December 2014


Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).

Au Revoir

After seven-and-one-half years of inspired, bipartisan, civil discourse, we are likely bringing you the final twenty-four- page print issue of Prairie Fire. We have made a heroic effort to find a successor advertising manager after our revered co-owner, Nancy Hamer, became burned out after ninety monthly (successful) journeys to find twelve pages of advertising revenue each month.

Our Mission

We are pleased to have assembled a group of over five hundred advertisers, over one thousand distribution sites in seven states, and (depending on the month) eighty five thousand to one hundred thousand readers.

If you reread our mission statement in our inaugural issue (July 2007), you will see that we have accomplished close to all of our goals. For the few goals left unfulfilled, we shall (perhaps) add them to our next chapter, a path not yet precisely formulated. To our 1,080 essay writers, we say, “Well done,” “thank you,” and we urge you all to continue your great craft.

The Mexican Side of Nebraska

By Lissette Aliaga Linares

As of 2012, a record number of 141,913 Hispanics of Mexican origin resided in Nebraska—up from 29,665 in 1990—according to the analysis of Census Bureau data by the Office of Latino/Latin American Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This estimate includes 49,429 Mexican immigrants, who account for almost half of the state’s foreign-born population. The remaining two-thirds of the Mexican-origin population represent US citizens of Mexican descent, mostly children, which make up a growing share of the total Mexican-origin population in the state.

Hispanics, and especially those of Mexican origin, are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the nation, and not surprisingly in Nebraska as well. But despite the volume and novelty of this demographic shift, Nebraska has always had a Mexican side. The story of this side merits closer attention in order to understand how subsequent waves of immigration in the nation shaped the composition of this state’s population and could mold its future.

Book Review: Transcendental Meditation in America: How a New Age Movement Remade a Small Town in Iowa by Joseph Weber

Review by Carolyn Johnsen

Title: Transcendental Meditation in America: How a New Age Movement Remade a Small Town in Iowa
Author: Joseph Weber
Publisher: The University of Iowa Press

With this book, Joe Weber has made an important contribution to the University of Iowa Press’s series entitled “Iowa and the Midwest Experience.” True to its main title, this accessible book tells the history of transcendental meditation in the US. True to its subtitle, the book also details the history and the current situation of TM in Fairfield, Iowa, the home of the Maharishi University of Management, or MUM, where would-be meditators once tried to levitate by jumping on what Weber calls mattresses in the hallways.

Book Review: Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year by Paul A. Johnsgard

Review by Jack Phillips

Title: Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year
Author: Paul A. Johnsgard
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press

On a sunny October morning I sat in my favorite Omaha coffee shop with a strong Ethiopian, waiting for the day to warm before my weekly botanical walkabout. Purely by chance my literary coffee buddies were Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays: Second Series and Paul Johnsgard’s Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year. Reading multiple books together indulges my wont and creates some interesting conversations. Paul and Ralph have a lot in common across more than a century, and together over coffee seemed to agree on what I needed most to hear. Ralph began:

Alfredisms: Remarks on the Unveiling of the Alfred-Wilson Memorial on N Road, Prairie Island, November 17, 2014

By Dan Tyler

Friends and neighbors, following an Australian tradition, I would like to begin by acknowledging and paying tribute to the traditional custodians of this land. The Chaui people of the Pawnee Nation practiced sustainable agriculture in this valley for centuries before European settlement. Like so many of us, they raised corn (or maize), which was not only a staple of their diet but which featured prominently in their cosmology. They also raised pumpkins, beans, and squash; and they hunted the prairie for bison, elk, and deer. (In respect of the latter, some of us still do that, too.)

Conserving Biodiversity in a Changing Climate

A very dry Republican River, Furnas County, 2003. (Dr. Ken Dewey, School of Natural Resources, UNL)

By Rick Schneider

Climate change is already having significant impacts on wild species and ecosystems, and these are likely to increase considerably in the future. Climate change components affecting biodiversity include increasing temperature, changes in precipitation patterns, and increases in the frequency and intensity of storms flooding, droughts, and wildfires. Natural systems provide numerous benefits to humans, including ecosystem services that sustain communities and economies. Action is needed now to safeguard species and ecosystems and the communities and economies that depend on them. Addressing the growing threats brought about by rapid climate change will require new approaches to natural resource management and conservation. The conservation community, including staff at state and federal natural resource agencies, nonprofit conservation organizations, and universities, has been working to develop and implement strategies to help species adapt to climate change. What follows is an exploration of some of the impacts of climate change, particularly in the Great Plains, and some adaptation strategies to address those impacts.

A Look at District Energy

By Daniel Dixon

Imagine eating popcorn at Lincoln’s Pinnacle Bank Arena and cheering on the Huskers as they take the basketball court on a frigid January afternoon, or applauding your favorite band as they return to the stage for an encore on a muggy July evening. Thousands of people already have enjoyed such events. If you’re like most of them, you would focus on the action in front of you and wouldn’t give much thought to the source of energy that keeps you comfortable during these events.

Seeds of Wisdom: An Island of Grass and Healthy Land

By Peter Carrels

Watch the winds wiggle and bend grasses on an open plain. It’s a rhythmic response on the ground to moving air. But this movement, this dance, has been stilled on more than 235,000 square miles of North America. Grasslands have been steadily destroyed during the past century and a half, and that destruction accelerated in recent years as corn and soybean farming spread across the land.

Robert Manley on Immigration History, Part Two

By Mary Garbacz

Immigration reform is in the news today, but it has been in US news for generations. A little knowledge of history reveals that today’s conversations are rooted in immigration history. Railroad land agents recruited people from Europe to settle Nebraska, to farm, to homestead, to work in sugar beet fields in the summers, to do the many tasks related to settling a new state. Today’s often-heard comments that “my ancestors came here legally” is evidence of little knowledge of history. The people who settled Nebraska were recruited and brought here.

Immigration in Nebraska

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