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Working with the Milwaukee music ensemble Present Music, Marguerite Helmers (English) has been awarded a $9,938 grant by the Wisconsin Humanities Council to support a series of public lectures, outreach events and residencies that highlight the many stories of the buffalo, the ecology and landscape of the Great Plains and the history of the people of the central plains.

The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports public programs that engage the people of Wisconsin in the exploration of human cultures, ideas and values. This humanities project enhances Present Music’s world premiere of the musical composition Buffalo Nation (Bison bison) by Jerome Kitzke, which tells the varied story of the buffalo from pre-history to present time. The premiere will take place at the Indian Community School in Franklin, Wisconsin on May 7, 2011.

The series of lectures will open on March 26 with an illustrated presentation by Dr. Andrew Isenberg, author of The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History (Cambridge University Press) who will speak about the history of the bison in America. While audiences commonly recognize hunting and ranching as contributing factors in the decline of bison herds in North America, Professor Isenberg’s thesis in the work is that the environment played a role in reducing herd sizes from the millions once reported to the hundreds that survived at the turn of the 20th century.

A second panel discussion on ecology and bison management scheduled for April 30 will outline and investigate the recent history of the buffalo in America. Noted geographers Frank and Deborah Popper will concentrate on the Buffalo Commons concept, a proposal to create a nature reserve in the central plains. The Poppers describe the Buffalo Commons as a metaphor that encompasses environmental, historical, legal, philosophical, cultural, and religious traditions in the process of regional planning. The second program will also include Fred Dubray, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, who will stress the importance of the bison to native heritage.

The owner of a buffalo ranch in South Dakota, Mr. Dubray represents the work of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative and the collective efforts of American Indians to act as stewards to prairie and bison restoration. Librettist Kathleen Masterson will introduce this program in order to contextualize her work with Jerome Kitzke. Brian Russart, Natural Areas Manager for the Milwaukee County Parks, will act as a responding panelist fielding questions about prairie restoration and reintroduction of native plants in the local area.

We are also pleased to announce the pre-release screening of the independent film Good Meat by filmmaker Sam Hurst. Good Meat advocates the health properties of a buffalo meat diet. It follows a Lakota man on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation who attempts to eat the diet of his ancestors. The film is about more than food or buffalo; it is about finding one’s history. The film will be shown to the public at the UW-Milwaukee Student Union Theater on April 28. Fred Dubray and Kathleen Masterson will introduce the film and lead a talk-back session after the film.

The Buffalo Nation (Bison bison) commission is one of 40 recipients of a 2009 Multi-Arts Production (MAP) Fund Award. The MAP Fund is a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Buffalo Nation (Bison bison) was chosen from more than 700 submissions in four disciplines— dance, theater, music composition and interdisciplinary works. Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, said: “We are delighted to support this year’s roster of grantees and the MAP Fund, which for years has identified and nurtured some of the nation’s most vibrant and innovative work in the performing arts.”

This commission is also supported by National Endowment for the Arts, Forest County Potawatomi Foundation, Milwaukee Arts Board, Suzanne and Richard Pieper Family Foundation and by other individual donors.

Marguerite Helmers, English, submitted this announcement. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to contribute calendar items, campus announcements and other good news to UW Oshkosh Today.