. For more information about the Center's image policies, consult the Image Use Form and Research Collections Fee Schedule

The project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Expansion of the content on NP3 is intended as funding and staffing conditions allow. If you would like to help fund this important endeavor, please contact Executive Director Dr. Harry F. Thompson. For additional information about the digitization efforts at CWS, please call 605.274.4007 or email

Augustana Album BadgeThe Center for Western Studies was very proud to participate in another recent digital collections project, the Augustana Album. The Album is a free digital archive of Augustana University and Augustana Academy publications. It includes more than 40,000 pages of available yearbooks, student newspapers, alumni publications, and school history monographs from 1899-2011. Under the leadership of Assistant Director Deb Hagemeier, Mikkelsen Library launched the program in celebration of Augustana's sesquicentennial, and the Center provided much of the raw material for digitization. Arcasearch, an imaging company based in Paynesville, MN, scanned and indexed the documents and hosts the database. Funding for the project came from the Mary Chilton DAR Foundation, the Midco Media Foundation, the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, a Granskou Award, alumni, and private donors.

The Augustana Album Brochure provides search tips for using the database. As of February 2016, the database is now compatible with multiple web browsers including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.