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The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Center for Great Plains Studies and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe will receive a three-year, $1.58 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to embark on initiatives that honor past and present Indigenous peoples in Southeast Nebraska.

The state of Nebraska gets its name from the Otoe-Missourias (two Otoe-Missouria words “Ni Brathge” meaning “water flat”, according to the tribe’s website). The tribe lived in the area—along with Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas—until the U.S. government eventually pushed them off their land and first moved tribal members onto a reservation in 1854, and then later to the state of Oklahoma, where they remain today.

Planned activities for the project include a survey of area residents, an audit of current commemorations, a lecture series on decolonizing museums slated for spring 2024, and updates to commemorative signage in area parks and roadsides, among other activities.

Otoe-Missouria Chairman John Shotton called the project “very important [in] reconnecting the Otoe-Missouria Tribe with our former homelands in Nebraska,” in a statement.

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Margaret Jacobs, Charles Mach Professor of History and director of the center, will serve as co-director and principal investigator for “Walking in the Footsteps of our Ancestors.” As a historian of Native peoples, she was working on the multimedia project “Reconciliation Rising” several years ago and was surprised to learn the history of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and its connection to Southeast Nebraska.”

Christina Faw Faw Goodson, a member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Native language specialist with the National Indian Education Association, will co-direct the project with history professor Margaret Jacobs.

“I believe this project has the power to create lasting connections between the people and communities of Southeastern Nebraska and our Jiwere-Nut’achi people in Oklahoma and throughout the world,”Faw Faw Goodson said in a statement.

 "Walking in the Footsteps of Our Ancestors: Re-Indigenizing Southeast Nebraska." This is a unique program that will bring together multiple partners to commemorate Native culture and history in the area.”

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