David Baron on the Other Eclipse That Enlightened America

This past August wasn’t the first time the world raced to see a solar eclipse roll over the United States. In 1878, a total solar eclipse passed over the western half of the country, with an arguably larger effect. David Baron, a former NRP science correspondent who has spent five years studying that eclipse, says that, on July 29, 1878, many influential individuals and scientists, including Vassar College astronomer Maria Mitchel, an all-female expedition, and Thomas Edison, came to observe the astronomical wonder gained insight and inspiration from the eclipse that year. Mr. Baron will speak on this eclipse and its effects on October 26 at 11 am in the Education in Zion Auditorium (B192 JFSB).

rodion-kutsaev-48565“The eclipse of 1878 was really important because it came at a time when America was just trying to prove to the rest of the world that it was not just some industrial power but that it actually was an intellectual nation,” shared Baron in an NPR interview earlier this year. “This was our chance – an eclipse in our own backyard – to show what we could do in science.” Since that time, the United States has continued to show that it can accomplish many incredible scientific feats, starting with the invention of the Edison light bulb the year following the eclipse. 

charles reddDavid Baron is a former NPR science correspondent and the author of American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World. His last book, The Beast in the Garden, won the 2003 Colorado Book Award. This event will be hosted by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and is free to the public.

 

Visiting Professor to Speak on the Federal Lands Debate

To compensate the western states for revenues lost to the federal government by its ownership of over 440 million acres In 2014, it paid $2.695 billion to the Far West’s eleven states, which included Utah. Yet, a century-long heated debate still rages about the federal government’s ownership of almost half of the land in those states. Scholars involved in Stanford University’s Follow the Money Spatial History project say: “some regard the spaces as sites for individual opportunity, others as resources to be conserved for wise use, still others as ecologies that must be preserved for aesthetic or recreational pleasure. Many westerners resent the vast federal presence…. Others view federal stewardship as a bulwark against rapaciousness.” Joseph Taylor, one of those scholars, will speak on this issue, at BYU on Thursday October 12th. In particular, he will speak on “mapping transfer payments and unlearning wisdom about the federal domain in the American West.” His lecture will take place from 11 a.m. to noon on the 12th in B192 JFSB.

Why is it Important to Understand This Issue?

Since the 1890’s, when the government began reserving land, western residents have voiced concerns regarding tax bases and development retraction. As these federal lands are tax exempt, state residents lose revenue. The in-lieu payments serve to supplement the local economies. “Few Americans are aware of these revenue-sharing programs, and fewer still understand why they exist,” says Dr. Taylor, of Simon Fraser University. “Almost no one knows their history and geography because they operate largely outside the consciousness of residents and politicians, yet the political economy of federal lands has always been a central concern of conservation policy.”

gov land
Courtesy of Follow the Money

 

The Debate

Some citizens are urging for the government to cede the land back to the states. According to Dr. Taylor and his colleagues, “These debates can seem irreconcilable because they are. One group imagines a neo-liberal world in which privatization and the market liberates the West from the shackles of imperious federal overlords; another group sees nature and the public interest imperiled by short-term greed. Both tend to eclipse important common ground across the West…The inimical visions of the debate’s dominant voices have something else in common as well: an inability to see how political economy has welded together federal, state, and local governments through a set of laws that distribute revenues to sustain the ecological and social services westerners rely on every day.”

The Event

charles redd Hosted by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, the event aims to “increase public understanding and dialog about public lands issues in the modern West,” said the center’s director, Dr. Brenden Rensink. He adds: “There are essential elements of the current administration of public lands that are missing from current political debates about them.” 

The event will be held on Thursday, October 12 in B192 of the JFSB from 11-12.

Featured image by Andrew Maranta on Unsplash

Benjamin Madley to Lecture on an American Genocide

Genocide, according to the United Nations, is “…acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  Benjamin Madley, an associate professor of history at UCLA, applies the term to describe the treatment of American Indians in mid-19th century California in his book, An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe. In two weeks, Dr. Madley will lecture at an FHSS event to argue that California Indians didn’t fare much better than Armenians, Rwandans, or even European Jews during the Nazi regime.

