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2015 Annual History Conference Session 2 Abstracts

10:30 – 11:45 a.m.

Rediscovering Utah’s Native Voices (Room 101)

  • Panel: Shirlee Silversmith (chair), Richard Turley, Brent Rogers, Gregory Smoak, Shoshone and Ute Native speakers

Under-documented Communities in Utah: Iosepa and Chinese Railroad Workers (Room 102)

  • Panel: Benjamin Pykles, Anne Oliver, Sheri Murray-Ellis, and Ken Cannon

Disability Rights Movement in Utah and the Nation (Room 104)

  • Panel: Troy Justesen (chair), Barbara Toomer, Sherry L. Repscher, Tracy R. Justesen

Documenting the Topaz Experience (Room 105)

  • Scotti Hill: When Words Weren’t Enough: Art of the Topaz Internment Camp
  • Jane Beckwith

The Power of Oral History: Uncovering the Stories of Latino/as in Utah (Suite A)

  • Panel: Matt Basso (chair), Jennifer Macias, Juan Jose Garcia, Andrea Garavito Martinez

Splinters of a Nation: The Story of German Prisoners of War in Utah (documentary/panel) (Suite B)

Panel: Scott Porter, Allan Kent Powell

Rediscovering Utah’s Native Voices

Panel Abstract
A recent discovery of a rare first edition of Dimick B. Huntington’s Ute and Shoshone vocabulary has prompted conversations about the availability and reliability of historical documents and the American Indian voice. This panel brings together scholars and individuals from the University of Utah, the LDS Church History Library, the Division of Utah Indian Affairs, and Native nations to further discuss the history, accuracy, and availability of the Ute and Shoshone vocabulary and other similar documents. It is the panel’s hope to bring more interested individuals into the conversation and perhaps engender collaborative efforts to make Native voices heard once again.

Richard E. Turley Jr. is Assistant Church Historian and Recorder for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the author of Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofman Case, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, and Mountain Meadows Massacre: The Andrew Jenson and David H. Morris Collections.

Gregory E. Smoak is Director of the American West Center and Associate Professor of History at the University of Utah. He specializes in American Indian, American West, environmental, and public history. He completed an M.A. at Northern Arizona University and a Ph.D. at the University of Utah. He has taught at Colorado State University and the University of Minnesota. The University of California Press published his book, Ghost Dances and Identity: American Indian Ethnicity, Racial Identity, and Prophetic Religion, in 2006. He is currently working on an environmental history of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, under a contraction with the National Park Service.

Brent M. Rogers is coeditor of volumes in the Document series of the Joseph Smith Papers. He received a BA with honors in history from San Diego State University, an MA in public history from California State University–Sacramento, and a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century United States history from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He previously served as a digital editor and research fellow for the Papers of William F. Cody and as an instructor in the history department at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He has produced scholarship on digital history, history of the American West, and Mormon history.

Under-documented Communities in Utah: Iosepa and Chinese Railroad Workers (Room 102)

Benjamin Pykles, Historic Sites Curator, LDS Church History Department (Moderator)
Anne Oliver, Historic Architecture Team Lead, SWCA Environmental Consultants
Sheri Murray-Ellis, Archaeologist, Certus Environmental Solutions, LLC
Ken Cannon, Archaeologist, Utah State University Archaeological Services

In 2014, the Utah Division of State History received funding from the National Park Service to increase the visibility of Utah’s Underrepresented Asian and Pacific Islander communities on the National Register of Historic Places. State History employed the services of skilled private contractors to undertake a first effort of a multi-year project to document and engage with the state’s Asian and Pacific Islander Communities. Speakers in this session will highlight the first steps taken this past year towards this end including work on the Polynesian community of Iosepa, documenting Chinese railroad worker camps along the Central Pacific grade, and collating all pertinent historic inventories and sites housed at Utah State History. 


Disability Rights

Panel Abstract
This panel will explore the disability rights movement in Utah and the nation, presenting the changes throughout law and our society in celebration of this year’s twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The panel will discuss disability rights advocacy that have led to increased opportunities for people with disabilities to access public schools, public accommodations, housing, travel, and employment, among others. Historically, Utah’s disability rights movement mirrored the nation. The panel will discuss the social issues that prevented the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in daily life and the gradual changes made over the past fifty years.Troy R. Justesen is the public policy director for the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council. He is a former associate director for domestic policy at the White House, in part responsible for President George W. Bush’s disability policy. He is also a former U.S. assistant secretary of education. Justesen published papers on the United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and special education policy. He holds degrees from Utah State University and Vanderbilt University.

