The Nebraska Dispatches


The Nebraska Dispatches

Christopher Cartmill

152 pages


November 2010


$18.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Standing Bear, a Ponca Native American chief, is best known for successfully arguing in U.S. District Court in 1879 that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law” who have the right of habeas corpus.
When playwright Christopher Cartmill returned to his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, to write a play about Chief Standing Bear, he unknowingly began a complicated adventure. As he followed the story of the Ponca chief who fought so hard to return from a reservation in Oklahoma to his homeland in northern Nebraska, Cartmill stumbled into the politics of identity, contested notions of homeland, and his own past. Chronicling these adventures in a series of dispatches to friends, he documented the transformation of a research trip into a three-year exploration of Nebraska, its Native community, the meaning of home, and the complex relationship we all have with history. These dispatches, originally presented in Cartmill’s celebrated performance and now gathered together in this book, offer snapshots of a New Yorker’s travels into the heartland, insights into a very personal journey, and glimpses into a history that critiques and continues the American story.

Author Bio

A playwright, actor, and director, Christopher Cartmill teaches at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. His plays have earned awards from the Kennedy Center, Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Committee, and the Los Angeles Drama-Logues. Nebraska’s Lied Center for the Performing Arts commissioned Cartmill to write a play about Chief Standing Bear, and the experience of writing this play, titled Home Land, became the solo performance, The Nebraska Dispatches.


“Delightfully intimate yet soaringly ambitious, Christopher Cartmill’s lovely and lovingly told memoir of his journey through personal and national history is a fascinating meditation on the infinite meanings of home. This is a terrific nonfiction debut from a terrifically gifted writer.”—Adam Langer, author of Ellington Boulevard and My Father’s Bonus March

“It is not as a disinterested witness that Christopher Cartmill embarked on this extraordinary exploration, but as a passionate participant, often literally risking body and soul, with a clear eye, a probing intellect, and a compassionate and fearless heart. The result is a fascinating, and very moving, chronicle of his journey.”—Eva Rubinstein, actress and internationally acclaimed photographer

The Nebraska Dispatches sensitively chronicles a time when paths crossed—when the past intertwined with the present and remade a future.”—Renee Sans Souci, Umonhon (Omaha) poet

“Cartmill writes with such power and beauty. The Nebraska Dispatches resonated with me personally. Even though our experiences are of course different in the discovery journey that led to our respective projects . . . there are many deep and striking resonances.”—Jocelyn McKinnon, lecturer at The University of Newcastle, Australia, and creator of the performance piece, Listening: Indigenous Stories from the Central Coast

"The Nebraska Dispatches refrains from bravado or overstatement; nevertheless, it is an intense and dynamic book. Cartmill is expert at relating his own story and just enough information about the Poncas, Standing Bear, and other Plains Indians. He intertwines these sagas to make them part of a larger story of America and how Americans connect to home. In the end, Cartmill proves Wolfe wrong. Not only can one go home again, but there can be much to be learned from the experience."—John Michael Senger, ForeWord Reviews

"Refined into a small book, the interplay of the mundane and the mysterious in Cartmill's memories powerfully is affecting."—Nina Murray, Nebraska Life

Table of Contents


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