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Historic find by WSU professor, students marks subject of new documentary

Recent discoveries by a Washington State University history professor and his students may hold the key to an ongoing American West conflict.

Orlan Svingen.

After nearly 10 years of research, Professor Orlan Svingen, along with students and colleagues in the WSU public history field schools, unearthed a U.S. government document from 1870 and several supporting records that shed new light on conflicting claims about historical use and ownership of large swaths of southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming.

The revelations contradict some long-standing assumptions about the land and its previous and current inhabitants, and could dramatically reshape not only the historical record but the future of the land itself.

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WSU Insider
Challis Messenger

Levy’s ‘Conquistador’ eyed for TV series

Buddy Levy.
Buddy Levy

Two Hollywood production companies have optioned WSU English instructor Buddy Levy’s Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs, with plans to turn the epic tale into a TV series.

Overbrook Entertainment, a company whose partners include actor Will Smith, and MOTOR optioned the book after discussions started last fall.

Published by Bantam Books in 2008, Conquistador chronicles the demise of the Aztec Empire as Hernán Cortés imprisons its leader, Montezuma, and captures what was then the most populous city in the world in what Levy called “the costliest single battle in history.” Some 200,000 Aztecs died.

“I knew from the beginning when I wrote it that it had cinematic value,” said Levy. “Not necessarily from my writing, though I hope that’s part of it. It’s just a whopper of a tale.”

The project now faces the usual challenges: financing scripts for a pilot and other episodes, getting the interest of A-list talent for premier roles like Cortés, Montezuma and their interpreter, La Malinche, and finding a time when the principals are free. Levy himself is rushing to finish Labyrinth of Ice, a book about the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition that saw 18 of its original 25-man crew perish in the Canadian Arctic.

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WSU Insider

Ten years of painstaking archival detective work

Sue Peabody.

The seventh book by Sue Peabody, Meyer Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and History at WSU Vancouver, has been called “a meticulous work of archival detective work” and “both biography and global history at their very best.”

It took 10 years of painstaking research for Peabody to earn that high praise. The result is “Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets, and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies,” published in 2017 by Oxford University Press. It is the first full-length biography tracing the lives of slaves in the Indian Ocean world, and it affirms her reputation as the world’s foremost expert on the law of slavery and race in the French Empire.

The narrative brings many dramatic moments to life as Peabody uncovers intimate relationships and legal disputes between slaves and free people in the Indian Ocean world that have been hidden for two centuries.

Peabody calls the book a “microhistory.” That is, it follows one family’s story to paint a broader picture of society in their time. The individual histories of family members illuminate the types of labor slaves performed and the varying nature of their relationships with society and plantation owners.

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WSU Insider

Group: Many Native students not counted

Tribal organization says students missing out on funding for education

A new organization in Clark County is pressing area school districts to improve identification and counting of Native American students and to reinstate funding for their educational programs.

The Pacific Northwest Center for Cultural Education is a group of tribal members and educators pushing to improve educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaskan Native children. The recently founded organization is still in the process of securing 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, but hopes to make inroads with area school districts this summer.

Steven Fountain.Steven Fountain, a Washington State University Vancouver professor of history and coordinator of Native American programs for the campus, is among those working with the organization.

“There’s a whole lot of kids who aren’t being served,” Fountain said. “That’s where this larger issue of the under-counting for our Native American community comes in.”

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The Columbian

Developing characters: Man works with migrant students to tell their stories

Peter Chilson.
Peter Chilson

Peter Chilson, professor of English at WSU, assisted the Ontario, Oregon, school district as a writer-in-residence during the 2018 Summer Seminar—a four-week-long summer school program molded around providing migrant students with extra writing assistance as they step into the future.

The hope is that the students will use the time this summer to craft a personal story that can be used to apply for scholarship essays and job applications.

Chilson helped migrant students improve their writing, specifically on developing characters and their own voice in the prose they write, “So that they can share their experiences with an audience that is important to them.”

“Their stories are about journeys. They’ve been through some intense experiences,” he said.

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Argus Observer