You’re invited

  • Who: Dr. Benjamin Madley, hosted by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies
  • What: A presentation on the American Genocide
  • When: Thursday, September 21st, from 11 a.m. to noon
  • Where: B192 JFSB (the Education in Zion auditorium)
  • Why: To discuss important historical events that often lack awareness and understanding
american-genocide
Courtesy of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.

An American Genocide

An American Genocide, in which Dr. Madley estimates that 9,000 to 16,000 California Indians were killed from 1846 to 1873, has been reviewed by The New York Times, Newsweek, The Nation, and many others. Some of Dr. Madley’s fellow historians have criticized his book for applying the term “genocide” to the conflicts between Americans and California Indians. Gary Clayton Anderson, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma, challenges Dr. Madley’s death toll estimates and characterizes the California massacres as “ethnic cleansing.” The reasoning? Dr. Anderson argues that government policy never supported mass killings, so the genocide label might be inappropriate.

But An American Genocide details murders and massacres carried out by vigilantes, state militias, and the United States Army. Dr. Madley “methodically [gives] examples of each and [tags] the incidents like corpses in a morgue,” according to Richard White of The Nation. A seasoned historian, Dr. Madley also compiles many accounts of the incidents in nearly 200 pages of appendices. Every reader can weigh the evidence and conclude whether or not the incidents were genocidal.

Dr. Madley developed a passion for the interactions between indigenous groups and colonizers during his childhood; he was born in Redding, California, and lived in Karuk Country in northwestern California. Dr. Madley has earned degrees from Yale University and Oxford University, and he has authored many journal articles and book chapters.

bmadley
Courtesy of UCLA’s Department of History.

 

How do you think historians should apply the modern definition of “genocide” to historical events?

Intermountain Histories: a History of Us

On Sixth South in Provo, there is an old, old building that used to house the Startup candy company. Interestingly, today, it houses several small startup companies instead of the candy company. The story of the Startup building is one of many told on Intermountain Histories.org, a digital public history project that provides scholarly information and interpretive stories of historic sites and events around the Intermountain West regions of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. The project is managed by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University. In collaboration with professors and students from universities across the Intermountain West, new content is created each semester in classroom settings. Those stories are then edited and revised by the Redd Center and published on the site for the public.

Using an interactive GPS-enabled map, you can take virtual or physical walking tours of historic sites. As your personal tour guide, Intermountain Histories provides historical information, photographs and images, documentary videos, audio interviews, oral histories, bibliographic citations, and other resources for you to explore. Though created in academic settings, the content is meant to be used by the general public.

The first batch of stories is small, created by a “guinea pig” group of professors and students. In the upcoming weeks, additional stories currently being edited will be published as well. Moving forward, new batches will periodically publish as collaborating professors, students, and interns at the Redd Center research, write, and edit new stories. Intermountain Histories is available for free in iTunes, Google Play, and online at IntermountainHistories.org. To receive notifications when new stories are published, follow the project on Facebook or Twitter.

“Though small at our current launch,” said Dr. Brenden Rensink, co-director, “this project will grow and fill the map with countless pins and stories.”

 

David Wrobel on John Steinbeck’s America and the West: The Redd Lecture

In his book The Grapes of Wrath, author John Steinbeck wrote that “the land is so much more than its analysis.” This is exactly what BYU’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies is trying to instill in people through the upcoming Annaley Naegle Redd Lecture titled “John Steinbeck’s America and the West.” Presented by Dr. David Wrobel of the University of Oklahoma, the event will be held in the HBLL Auditorium at 7 pm on March 23.

The Event

17103604_1282247045200046_1389641752798943929_nOf the lecture, Dr. Brenden Rensink, the assistant director of the Redd Center, said: “Steinbeck wrote a number of iconic books that unfold in the American West – most notably, The Grapes of Wrath. David Wrobel’s new work on Steinbeck tries to contextualize Steinbeck’s work in broader American culture, its impact, etc. It will be a great lecture that takes a key piece of Western American literature and weaves it into broader narratives of American cultural history.” He added that the intended audience is BYU faculty and students as well as the community at large. Rensink hopes people will leave the lecture with “a better understanding of author John Steinbeck, his relationship to the West, and his impact upon it.”

