51st Annual Dakota Conference

Policemen in Seattle during the influenza epidemic, December 1918. Courtesy National Archives.

Policemen in Seattle wearing masks made by the Red Cross during the influenza epidemic, December 1918. Courtesy National Archives.

Held every April, the Dakota Conference examines issues of contemporary significance to the Northern Plains region in their historical and cultural contexts. Religion and spirituality, geography and identity, the impact of global conflict, Hispanic/Latino influence, and the 1973 Wounded Knee Occupation have been examined in recent years.

51st Annual Dakota Conference

health care and health policy: Commemorating the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919

The conference was held April 26-27, 2019, in the CWS Fantle Building on the Augustana campus.

Conference Theme: Americans consistently rank health care cost and access among their top concerns. Commemorating the end of the Influenza Pandemic (or Spanish Flu) of 1918-1919, the 51st Annual Dakota Conference examined issues, concerns, and problems associated with health care and health policy today and in the past.

The pandemic infected 500 million people and killed more than World War I, as many as 40 million people. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40, rather than children and the elderly. Over 25% of Americans were infected, and an estimated 675,000 Americans died (statistics from the CDC).

Residents of the Northern Plains experience the same health issues as other Americans, but in some instances more acutely because of geographical location. As populations throughout the region continue to shift to cities, adequate health care for rural and small-town communities declines — hospitals and clinics close. Rural by their very nature, reservations experience both the benefits and frustrations of federal health policy.

Possible topics for this year's conference ranged from mental health to the opioid crisis, from insuring for pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, to escalating drug costs and the role of pharmaceutical benefit managers, from gambling addiction to the link between poverty and health. 

Papers about life in the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana during the years of the pandemic and about other topics related to the region were welcomed. Sessions or panels related to the conference topic were especially encouraged.

Keynote Address: Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer, Founder and Director of the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing, University of Minnesota. A tenured professor in the School of Nursing, Dr. Kreitzer is the co-lead of the doctorate of nursing practice program in integrative health and healing. She has served as the principal investigator or co-principal investigator of numerous clinical trials focusing on mindfulness meditation with persons with chronic disease including studies focusing on solid organ transplant, cardiovascular disease, chronic insomnia, diabetes, and caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease.

Conference Schedule: The conference schedule is available online. 

Autograph Party: The Northern Plains Autograph Party was held on Saturday, April 27, in conjunction with the conference. 

Awards: Presenters could submit their papers for cash award consideration in academic, non-academic, student, and women’s history categories.

The Dakota Conference on the Northern Plains is a humanities-based public affairs program of the Center for Western Studies that explores topics specific to the region in their historical and cultural contexts. The Center’s Boe Forum on Public Affairs considers national and global issues of concern to the people of the Northern Plains. The CWS Public Affairs Series publishes books examining regional issues.

National Endowment for the Humanities Logo

The Dakota Conference is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.