Across the open plains and into Lincoln, Nebraska. Arrived in time for dinner with friend Jane, who suggested we dine at her favorite Greek restaurant. Lovely evening talking about corn and farming. (Jane’s dad was a farmer, and her mom still lives on the family farm.)
Next morning, I headed off for a day of exploring. Jane had contacted the Nebraska History Museum to arrange for a docent/guide for me, and the wonderful Jack Chaffin was waiting for me when I arrived.
Jack guided me through the excellent displays, which cover 10,000 years of Nebraska history. I won’t even try to share everything I learned, but here are a few highlights:
- Of the many Native American groups that were here when Europeans arrived (Pawnee, Omaha, Ponca, Oto, Ioway, Sac, Winnebago, Cheyenne, and Arapaho), about half were moved to other states and about half adapted and are still living in Nebraska today.
- Pawnee were one of the largest groups in the area, and the Skidi Pawnee was the largest Pawnee group. The Skidi brought Aztec astronomy with them when they moved north from Mexico. They grew four different colors of corn: red, blue, yellow, and white.
- Ft. Atkinson, north of Omaha, had the first bowling alley in Nebraska.
- Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte, an Omaha, was the first Native American to become a doctor, graduating, in 1889, at the top of her class from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, one of the first medical schools to accept women.
- Because Nebraska is 1500 miles from both East and West Coasts, it was popular during World War II for military plants. Forty percent of all ammo used during WW II was made here, as were bombers and depth charges.
- During World War II, camps for German and Italian POWs were located here. Many of the POWs happily worked on local farms, in place of the farmers who had gone off to war.
That is just a fraction of what I learned, but I hope it is enough to make you want to visit and learn more.
This wonderful museum is being renovated in 2015, so you may have to wait to see it, but it is well worth a trip to Lincoln. Here’s their website, so you can check and make sure it’s open before you plan your trip: Nebraska History Museum http://www.nebraskahistory.org/sites/mnh/index.htm