Dakota Conference

Army returning to Sioux Falls after World War I

Held every April, the Dakota Conference on History, Literature, Art and Archeology examines issues of contemporary significance to the Northern Plains in their historical and cultural contexts. Recent topics of interest have included western highways, Wounded Knee 1973, and Spanish exploration of and Hispanic/Latino immigration to the region.


46th Annual Dakota Conference

The Great War and the Northern Plains

The conference was held April 25-26, 2014, in the CWS Fantle Building on the Augustana campus.

Conference Theme: With the international centennial of World War I approaching in August 2014, the Center for Western Studies observed this momentous event by dedicating the 2014 Dakota Conference to the theme of The Great War and the Northern Plains. Although the United States did not officially enter the war until 1917, Americans across the country felt the impact of the war long before engagement, none more so than those of German descent, especially the Mennonites and Hutterites living in the Plains, who were often viewed as sympathizers with the Kaiser’s Germany. As noted in A New South Dakota History (2nd ed.), referring to the Hutterites, or communal Mennonites, “Their religious doctrine of nonresistance and nonviolence forbade Hutterites to serve in the military or take part in any activity that contributed to the war effort.  In the hysteria of wartime, state and federal authorities did not tolerate these religious convictions, and several young Hutterite men were sentenced to long prison terms for refusing to support the war effort” (p. 135). 

For other farmers, the Great War brought affluence as the price of crops and agricultural land soared. The federal government urged intensive planting using such slogans as “Plow to the fence for national defense,” “If you can’t fight, farm,” and “Wheat will win the war.” The advent of the tractor at this time, replacing draft animals, contributed to an economic boom during and after the war. Plowing up the plains and over-mortgaging by many farmers, combined with extended drought years and the Great Depression, resulted in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. World War I and its immediate aftermath changed the people of the Plains and their values in many ways. The Center for Western Studies sought papers and panels that addressed the specific conference theme or life on the Plains during the years 1910-1920. Papers on other humanities-related topics connected to the Northern Plains were also welcomed.

Conference Schedule: View the Conference schedule.

Registration Fee: $95 included Registration ($50 for Friday-Saturday) and Meal Package ($45 for Friday lunch and dinner and Saturday lunch). After April 18, Registration and Meal Package was $100. Registration was free for full-time undergraduate students of any college or university and faculty and staff of Augustana College. For lodging information, visit www.augie.edu/lodging.

Registration Form: View a printable version of the registration form.

Autograph Party: The Twenty-seventh Northern Plains Autograph Party was held on Saturday, April 26, in conjunction with the conference. Authors of recent books about the Northern Plains were able to apply for invitation to the autograph party by sending publications information to Dr. Harry F. Thompson, Executive Director, The Center for Western Studies, harry.thompson@augie.edu, by February 21, 2014.

Cash Awards: $150 and $100 awards in academic, non-academic, student, and women’s history categories were available.

Continuing Education Credit: Available through Augustana College. Contact Dr. Harry F. Thompson at harry.thompson@augie.edu for details.National Endowment for the Humanities Logo

The Dakota Conference is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.