Steinbeck and Wrobel

John Steinbeck is the 1962 Nobel-Prize winning author of The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and Tortilla Flat, to name only a few. Said editor Horst Frenz of the Elsevier Publishing Company in 1969, his books dealt with the economic problems of rural labour; “there is also a streak of worship of the soil in his books.” It is this worship that makes Steinbeck the perfect topic for Wrobel to speak on at the Annaley Naegle Redd Lecture. The esteemed historian is the Merrick Chair of Western American History and David L. Boren Professor at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of three books and a plethora of essays and articles. Wrobel has participated in the Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer Program and from 2007-2008 was the American Historical Association’s Pacific Coast Branch’s president. He has also in that capacity for Phi Alpha Theta. The professor was the recipient OU’s College of Arts & Sciences’s 2015 Holden Award for Teaching Excellence.

charles-redd Annaley Naegle Redd

Annaley Naegle Redd was the wife of Charles Redd. Together, they founded the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at BYU. The college graduate became a teacher in La Sal, Utah, where she and her husband met and were married. Naegle was integral to his cattle business, serving as his partner, acting as secretary, store keeper, and cook, among other jobs. And, when their ranch was almost foreclosed on: “her ‘prairie fire’ beans helped save the ranch.” Naegle died in 2000. Besides the lecture, she has two awards in her name: the Annaley Naegle Redd Student Award in Women’s History and the Annaley Naegle Redd Assistantship Award (BYU Faculty Only).

Will you go to the Annaley Naegle Redd Memorial Lecture?

Benjamin Madley to Present on the American Genocide

We know that American Indians suffered greatly during the expansion of our country in the mid-1800’s. Author Benjamin Madley actually calls what happened to them “An American Genocide.” Fully aware of the dramatic label he gives their sufferings, he details them and their specific causes in his book by the same name, and will discuss it at an upcoming event on BYU campus. He does so, not necessarily for the purpose of being polemic, but so Americans can be more fully aware of their history even as they condemn other countries for similar crimes. 

american-genocide
Courtesy of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies

According to The Nation, Madley writes because “in a world of genocidal violence, claims of American innocence and exceptionalism are dangerous.” His book, which has been talked about in Newsweek, truthdig,  The LA Times, and his upcoming discussion will help those desiring to know more about our history as it relates to the American Indian, and what can be done to change things.

An American Genocide

“Accusations of genocide in California are hardly new,” says Richard White of The Nation. “Many historians, anthropologists, and Indian activists have made them, but An American Genocide stands apart for two reasons. First, Madley is interested not just in spectacular crimes, but also in their institutional basis. Second, he doesn’t use the term “genocide” for its shock value; instead, he considers the term carefully before applying it to state and federal policies.” At the lecture, we can expect an educated account of what truly happened in California in the mid-1800’s.

California Indians have pointed out that although the Holocaust and the Rwandan and Armenian Genocides are taught in schools, the massacre of their ancestors is not. Madley is seeking to rectify this: “He argues that what happened to California Indians was, according to the most widely accepted definition of genocide, not all that different from what happened to Jews, Armenians, or Rwandans.”

The Event

Dr. Madley is a professor of History at UCLA. Originally from Redding, California, he spent a fair amount of time in Karuk County. The Karuk are a Native American tribe based in Happy Camp, California. From them, Dr. Madley “became interested in the relationship between colonizers and indigenous peoples.”  In 2016, the researcher published his book An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873. It won the 2016 Heyday Books History Award. However, that is not all he’s written; he has authored papers as well as book reviews and chapters. Dr. Madley further studies genocide in other countries including Australia and Namibia.

redd
Courtesy of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies

This lecture is part of the annual “William Howard and Hazel Butler Peters Lecture” series. It will be hosted by FHSS’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies

Do you think learning from the past can help us change the future?

