Center for Western Studies Observes America’s 250th Anniversary

Center for Western Studies logo and America250 South Dakota logo

In preparation for the national commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026, the United States Congress established the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission in 2016. In 2023, the Board of Directors and the National Advisory Council of the Center for Western Studies (CWS) established the CWS America 250 Task Force. 

The principal charge of the task force is to discuss and identify themes related to America’s 250th anniversary observance that are appropriate for CWS’ signature programs, which the task force will recommend to the board and its standing committees. The task force may also consider and recommend additional activities and collaborative opportunities with allied heritage organizations. In 2024, the CWS joined in partnership with the America250 South Dakota Commission

The CWS America 250 Task Force co-chairs are Christel Gollnick (Missouri), Admiral Lyle Bien (South Dakota) and Craig Wilbur (South Dakota).

The task force has adopted the following Vision and Mission Statements: 

Vision Statement 

Engage and inspire people of all diverse backgrounds to pursue America’s promise — the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for a more perfect union. 

Mission Statement

To support the organization’s public affairs outreach, research and publication programs and partnerships while joining the U.S.’ observance of the 250th anniversary of its founding. We encourage a focus on the remembrance, improved understanding and advancement of our founders’ vision for governing and thriving together in the U.S., especially in the myriad ways people living in the Northern Plains experience the Declaration of Independence's principles. 

The task force has also endorsed the following projects:

A bookmark encouraging citizens to read American history, which will be distributed to all public libraries in South Dakota through the South Dakota Library Association. 

The publication of America’s Longest River: A Cultural and Environmental History of the Missouri River — a collection of essays by 35 historians and writers, edited by Midwestern historian Jon K. Lauck (a bibliography of resources about the Missouri River, compiled by Christopher R. Laingen, professor of geography at Eastern Illinois University, is available upon request). 

Share Your Story with the nation and keep up to date on national 250th programs at