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Fourth Annual Eccles Family Rural West Conference

People and Place in the Rural American West

Missoula, Montana, March 17-19

Conference Panels

Western Politics

Issues in the Rural West Go to panel page

9:15–10:45 am Friday

Rural West Conference Panel 1Throughout the rural West, people and place are profoundly affected across a range of issues by policies made by governments, private sector organizations, and non-profits at a distance. Yet discussions about issues and policy in the rural West are seldom informed by an understanding of the public's views on the issues. This panel will present the results from a unique statewide survey of Montana residents' opinions conducted by Stanford University and the University of Montana. The survey asked Montanans questions about the panel topics, including issues of health care, energy production, resource management, drug use, tribal government, and homelessness. Panelists will examine the results of the survey from political, social, and historical perspectives and discuss the implications for policymaking and politics in the rural West.

Speakers include Anthony Johnstone (University of Montana), Christopher Muste (University of Montana), David Brady (Stanford University) and Sally Mauk (Montana Public Radio). Moderated by Bruce E. Cain (Stanford University).

People and Place

A Western Sense of Place: Definitions, Relationships, and Expressions Go to panel page

11:00–12:30 pm Friday

Rural West Conference Panel 2People’s experience of the American West is closely connected to their sense of the West as a physical place: large coastal cities, small mountain towns, agricultural valleys, and vast stretches of uninhabited terrain. Those who feel connected to the West, and perhaps especially to the rural West, express their relationship to the land in terms of “attachment,” “home,” and even “love.” Westerners define themselves in terms of the places they visit, work, come from, and live. Yet “sense of place” often remains a vague or elusive concept, even in the American West. This panel will ask whether there is a definitively Western relationship to place, and what this relationship constitutes, by exploring the many ways a “sense of place” is defined and expressed in the rural American West.

Speakers include Jon Lauck (Midwestern History Association), Dan Reineman (Stanford University) Jen Corrinne Brown (Texas A&M Corpus Christi), and Elizabeth Zach (Rural Community Assistance Corporation). Moderated by Kathryne Young (Stanford University).


Home(less) on the Range: Rural Housing and Homelessness Go to panel page

2:00–3:30 pm Friday

Rural West Conference Panel 3This panel explores problems with affordable housing in rural areas, particularly for low-income and poor families. The panelists will present research from a variety of rural settings that explores overlapping issues including homelessness and rural outmigration due to poverty, rural gentrification and housing insecurity, and housing shortages due to boomtown development. The panelists will all explore the interconnections between economic development (and/or lack thereof) and lacks of affordable housing in rural communities. Panelists will describe growing and ongoing problems, and when possible, propose policy solutions and programs that are effective in addressing the problem of affordable housing shortages in rural communities in the West and beyond.

Speakers include Jennifer Sherman (Washington State University), Rayna Sage (Washington State University), Michele Statz (Carthage College), and Daisy Rooks (University of Montana). Moderated by Ryanne Pilgeram (University of Idaho).

Indian Policy

Perspectives on Tribal Law and Policy in the Rural West: Challenges and Successes Go to panel page

4:00 pm–5:30 pm Friday

Rural West Conference Panel 4The vast majority of the nation’s federally recognized Indian tribes and their land bases are located in the rural American West. Over 300 distinct Native communities call the region home. Yet despite their undeniable presence throughout the region, tribal law and policy remains largely an unacknowledged force in shaping the rural American West. In rural areas in particular, tribal law and policy has significant everyday implications, including civil jurisdiction, water and land rights, economic development, taxation, and self-government. This panel seeks to highlight both the recent successes and ongoing challenges in tribal law and policy, and more broadly, address how tribal self-determination has been a defining political and economic force in the rural American West.

Speakers include Monte Mills (University of Montana), Barbara Creel (University of New Mexico), James Allison (Christopher Newport University) and Mark Trahant (University of North Dakota). Moderated by Josh Reid (University of Washington).

Public Health

Health Care and Access in the Rural West Go to panel page

9:00–10:30 am Saturday

Rural West Conference Panel 5Public access to health care has been in the national spotlight for years, but much of the discussion has either focused on urban areas or ignored the issue of place altogether. The provision of health services in rural areas presents difficult challenges, including impoverished patient populations distributed over large geographic areas, insufficient numbers of health care professionals living in rural areas, technological barriers to disseminating information, and disproportionately high rates of drug and alcohol addiction, car accidents, suicide attempts, gunshot wounds, and other threats to health and life. This panel will address the challenges of providing health care in the American rural west, and also explore potential solutions and policy approaches to improving access.

Speakers include Christiane von Reichert (University of Montana), Kenny Smoker (Fort Peck Tribes and Indian Health Service), Tom Seekins, University of Montana), and Gyda Swaney (University of Montana). Moderated by Martin Blair (Rural Institute).

Land Use

“This Land is My Land:” Use and Allocation of Public Lands and Natural Resources Go to panel page

10:45–12:15 pm Saturday

Rural West Conference Panel 6A defining characteristic of the American West is vast expanse of federal lands and natural resources bases that stretch throughout the region. Rural communities and their livelihoods are most often attached to these lands and resources, and have been for generations. But the debate over the management of public lands and natural resources in the American West has become an increasingly controversial and divisive topic in recent years, with numerous stakeholders emerging and presenting their views on how these lands and resources should be managed, and to whom they rightfully belong. This panel seeks to offer perspectives on the past, present, and future of public lands and natural resource management in the rural Rocky Mountain West.

Speakers include Patrick Shea (University of Utah), Martha Williams (University of Montana), Nicola Ulibarri (Stanford University) and Tay Wiles (High Country News). Moderated byTodd Holmes (Stanford University).

To see keynote addresses and meal and break times, please see the conference schedule



Rural West Conference Volume

Bridging the Distance

Common Issues of the Rural West

Edited by David B. Danbom
Foreword by David M. Kennedy

Published in cooperation with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University
The University of Utah Press has published Bridging the Distance, a book by the Rural West Initiative of the Bill Lane Center for the American West. Edited by the distinguished historian David B. Danbom and with a foreword by Center co-founding director David M. Kennedy, the book explores the Rural West across four dimensions: Community, Land, Economics – and defining the Rural West itself. The book is the result of work presented at the first Conference on the Rural West, which took place in Ogden, Utah, in October 2012.