Elaine Marie Nelson
Elaine Marie Nelson, PhD
- Assistant Professor
- Executive Director, Western History Association
- American West, Women and Gender, Native American and Indigenous History
- Office: ASH 287
Ph.D. in History, University of New Mexico
M.A. in History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
B.A.E. in English & History Education, Univeristy of Nebraska at Kearney
Dr. Nelson is a U.S. historian specializing in the North American West. Her scholarship takes into consideration the complicated relationships that formed between the diverse people and places in the Intermountain West and Great Plains. Nelson’s first full-length monograph, titled “Dreams and Dust in the Black Hills: Tourism, Landscape, and the American West in National Memory,” is under contract with the University of Oklahoma Press and forthcoming in 2020. The book examines the complex history of the Black Hills and the role that travel and myth played in America's invasion and occupation into the region. This set the stage for an aggressive booster campaign which resulted in settler expansion into the Black Hills and created tourism businesses that exploited Native American cultures and land. However, Indigenous people used tourism venues to assert their legal rights to the land and resist the erasure of their Black Hills histories. Social, political, and economic factors contributed to these tensions throughout the twentieth century.
Dr. Nelson's publications on the west, Native American history, and western women's history appear in the Great Plains Quarterly, a forthcoming anthology published by the National Park Service, and in a forthcoming anthology workshopped through the Clements Center for Southwest Studies (titled Indian Cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanism and forthcoming in 2020). Additionally, Nelson's exhibit catalog on the historical persistence of women in Omaha will appear in print in Spring 2019.
Dr. Nelson has been an invited guest speaker for several local and regional events at the Durham Museum, Offutt Air Force Base, Papillion Public Library, Mari Sandoz High Plains Center, Omaha Rose Theatre, Humanities Nebraska, and University of Nebraska at Kearney. She has also presented her work at numerous academic conferences including the Western History Association, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, Northern Great Plains History Conference, Organization of American Historians, and the American Historical Association.
Fellowships, Grants, Awards
Dr. Nelson's research has been recognized and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, American Philosophical Society Phillips Fund Grant, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Center for Great Plains Studies, University Committee for Research and Creative Activity (UNO), Nebraska State Historical Society, and the Imagine Fund Annual Faculty Award from the McKnight Foundation at the University of Minnesota. She held resident fellowships at the Newberry Library, Huntington Library, Cody Institute for Western American Studies, and American Heritage Center, and received the Western Association of Women Historians Founders’ Dissertation Award, AHA Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant, John Higham Travel Grant (OAH/IEHS), and the George P. Hammond Prize Graduate Student Paper Award from Phi Alpha Theta.
Teaching & Frequently Taught Courses
Dr. Nelson joined the UNO History Department as an Assistant Professor of History and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the North American West, women and gender, and Native American and Indigenous history. She arrived at UNO after teaching for two years at the University of Minnesota, Morris, a public liberal arts college in West-Central Minnesota. A university professor since 2011, she has designed and taught a diverse list of History courses that are cross-listed with Gender Studies, Native American Studies, Environmental Studies, and the Service Learning Academy. She also assumed the role as the coordinator for the History Intern Program and guides undergraduate and graduate students through internships at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, STRAT-COM (U.S. Strategic Command), Durham Museum, Joslyn Castle, Union Pacific Museum, Offut Air Force Base, and Douglas County Historical Society.
In 2016-2018 Dr. Nelson created a collaborative teaching and public engagement project with The Durham Museum, UNO History Department, UNO Service Learning Academy, and UNO Criss Library Archives and Special Collections. She received a grant to re-design two courses on women's history to serve as the platform for a public exhibit on the history of diverse women's lives from Omaha, Nebraska. These courses took place in Spring 2017 (U.S. Women's History since 1865) and Fall 2017 (Gender in the American West).
The students' hard work and community's dedication to the project resulted in a large public exhibit at The Durham Museum titled "Women in Omaha: A Biographical Sketch of Persistence through History" in 2018. The exhibit featured the stories of women (including a blend of Asian American, Latinx, African American, Native American, and Jewish backgrounds) and highlighted their advocacy for the LGBTQ community, service as national leaders in the business, legal, and the medical fields, and contributions to numerous causes through activism, religion, art, philanthropy, and law. Read more about the exhibit here and here.
Frequently Taught Courses
American West/American Frontier (HIST 4170/8176)
History of Women in America since 1875 (HIST & WGST 4060/8066)
History of North American Indians (HIST 4400/8406)
Women and Gender in the American West (HIST 2990/WGS 2030)
Graduate Seminar: The American West, 1865-1920 (HIST 9100)
Graduate Seminar: The 20th Century American West (HIST 9100)
American History to 1865 (HIST 1110)
Undergraduate History Intern Program (HIST 4920)
Graduate History Intern Program (HIST 8020)
National, Regional, and University Service
Dr. Nelson's commitment to western history extends beyond her research and teaching. She has always been interested in engaging in the historical profession through various administrative positions. Over the past several years she maintains active with the Coalition for Western Women's History, Mari Sandoz Board of Directors, Northern Great Plains History Conference Council, and other local and regional organizations.
In July 2017 Nelson became the Executive Director of the Western History Association after it moved to the UNO History Department. She is the first woman to hold this position during the organization's sixty years. The WHA continues to thrive in its mission as the "congenial home for the study and teaching of all aspects of North American Wests, frontiers, homelands and borderlands." The organization now includes very active Standing Committees that address major issues of importance in the historical profession including K-12 teachers, public and digital history, adjunct faculty and contingent professionals, inclusion for women, scholars of color, and the LGBTQ community, and a committee devoted to providing advocacy and resources to women or men who faced sexual harassment or assault in the academy (prompted by the Academic #MeToo movement).
The 2018 WHA Conference in San Antonio brought over 915 registrants to the meeting, which is a thirteen-year record in attendance for the association's annual event. Future conferences in Las Vegas (2019), Albuquerque (2020), and Portland (2021) will continue to expand on the momentum and enthusiasm the WHA experienced in Texas.