Bovine battles

Grad student represents NDSU at the biennial Phi Alpha Theta conference.

Photo of Blake Johnson

Blake Johnson is a North Dakota State University graduate student studying the Environmental History of the Great Plains. Recently, he represented NDSU at the National Phi Alpha Theta Biennial Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Phi Alpha Theta is an American Honor Society for undergraduates, graduates, and professors of history. Conferences for Phi Alpha Theta are an opportunity for historians alike to read the paper they have written, present their research, and share information that they have found. 

Blake was offered this opportunity by Doctor Thomas Isern, a distinguished professor and professor of history at NDSU. He is also a member of the Phi Alpha Theta National Board. 

The title of Johnson’s piece is Battles Over Bovines: A reassessment of Northern Cheyenne cattle raids. He explored different explanations behind the cattle raids done by the Northern Cheyenne tribe during the late 1800s. He also explained the importance of a cultural keystone species.

 “Keystone species are a species that a culture could not survive without,” he explains. Through scouring primary sources, Johnson found that all cattle raids spike in relation to bison decline and theorizes that the cattle raids could be done as a “campaign of existence”. 

He hopes that through this research he can emphasize the importance of seeking multiple perspectives in all that we do. He says, “Every person who has walked in that same spot has a story to tell.” 

The conference was Johnson’s first time in Albuquerque. “It was cool to see how many panels were so full of people who wanted to listen,” Johnson explained. There were 56 panels with three to four presenters per panel. 

Johnson said he was able to connect with some old friends from his years as an undergraduate and meet new people. Johnson “loves” going to conferences because it offers a chance to mingle and make new connections. 

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