Barbara Toomer is a leader in the Disabled Rights Action Committee of Utah. She has been active in the disability rights movement in Utah and the nation for more than forty years. Toomer’s direct acts of civil disobedience changed accessibility in public buildings, transportation and schools across Utah. Toomer is a former officer in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

Sherry Repscher is a leading advocate in the disability rights movement for more than forty years. She is the immediate past director of accessibility for the Utah Transit Authority. Repscher was the executive director of the Utah Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. Repscher is widely regarded as a national expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act and was present at the White House signing of the law in 1990. She holds degrees from Illinois Wesleyan University, the University of Utah, and Utah State University.

Tracy Justesen is a former attorney at the Civil Rights Division within the U.S. Department of Justice. He is also a former associate director for domestic policy at the White House and an assistant secretary of education. He has been active over the past twenty years in implementing federal and state law to increase independence of people with disabilities across the nation. He is the former chair of the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board and technical advisor to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Individuals with Disabilities.

Documenting the Topaz Experience

Scotti Hill Abstract
My paper explores the process of curating the Topaz Museum’s inaugural art exhibition, wherein I had the unique opportunity to construct a show based on art made during internment from 1942-1945. While the Topaz Museum’s permanent collection contains within it countless visual testaments to the difficulties of internment, the art simultaneously attests to the resilience of the human spirit under the most difficult of circumstances and serves as a powerful reminder of a critical moment in both our national and state history.Scotti Hill is art historian specializing in modern and contemporary art. In addition to working as a freelance curator, she is an art critic for the Deseret News and 15 Bytes: Utah’s Art Magazine.

The Power of Oral History

Panel Abstract
This session will describe the value of using oral histories as a way of better understanding marginalized populations in Utah, specifically Latino/as. A lack of archival resources about Latino/as often makes it difficult to see them as significant parts of the Utah population. However, by using oral histories as part of a research process, scholars are better able to understand parts of Latino/a history that are not readily available in archives. Panelists will describe using oral histories to look at the ways in which Latino/as in Utah after World War II understood and defined the “American Dream;” the lack of Latino/a representation in Utah textbooks from K-12; the inherent value in incorporating the stories of Latino/as into the Utah educational curriculum; and the roles of Chicana/Latina educators in Utah.

Jennifer Macias is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Utah studying twentieth-century Latino/as and United States History. She is interested in the history of family, and the ways in which Latino/as in the post-World War II era fundamentally altered the political, social and cultural terrain of the Rocky Mountain West. Her dissertation analyzes the experiences and discontents of Latino/a families in the region post-1940, arguing that Latino/as mounting frustrations with the “American Dream,” particularly the inherent “whiteness” of the dream, prompted Latino/a families to redefine the parameters of the dream itself, ultimately reclaiming it as their own “Latino/a Dream.”Juan José García is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Education, Culture & Society at the University of Utah. Born and raised in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexíco–Pharr, Texas, border region, he is a cultural anthropologist by trade with an emphasis in folklore. His parents always instilled in him their Mexican roots by teaching him how to read and write Spanish and understanding family and community traditions in food, clothes, respect, and spirituality. These lessons have always guided his research, including his current research on how Latino parents participate in their kids’ through a community garden.

Andrea Garavito Martínez is a doctoral student in the Department of Education, Culture, and Society at the University of Utah and a middle school teacher in West Valley City, Utah. Her dissertation research focuses on the educational experiences of pre-service undergraduate Latinas/Chicanas in a teacher education program. Using feminist genealogy and Chicana/Latina epistemologies, her work traces historical raced-gendered discourses of Chicana/Latina educators in Utah to understand the current debate of the recruitment, retention, and training of Latina/o educator. Her areas of interest are Chicana Feminist Thought, critical raced-gendered epistemologies, community-school partnerships, Latina testimonios, and critical race theory.

Splinters of a Nation

Panel Abstract
Splinters of a Nation is a documentary film in progress that tells the extraordinary story of 8,000 WWII prisoners sent to Utah. For more than three years, these prisoners worked side-by-side with thousands of Utahns on farms and factories across the state. This powerful collision of two enemies on the homefront created life-changing exchanges and left behind some extraordinary tales. Tragedy marked the end of their stay as a deranged American guard opened fire on hundreds of sleeping prisoners, killing nine and wounding 19. This tragic event in the small rural town of Salina became the largest WWII massacre on American soil.

Gregory Scott Porter is the Producer/Director of the upcoming documentary film Splinters of a Nation: The Story of German Prisoners of War in Utah, which will premiere on public television in April 2016. Scott has developed and produced engaging and meaningful video for more than 10 years. He has created award-winning short-form documentaries, television ads, and instructional videos. Scott is driven by a desire to share significant and inspiring stories with the world—stories that would otherwise remain untold. Scott is also the Managing Producer for USANA, a global nutrition company based in West Valley City.