Lecture 9: Wir Sehen Uns Nimmer Mehr

 

This lecture, titled after a German-Russian folksong of the immigration experience, treats the subjects of immigration and ethnicity on the North American Plains. How did the Great Plains become a mosaic of cultures? What circumstances particular groups to come here? And what is the continuing legacy of ethnic settlement for the culture(s) of the plains?

 

Outline of Lecture

Introduction: Tragedy & Triumph

Being Ethnic on the Plains

Immigration and ethnicity are standard topics in the histories of the U.S. and Canada, possessing an abundant literature and a body of theory. Many of the same ideas hold in relation to regional history, but there also are some peculiar considerations for the interpretation of ethnicity on the Great Plains.

The German-Russian Diaspora

The Germans from Russia comprise some of the most notable ethnic cultures of the plains. Ethnic Germans who came to North America after generations of life in Russia, the German-Russians adapted successfully to the new environment while maintaining a high level of cultural persistence.

Travel on the Gravel: Iron Crosses

El Norte

20th-century Mexicanos are a contrast to the immigrants of the 19th century in that they came seeking not homesteads, but jobs. The lives of Mexican immigrants on the plains are inextricably wrapped up with industrial labor. In another sense, however, the Mexicanos are like the German-Russians and other immigrants—they came seeking opportunity and a better way of life, and they wrought cultural enrichment in regional society.

God’s Country

Forget about being politically correct, and just consider, in concrete ways, how fortunate we are, how culturally rich we are, that the Great Plains are a land rich in immigrant cultures. The prairie itself furnishes a metaphor for how to think about ethnicity in this land. Knowledge of ethnic cultures, too, gives us insights—some of which give us pause—about the state of society on the plains.

Epilogue: TBA

 

Assignments

WWW

Survey of Iron Cross Cemeteries in North Dakota

Reading

Thinking About the Great Plains

Cather, Willa Sibert. "Nebraska: The End of the First Cycle," The Nation 117 (5 September 1923): 236-38.

The Great Plains at the Grassroots

Advertisement for Nicodemas, 1877, and Go to Kansas, 1877

Homestead File for Valentin Hutmacher, 1912-19

Homestead File for John Dolyniuk

Homestead file for George Gregory, 1907-13

Homestead File for John Stern, 1904-10

Selected Bibliography

Cather, My Antonia

Film

Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie

Iron Spirits

 

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