Last year the Department of Women’s Studies and the Nonviolence Studies Program with Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work brought a governing member of the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project (OTHRP) to Kansas State. While he was here, Richard Chilton spoke to two Women’s Studies classes and led an evening discussion about the Omaha Nation. When he came into our classes, he arranged the chairs in a circle and placed a couple of chairs in the center. Richard Chilton transformed the chairs in the center into a drum and beat out Omaha rhythms, telling the class about what holds the Omaha people together, and what they have faced. Chilton informed students that the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project (OTHRP), the tribal-endorsed cultural arm of the Omaha Nation, was taking a major land claim to the U.S. Supreme Court. When they were doctoral students a number of years ago, OTHRP leaders Dennis Hasting and Margery Coffey documented the theft of a large piece of the Omaha Nation’s land and the U.S. government’s denial of a treaty. Their research on Omaha land and historical artifacts formed part of Hastings and Coffey’s dissertation for the Western Institute for Social Research in Berkeley, CA, where T. Dickinson has taught over a 30-year period. This archival dissertation research served as the basis of their court case, which led to an appeal that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In March 2016, one year after OTHRP’s Chilton spoke at K-State, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Omaha Nation. This historic ruling will set a precedent that will contribute to the process of further decolonization in the United States. Because of our department’s educational and social-change priorities, Gender, Women and Sexuality students benefit from their direct engagement with history-in-the-making.