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"The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American Inheritance" book event featuring author Rebecca Clarren

IN-PERSON EVENT presented by Bismarck State College's Bringing Humanities to Life initiative. Award-winning author Rebecca Clarren will discuss the history of her Jewish ancestors' land in South Dakota, and the Lakota who were forced off that land by the United States government.

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Time & Location








IN-PERSON EVENT presented by Bismarck State College's Bringing Humanities to Life initiative. 

One Book One ND is a statewide book club that features conversations with best-selling authors. Attendees are encouraged to participate in a Q&A with the author.

Monday, April 29

Bismarck State College NECE Auditorium 

6pm CT

About the book:

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2023

"Sharply insightful . . . A monumental piece of work."—The Boston Globe

Growing up, Rebecca Clarren only knew the major plot points of her tenacious immigrant family’s origins. Her great-great-grandparents, the Sinykins, and their six children fled antisemitism in Russia and arrived in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, ultimately settling on a 160-acre homestead in South Dakota. Over the next few decades, despite tough years on a merciless prairie and multiple setbacks, the Sinykins became an American immigrant success story.

What none of Clarren’s ancestors ever mentioned was that their land, the foundation for much of their wealth, had been cruelly taken from the Lakota by the United States government. By the time the Sinykins moved to South Dakota, America had broken hundreds of treaties with hundreds of Indigenous nations across the continent, and the land that had once been reserved for the seven bands of the Lakota had been diminished, splintered, and handed for free, or practically free, to white settlers. In The Cost of Free Land, Clarren melds investigative reporting with personal family history to reveal the intertwined stories of her family and the Lakota, and the devastating cycle of loss of Indigenous land, culture, and resources that continues today.

With deep empathy and clarity of purpose, Clarren grapples with the personal and national consequences of this legacy of violence and dispossession. What does it mean to survive oppression only to perpetuate and benefit from the oppression of others? By shining a light on the people and families tangled up in this country’s difficult history, The Cost of Free Land invites readers to consider their own culpability and what, now, can be done.

Rebecca Clarren has been writing about the American West for more than twenty years. She is the winner of the 2021 Whiting Nonfiction Grant for her work on The Cost of Free Land. Her journalism, for which she has won the Hillman Prize, an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, and ten grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, has appeared in such publications as Mother Jones, High Country News, The Nation, and Indian Country Today. Her debut novel, Kickdown (Sky Horse Press, 2018), was shortlisted for the PEN/Bellwether Prize.


Dr. Larry C. Skogen holds degrees from Dickinson State University (B.S. in secondary education), University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg (M.A. in history), and Arizona State University, Tempe (Ph.D. in history). He is author of Indian Depredation Claims, 1796-1920, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1996, and in 2024 the University of Nebraska Press published his To Educate American Indians: Selected Writings from the National Educational Association’s Department of Indian Education, 1900-1904. A second volume to this work covering the years 1905-1909 is forthcoming.

This One Book, One ND event is sponsored by BSC Bringing Humanities to Life, Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library, the Paris Family Foundation and Prairie Public 

HND Value Statement

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Humanities North Dakota. However, in an increasingly polarized world, we at Humanities North Dakota believe that being open-minded is necessary to thinking critically and rationally. Therefore, our programs and classes reflect our own open-mindedness in the inquiry, seeking, and acquiring of scholars to speak at our events and teach classes for our Public University. To that end, we encourage our participants to join us in stepping outside our comfort zones and considering other perspectives and ideas by being open-minded while attending HND events featuring scholars who hold a variety of opinions, some being opposite of our own held beliefs.

Humanities North Dakota classes and events are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities

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