Nine Mile Canyon & Forty Miles of Truth: an Event

“Outlaws and lawmen, schemers and dreamers, cattle barons and sod busters, shady saloon keepers and water witches.” It is more than likely that at some point in your life, you have seen a film or read a book featuring these very topics. Our media is infused with Old Western characters. But did you know that you don’t have to look to books or film to experience the culture? You have it right here in Utah! On February 2 at 11 am in room 3220 of the Wilkinson Center, you can learn all about it from renowned Nine Mile Canyon experts Jerry and Donna Spangler. Put on by the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences’ Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, the event, titled “Jerry & Donna Spangler: Nine Mile Canyon: Where the Old West Came to Die” aims to “inform the audience of new research, but [also] to spark curiosity and passion for them to engage further with better understanding the West.”

petroglyphs-500261_1280-nine-mile-canyonNine Mile Canyon

Nine Mile Canyon, often promoted as “the world’s longest art gallery” because of its extensive rock art and rich archaeological history, sits in eastern Utah, south of Vernal and north of Moab. Like other desolately beautiful, mineral rich areas of the state, it has found itself a focal point of tension between those who would preserve it as-is and those who would use it for more recreational and economically-advantageous activities.

Jerry and Donna Spangler

Jerry Spangler is the the executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance and was previously an environmental reporter for the Deseret News. He is also the author of several books and reports including Nine Mile Canyon: The Archaeological History of an American Treasure and Horned Snakes and Axle Grease.  He graduated in 1993 with a Master’s of Arts in Anthropology from Brigham Young University.

His wife Donna obtained a Bachelor’s in Communications from the University of Portland. She is currently employed as the Public Information Officer/Communications Director at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. She was previously a reporter for Deseret News and a senior reporter for Exchange Monitor Publications, Wash. D. C. Donna coauthored Last Chance Byway: The History of Nine Mile Canyon and Horned Snakes & Axle Grease with her husband.

Charles Redd Center

Founded in 1972, the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies came about because of growing ethnic studies: “ New areas of study included Mormon, women’s, African American, Chicano, and Native American studies. Scholars interested in those fields created new professional organizations, journals and conferences.” charles-redd BYU’s research center was formed when history professors petitioned the administration for the center so as to: “promote and enhance western studies on the campus.” The center hosts six programs, a few of which are the Western Studies Minor,the Oral History Program, and K-12 History of the West Lesson Plans.

In the coming months, be sure to keep in the mind the Charles Redd Center’s upcoming events: Benjamin Madley: An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe and the annual Annely Naegle Redd Lecture presented by David Wrobel on John Steinbeck’s effect on the country and his representation of Western America.

According to Dr. Brenden Rensink of the BYU History Department, this event is intended for everyone, not just BYU students. For those not able to attend in person, the presentation will be live streamed online here.

Have You ever been to Nine Mile Canyon?

Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness: Author Paul Reeve Speaks

The Charles Redd Center will sponsor a lecture by author and historian Paul ReevePaul Reeve, titled “Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness” on January 27. Reeve, who teaches at the University of Utah, will base his comments from evidence found in his recent book, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. Paul Reeve suggests that Mormon whiteness in the nineteenth century was a contested variable, not an assumed fact.

Situating the Mormon racial story within the broader context of a very fluid and illogical American racial history, Reeve will address the evolution of Mormon whiteness over time and offer a new lens through which to view the evolving priesthood and temple bans within Mormonism. Reeve also argues that one way in which Mormons attempted to secure whiteness for themselves was in distancing themselves from their fellow black Mormons. For more information about upcoming lectures scheduled by the Redd Center for the winter semester, click here.

Religion of a Different Color book cover

Paul has published a book on the subject, entitled, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, was published by Oxford University Press in February 2015.  He is also the author of Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes, and co-editor with Ardis E. Parshall of Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia.  With Michael Van Wagenen, he co-edited Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore. He is the former Associate Chair of the History Department at the University of Utah and current Director of Graduate Studies where he teaches courses on Utah history, Mormon history, and the history of the U.S. West.  He is the recipient of the University of Utah’s Early Career Teaching Award and of the College of Humanities Ramona W. Cannon Award for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities.  He serves on the Board of Editors of the Utah Historical Quarterly and was a past board member of the Mormon History Association and the Faculty Advisory Council of the University of Utah Press.