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Conversations at BSC hosts history expert from the Smithsonian

Posted on 2/17/2012

Dr. Herman Viola
Dr. Herman Viola
A former curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is special guest of the Conversations at BSC series Sunday, Feb. 26, at Bismarck State College.

Joining BSC President Larry C. Skogen and national humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson is Herman Viola, nationally recognized authority on Native American history and the American West. They will exchange thoughts on "Changing Interpretations of Native American and Western History" for the program that begins at 3 p.m. in BSC's Sidney J. Lee Auditorium. Questions and comments from the audience will complete the conversation.

A specialist on the history of American Indians, Viola will begin this conversation with a presentation on his recent book, "Warriors in Uniform: The Legacy of American Indian Heroism," published by the National Geographic Society. "Warriors in Uniform" is an illustrated history about American Indian military service from the 1700s to present day Iraq and Afghanistan. The book reveals little known cultural insights, how the warrior designation is a great honor among Native Americans, and how ancient traditions of war persevere.

Contained in the book are never-before-seen photographs from personal collections, including a photograph of North Dakota National Guardsman Nathan Goodiron of the Three Affiliated Tribes, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006.

"We're delighted that Dr. Viola will be visiting our campus. He's a titan in American Indian history," Skogen said. "His many publications and his work with the Smithsonian Institution have earned him the respect of scholars and Native American communities. In many ways, he's become a respected cultural broker working across cultures to increase awareness and understanding among those in the white and Native American worlds."

Viola founded the scholarly journal "Prologue" at the National Archives and was director of the museum's National Anthropological Archives, which housed American Indian records. He has written more than a dozen history books on war, American Indians, exploration of America, and America at the time of Columbus.

During his 25 years at the Smithsonian, Viola developed two landmark exhibits. He curated "Seeds of Change," a multicultural examination of impact from Columbus' voyages of discovery (one of the most attended exhibits in the Smithsonian's history); and "Magnificent Voyagers: The Story of the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842." The latter exhibit took four years to compile and toured six American cities as one of the Smithsonian's largest temporary exhibits.

Viola has been an educator, college professor, curriculum developer, and a consultant to numerous museums and educational organizations. They include the Brookings Institution, National Museum of the American Indian and Library of Congress. His book, "Little Bighorn Remembered: the Untold Indian Story of Custer's Last Stand" was adapted for a History Channel special.

Funding for Viola's appearance is provided by Whiting Petroleum Corporation and Sheila Schafer through the Bismarck State College Foundation.

About Bismarck State College
Bismarck State College, an innovative community college in Bismarck, N.D., offers high quality education, workforce training, and enrichment programs reaching local and global communities. For more information visit

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