53rd Annual Dakota Conference

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.

53rd Annual Dakota Conference

farming, ranching, and sustainability in the northern plains

The conference will be held August 5-6, 2021, in the CWS Fantle Building on the Augustana University campus.

Conference Theme: The topic for the 2021 conference is “Farming, Ranching, and Sustainability in the Northern Plains.”

“Next year will be better” was once the maxim by which many farmers and ranchers lived. Today, “the hardest day is yet to come” seems the more appropriate sentiment. Hard times for farmers and ranchers come with the territory. Remember learning in school, or from your grandparents, about the Dirty Thirties and the Dust Bowl Days? How about the Farm Crisis of the 1980s? The vicious spring blizzards of a few years ago, and the flooding of the past two years?

Now there are the tariff wars. Chapter 12 bankruptcies continue to plague the rural and small-town prairies and plains, increasing by 23% in the Midwest for the year ending June 2020. Divorce, abuse, and suicide haunt many a producer’s home.

Should the tariff wars be fought on the back of ag producers? Is reallocating billions of dollars from other federal programs to ag producers in the transparent attempt to stem political defection a long-term solution? Is year-round E15 fuel blend working when waivers for fossil-fuel producers continue to be offered by the federal government? Expanding large CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in South Dakota at the expense of county control and quality of life in rural communities—good idea? Combining the South Dakota departments of agriculture and environment and natural resources—a conflict of interest? Reducing ag land taxation so that residential and commercial property owners pay more for schools and services—is that the answer? What about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture?

Ag producers have often been among the quickest to adapt the latest technology. In doing so, they have predetermined the demise of their own rural communities: tractors replaced workers, and fewer workers led to economic collapse and the hollowing out of small towns. Yet more than any other industry, except perhaps the fossil- fuel industry, agriculture has benefited from federal government largesse. What has the ag industry learned from its multiple crises that will prepare it for the future?

Paper and session proposals on these and other topics related to the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana are welcome. Papers on last year’s theme of “The Roaring Twenties...Again? (1920-2020)” are also welcome.

Submission Requirements: Presenters are encouraged to submit their proposals using our online submission form.

Alternatively, presenters may send a one-page paper, session, or panel proposal with title, brief summary, and biographical sketch, along with presenter name, address, phone number, and email address to dakotaconference@augie.edu, or mail to:

Dakota Conference
Center for Western Studies
Augustana University
2001 S. Summit Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57197

Proposals (not completed papers) are due on or before Friday, May 7, 2021. Please indicate whether you would be willing to serve as a session chair. 

Registration: Speakers must register and pay for two-day conference attendance to participate as presenters. Registration will open in summer of 2021.

Autograph Party: The Northern Plains Autograph Party is scheduled to be held on Friday, August 6, in conjunction with the conference. Authors of new books about the Northern Plains may apply to be invited to participate by contacting CWS Executive Director Dr. Harry Thompson at harry.thompson@augie.edu by May 7. Limit of one title per invited author.

Awards: Presenters may 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.