The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains
is a cooperative project of the Center for Great Plains Studies
and the University of Nebraska Press, with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Nebraska Foundation, and the Nebraska Humanities Council.
The Great Plains is a vast expanse of grasslands stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Missouri River and from the Rio Grande to the coniferous forests of Canada--an area more than eighteen hundred miles from north to south and more than five hundred miles from east to west. The Great Plains region includes all or parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
The region, once labeled “the Great American Desert,” is now more often called the “heartland,” or, sometimes, “the breadbasket of the world.” Its immense distances, flowing grasslands, sparse population, enveloping horizons, and dominating sky convey a sense of expansiveness, even emptiness or loneliness, a reaction to too much space and one's own meager presence in it.
The Plains region is the home of the Dust Bowl, the massacre at Wounded Knee, the North-West Rebellion, the Tulsa race riot, the Lincoln County War, the purported Roswell alien landing, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. From it have emerged furs, cattle, corn, wheat, oil, gas, and coal, as well as jazz, literature, and political reform. It has been inhabited for more than twelve thousand years, since Paleo-Indians hunted mammoth and bison. More recent emigrants came from eastern North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia, resulting in a complex and distinctive ethnic mosaic.
With 1,316 entries contributed by more than one thousand scholars, this groundbreaking reference work captures what is vital and interesting about the Great Plains--from its temperamental climate to its images and icons, its historical character, its folklore, and its politics. Thoroughly illustrated, annotated, and indexed, this remarkable compendium of information and analysis will prove the definitive and indispensable resource on the Great Plains for many years to come.
Listen to an interview with David J. Wishart from Nebraska Public Radio
"[A] unique reference book. . . . This volume is valuable for a wide variety of user groups. . . . It is highly recommended for most libraries in the heartland as well as for all academic and large public libraries."—Booklist
"Especially strong on Native American history and warfare (refreshingly, stressing competition and conflict among the tribes) and on perhaps the Plains' most characteristic features: weather and physical environment."—Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly
"This affordable and thorough resource on a subject not often covered in reference format is suitable for all libraries."—Library Journal
"The Great Plains, a land of wide horizons, immense distances, and sparse population, is the subject of this outstanding regional encyclopedia. . . . Created as a cooperative project between the Center for Great Plains Studies and the University of Nebraska Press, this is a defining resource on the Great Plains region. Essential for libraries of the Plains region." —Choice
"Ambiguity [about the region] will disappear as people thumb through the new Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, a 919-page book that looks at the Great Plains from its soil to its buildings, history, arts and peoples. . . . The encyclopedia is organized by subject matter, starting with "African Americans" and ending with "Water." In between are chapters that range from "Art," "Education" and "Music" to "Images and Icons,""Politics and Government" and "Protest and Dissent. . . .[It] is set up for easy browsing."—L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star
“Large in format, attractively illustrated, beautifully bound. . . . The product of a massive collaborative effort. . . . dealing with just about everything you might conceivably want to know about what was once called the Great American Desert.” —Howard Temperley, Times Literary Supplement
“The 919-page Encyclopedia of the Great Plains is as vast as the region it covers. With 1,316 entries contributed by more than 1,000 scholars, this ground-breaking reference book captures all that is vital and interesting about the Great Plains.”—Montana Outdoors
“The editor and contributors are to be congratulated on their efforts. Every library in the plains region will of course need this title in its reference collection.” —Daniel K. Blewett, American Reference Books Annual
“Well worth the wait. . . . Any serious Plains scholar should have a copy of this user-friendly, reference work readily available at hand. The thematic essays by themselves are valuable for both the scholar and recreational reader.”—Journal of the West
“It is a major disseminator of regional knowledge. It is essential for any library supporting research in US and Canadian history, and a welcome addition to any school or public reference collection whose patrons need information for creating term papers or satisfying curiosity.” —Helen Peeler Clements, Reference Reviews
“A good encyclopedia should be enjoyable as well as erudite, and certainly this is the case for the Great Plains volume.” —James R. Shortridge, The Professional Geographer
