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Karen V. Hansen ©Sarah Putnam

Karen V. Hansen: From the Ground Up - "Taking Homestead" on Indian Land (EAAS Keynote Address)

Thursday, April 04, 2024, 11 a.m.

In the epic collision between two fundamental American processes – European immigration and Native American land dispossession – immigrants became settler colonists. By centering her inquiry on the Northern Plains between 1890 and 1930, Hansen explores what can be learned from the Scandinavian immigrants and Dakota Indians who embodied and endured these contradictory forces, while living side-by-side on the Spirit Lake Dakota Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Land was greatly valued by both peoples: the foundation of their livelihood and culture, it also sustained their lives. Members of each group were recent arrivals, who came to the land over wildly contrasting pathways. Dakotas came to Spirit Lake as war refugees, forcibly displaced by the US-Dakota War of 1862, and dispossessed of territory over which they once had dominion. By contrast, thousands of Scandinavian immigrants sought land to cultivate and as an escape from poverty. Enabled by the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Land Allotment Act of 1887, these women and men homesteaded land on the reservation. By 1930, some were major landholders. Hansen documents the ways Dakotas and Scandinavians co-existed on the reservation, while detailing the tensions, conflicts, and rank injustices that were common.

Deeper, more complex immigrant and indigenous narratives require new source materials as well as new interpretations. Hansen conducts oral histories, unearths family stories, and analyzes land records, newspapers, photographs, and government documents. These local, particular sources illuminate worldviews, struggles, and triumphs, informing and sometimes contradicting commonly held assumptions about the contest over land in the American west and the people who lived it.

This public keynote presentation is part of the EAAS Conference 2024.

Photo: Karen V. Hansen ©Sarah Putnam

Karen V. Hansen ©Sarah Putnam

Karen V. Hansen is the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University, with appointments in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and History. Her driving curiosity about ordinary people’s lives led her to research and write her award-winning book, Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and Dakota Indians, 1890 to 1930.
The author or editor of six landmark books and numerous scholarly articles, Hansen listens with respect for voice and struggle, as she develops a fresh approach to the coexistence between Native American Indians and immigrant settlers to the U.S.
Hansen’s work has been generously supported by the Swedish Fulbright Commission, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others.

Admission is free. Please register via the following registration form. Please click the button "Load external content" if the form is not displayed directly. Or follow the livestream.

Please note: If you are a registered EAAS Conference 2024 participant and have already registered for this keynote via ConfTool, you do not need to register via the form below.

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Amerikahaus München

Karolinenplatz 3, 80333, München

EAAS 2024 Organizing Team

Dr. Christoph Straub

Referent Bayerische Amerika-Akademie


089 55 25 37-42

Jasmin Falk

Assistentin Geschäftsstelle Bayerische Amerika-Akademie


089 55 25 37-41