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2007.01.01 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Relations
phone: 402.554.3502 - email:

UNO and UNL to Present Symposium on Murder and Violence April 16-19

Omaha - In January 1958, Nebraskans were living a nightmare. A serial killer was preying on young and old, rich and poor, and by the time his spree ended, Charles Starkweather had killed 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming.

Fifty years later, that story will be only one of many discussed by academics at the 34th Interdisciplinary Great Plains Studies Symposium, April 16-19, at Embassy Suites, 555 S. 10th St., Omaha in the Old Market area. "Death, Murder, and Mayhem: Stories of Violence and Healing on the Plains" is co-sponsored by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), and the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

A diverse group of scholars, writers, artists, and journalists will examine the representation of violence on the Plains from multiple perspectives and disciplines. Some presentations will focus on historical and modern sensationalistic violence while others will look at modern methods of acceptance and healing including documentary film, expressive dance, poetry, essays, books and Native American healing ceremonies.

“The conference theme invites a humanistic exploration of violence and healing across many disciplines,” said Susan Maher, conference chair and chair of the English Department at UNO. “Many stories such as Wounded Knee and Charles Starkweather have become iconic in our national imagination. The media and journalism have provided a significant focus, particularly the coverage of death penalty cases, serial murders, and ecological disasters, that speaks directly to the experiences of Plains people across eras.”

The conference will open Wednesday, April 16, with a reception and keynote talk by Diane Dufva Quantic, emeritus professor at Wichita State University. Quantic will speak on “The Deep Roots of Violence on the Great Plains.” She is the author of The Nature of the Place and co-author of The Great Plains Reader. Quantic's talk starts at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Other keynote speakers include Donald Worster, Hall distinguished professor of American history at the University of Kansas, Verlyn Klinkenborg, author and essayist for the New York Times, and Walter Echo-Hawk, senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colo.

Worster will speak at 3:15 p.m. April 17 on global warming and the past and future of the Great Plains. He is the author of Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, An Unsettled Country: Changing Landscapes of the American West, and Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains of the 1930s.

Klinkenborg, author of Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, and The Rural Life, will speak at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, at UNO's Thompson Center, 6705 Dodge St. His talk is sponsored by the Criss Library, Newspapers in Curricula, and the Center for Great Plains Studies.

Echo-Hawk will speak at 3:15 p.m. on Friday, April 18, at the Embassy Suites on "Violence and the Law: Were the Indian Wars Legal?"

In addition, regional writers will be featured. Neil Harrison, William Kloefkorn and Jim Reese will present readings and discussion from their work at the April 18 evening banquet in a presentation titled, "Limb from Limb: A State of Rowdy Disorder."

Harrison has published collections of his work, Into the River Canyon at Dusk and Into a River of Wind. Kloefkorn is Nebraska's state poet laureate and the author of several published collections, including Drinking the Tin Cup Dry and Still Life Moving, and memoirs, This Death by Drowning and Restoring the Burnt Child. Reese has published collections of his poetry, These Trespasses, The Jive, and Wedding Cake and Funeral Ham.

Crime novelists Alex Kava, Sean Doolittle and Liza Ward will discuss their work at a special session the morning of April 19. Kava is the author of Whitewash, A Necessary Evil, One False Move and A Perfect Evil. Doolittle is the author of The Clean Up, Rain Dogs, Burn and Dirt. Ward is the author of Outside Valentine, based on the killing spree by Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate.

James Stubbendieck, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies, said, “This symposium will present a wealth of information in 45 sessions and more than 120 presenters. We invite members of the public to join us for an in-depth look at ‘Violence and Healing on the Plains.’”

The conference is open to everyone, but advanced registration is recommended because of limited seating. Complete conference registration is $95 before April 4. The fee includes a Friday evening banquet ticket and conference materials. Single-day rates are available. There is a reduced-rate registration for students. To register for the conference or for additional information, visit or contact the UNL Center for Great Plains Studies at (402) 472-3082.

A block of lodging rooms is reserved at Embassy Suites until March 23. Call (800) 362-2779.

A pre-symposium event, “Starkweather: The Coverage of a Killer,” is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. April 16 at Joslyn Castle, 3902 Davenport St., Omaha. Dave Ogden, associate professor of communication at UNO, will moderate a panel that will explore the Starkweather murders and their press coverage. The panel will include Dave Hamer, an Omaha television journalist for more than 40 years who covered the hunt for Starkweather and the imprisonment of Starkweather's crime partner and girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate; Bill Kelly, producer of the national award-winning documentary, “Charles and Caril: Starkweather 30 Years Later,” for NET Television; and Mike Hilt, who has presented at academic conferences and published in the academic press about Starkweather's crimes and execution. The three panelists will provide insights and results from their personal experiences and research on Nebraska's first modern-day serial killings. Registration is required to attend. Contact Joe Price at UNO for the registration form, (402) 554-3476.

Additional support for the conference comes from the Nebraska Humanities Council; Legal Aid of Nebraska, the University of Nebraska at Omaha: School of Communication Paul Critchlow Excellence Fund, Department of Biology, Black Studies Program, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine Arts and Media Studies, College of Community Service and Public Administration, the Criss Library, Department of History, Department of Geography and Geology, Native American Studies Program, Newspapers in Curricula at UNO, and Writers Workshop; Department of English, University of Nebraska at Kearney; The Cather Project and the Department of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; University of Nebraska Press; College of St. Mary; Omaha Public Library; Downtown Omaha Literature Festival, the Omaha World-Herald and the New York Times.

Contacts: • Susan Maher, Department of English, UNO, phone: (402) 554-3476

• Joe Price, Department of English, UNO, phone: (402) 554-3476

• Tim Kaldahl, University Relations, UNO, phone: (402) 554-3502

• Kim Weide, Center for Great Plains Studies, UNL, phone: (402) 472-3964

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) will celebrate its 100th anniversary beginning October 8. This celebration will recognize the partnership among the City of Omaha, its citizens and UNO to build a vibrant and dynamic community. The ce

ntennial theme is “UNO: Central To Our City Since 1908.” This theme acknowledges the past contributions of UNO to the community and sets the stage for great things to come. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908. For Centennial information, log on to


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