“A 900-page, 8-pound treasure of our history and culture collected by hundreds of contributors...”—DenverPost.com
“A landmark work. . . . The book is a statement. It says, the Great Plains are not a Great American Desert, not a Buffalo Commons, not just Flyover Country. . . . It says the Great Plains are a place, a place where people live and live well, but they have suffered, too.”—Holton Recorder
“The Encyclopedia is a pleasure to read and will long be regarded as a reliable reference on the some thirteen hundred Great Plains subjects found therein. This is a magisterial work that belongs on the bookshelves of every learned Nebraskan.” —Paul L. Hedren, Nebraska History
“Wishart and the staff of the Center for Great Plains Studies have compiled a wide-ranging (pun intended) encyclopedia of this important region. Their objective was to ‘give definition to a region that has traditionally been poorly defined,’ and they have admirably succeeded” —Katherine Dean, American Libraries
“When people who don’t live here write about the Great Plains, they usually use the words ‘bleak,’ ‘empty’ and ‘wasteland’ to describe it. . . . Photographs show sky and clouds above miles of windblown, rolling—not flat—grass. Prairie residents tired of these negative stereotypes have a rich source of responses: the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, a 900-page, 8-pound treasury of our history and culture.” —Linda Hasselstrom, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
“Finally, we have a very impressive new encyclopedia that is the very first to cover its broad subject matter, in toto. . . . The editor and his cadre of contributors have done a remarkable job of identifying this rather ill-defined area of the United States by amassing so many clues. . . . It is the most impressive source book of Americana since the New Handbook of Texas emerged from Austin” —The Book Club of California Quarterly Newsletter
“A comprehensive coverage of the Great Plains with excellent coverage of diverse groups. . . . This would be an excellent Reference resource”—Mosaic
“The volume will find many uses. It will be an indispensable reference work for scholars in various fields. These pages are also enjoyable to browse and contain hundreds of nuggets. . . . For Wisehart and all of the other editors and authors, the Encyclopedia marks a valuable and enduring contribution to a growing scholarly tradition and to a regional consciousness that has taken root in the continent’s extensive midsection. It helps to define further the significance of that Great Plains setting and what the region has meant to those who have come to call it home.”—William Wyckoff, Geographical Review
“The goal of the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains to capture the essence of the region may ultimately be unreachable, as editor David J. Wishart himself acknowledges, but the nearly one thousand contributors to this wide-ranging and inclusive volume do an admirable job of compiling a vast amount of information. . . . Delving into the encyclopedia will reward the reader with a heightened awareness of the region’s rich history and great bounties.”—Lisa R. Lindell, South Dakota History
“This book is large-scale in every respect. In 1,316 entries by over a thousand scholars occupy nearly a thousand quarto-size pages. Presented with the high production values characteristic of the University of Nebraska Press, especially as manifested by well-reproduced maps and illustrations, it covers the history, folklore, literature, government, ethnography and, most tellingly, determining geography and geology of a vast transnational area. . . . In sheer scope, scale, and often, vitality, this encyclopedia constitutes a major resource for anyone who wishes to know more about virtually any natural or cultural feature of the vast region it treats.”—Mick Gidley, American Studies
“No one in the future will want to generalize about the Great Plains without first consulting this now-standard reference.”—Brian W. Dippie, Western American Literature
“[W]ell written and informative. . . . This is a quality publication that scholars and aficionados of American Indian history and cultures and Great Plains and Oklahoma histories will want to read and own.”—The Chronicles of Oklahoma
“The Great Plains comprises about 30 percent of the land in the United States and has played a critically important role throughout U.S. history. Not until now, however, has there been a single volume that assembles everything of significance related to the region. Historical geographer David J. Wishart and his team succeeded admirably in this effort. . . . Students and scholars seeking a solid introduction to a myriad of issues related to the Great Plains, whether in the United States or in Canada, will welcome this excellent resource. Wishart and his team of contributors deserve a hearty round of applause from scholars and the reading pubic for completing this great work.”—Barton H. Barbour, New Mexico Historical Review
“Wishart, a geographer by training, and the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska are to be congratulated for having ably woven a complex and interdisciplinary fabric. . . . The casual reader and the seasoned researcher each will find items of interest and use in this nicely edited and well-illustrated work.”—Paul R. Picha, North Dakota History