Highland Hosts Panel Discussion, “Interpretation of the Past, by Those Living in the Present, Influences the Future”

published November 18, 2019Highland Hosts Panel Discussion, “Interpretation of the Past, by Those Living in the Present, Influences the Future”

The “Interpretation of the Past, by Those Living in the Present, Influences the Future,” panel discussion was held on the evening of November 13 as the final segment of a grant provided by Humanities Kansas.


HCC was the recipient of a grant to preserve and establish an archive for the 161 years of HCC historical records, memorabilia, and photos that have been kept or donated by alumni, community members and staff.


Among these documents is a land grant signed by President James Buchanan from 1859 giving 320 acres to Presbyterian Foreign Missions which became the town of Highland and included Highland University (now known as Highland Community College).


Cindy Davis, HCC Library Director and Project Director noted, “Highland Community College has a very long and rich history. This grant has been invaluable to the work of preserving items that tell the story of Kansas’ oldest college and the community around it.”


The panel discussion, led by Highland Instructor Mike Kelley, included speakers Lance Foster; Executive Committee Vice-Chairman, Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska; Alan Kelley, Former Executive Committee Vice-Chairman, Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska; and Greg Olson, author, and curator at the Missouri State Archive. Olson is the author of two books published by the University of Missouri Press. One of these titles, “The Iowa in Missouri,” won the Missouri Humanities Council’s Governor’s Humanities Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement. Olson has also published three biographies in the “Notable Missourians” series for upper-level elementary school students with Truman State University Press. His most recent book, “Iowa Life: Reservation and Reform, 1837–1860,” was named a Kansas Notable Book in 2017.


Guests were treated to an hour discussion on topics related to the settlers in Northeast Kansas and their relationship with local tribes, Native American Tribe relocations to reservations in the area, the history of the area and the Iowa of Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, as well as the founding of Highland and the College.


Alan Kelley, Former Executive Committee Vice-Chairman, Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska said of the event, “we want to do our best to negate stereotypes and teach others about our history to influence how future generations will live. Things like this panel and our Tribe’s museum are excellent ways to that.”


“In the early days of our country, when trying to deal with the native population, mission schools were set up with religious and government organizations. The mission of these schools was to teach Native Americans how to speak and act like white people. Samuel Irvin was a Christian missionary and had a hand in starting this school at Highland,” Olson said when speaking about the origins of Mission Schools in the area and on what brought Samuel Irvin, a founder of Highland Community College, and namesake of Irvin Hall, to the area.


The Mission School still stands several miles east of Highland, Kansas. It was transformed from a mission school for Native American children to an orphanage. In 1858 half of the building was torn down and used in the construction of Irvin Hall and Highland University on what is now the Highland campus of Highland Community College. Irvin Hall, a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places since the early 1970s, was the first building constructed on campus.


In addition to historical topics, Kelley and Foster described current issues facing the Tribe such as changes in environment and agriculture, an occupation for many in the region.


Foster commented that “we are focusing on regenerative agriculture, crop rotations, moving cattle in different patterns. Letting the land heal. All of these things are going to help us if we are going to live here for another 500 years. If we can’t change the world, we can change where we live.”


A video of the panel is available to watch on the College’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUD8qcjuWK8.


About Humanities Kansas

Humanities Kansas is an independent nonprofit spearheading a movement of ideas to empower the people of Kansas to strengthen their communities and our democracy. Since 1972, our pioneering programming, grants, and partnerships have documented and shared stories to spark conversations and generate insights. Together with our partners and supporters, we inspire all Kansans to draw on history, literature, ethics, and culture to enrich their lives and serve the communities and state we all proudly call home. Visit humanitieskansas.org.

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