47th Dakota Conference

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, World War I, Wounded Knee 1973, and Spanish exploration of and Hispanic/Latino immigration to the region.

47th Annual Dakota Conference


The conference was held April 24-25, 2015, in the CWS Fantle Building on the Augustana campus.

Conference Theme: For its 47th annual event, April 24-25, 2015, the Dakota Conference took as its theme "Where the West Begins?" with the intention of exploring the geography, identity, and promise of the Dakotas and the prairie-plains areas of Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. Some of the terms writers have used to identify the central region of the United States include: "Great American Desert," "Dakota Territory," "Middle Border," "Middle West," "Midwest," "Great Plains," "High Plains," "Western Plains," "Northern Plains," "Central Plains," "Missouri River Basin," "flyover country," "the heartland," "Siouxland," "the big empty," "the lost region."

Dakota Conference

Is Sioux Falls a gateway to the West?
Or a rear-guard city of the Midwest – a final outpost for a region that begins in Ohio and eventually melts away into the Great Plains somewhere west of Sioux Falls?

Both views have their supporters.
South Dakota's place in the West-Midwest debate will be a focus of this year's Dakota Conference.

Read more on this from the Argus Leader.

Are the Northern Plains where the Midwest ends and the West begins? What geographical and demographic characteristics help us identify the region? In what ways are the Northern Plains changing? Do these changes bode well or ill for the region and its traditional and new inhabitants? The "hollowing out" of small towns and rural areas in the plains has led to such concepts as the buffalo commons, Pleistocene rewilding, and the American Prairie Reserve. Not all rural areas, however, are declining in population—indigenous peoples are increasing on reservations. What issues confront Native American communities, and how will these communities respond to future challenges? How will the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations impact reservation governance? We sought papers and panels that addressed the conference theme and other topics related to the region.

Two recent books by South Dakota authors address some of these issues but from radically different perspectives: Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains (Little, Brown, 2012) by Josh Garrett-Davis, and The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History (University of Iowa Press, 2013), by Jon K. Lauck. Both authors spoke at the Dakota Conference.

Conference Schedule: The conference schedule is available online.

Registration Fee:

By April 13:  Registration was $50 ($45 for presenters) for the two-day event. Separate Meal Package (including Friday lunch and dinner and Saturday lunch) was $45.
After April 13:  Registration was $55 ($50 for presenters) and the Meal Package was $50.
Registration was free for full-time undergraduate students of any college or university and faculty and staff of Augustana University. For lodging information, visit www.augie.edu/lodging.

Registration Form: Registration is closed.

Autograph Party: The Northern Plains Autograph Party was held on Saturday, April 25, in conjunction with the conference.

Cash Awards: Awards in academic, non-academic, student, and women’s history categories ranging from $100-$500 were available.

Continuing Education Credit: Available through Augustana University. Contact Harry Thompson 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.