“Do you know America?” – Liubou Uladykouskaja

I am very delighted with my work at the University of Florida. Anthropology is high developed here and I’ve made a wide professional network. I’ve gotten a lot of new knowledge in practice and theory on intercultural dialogue.

My presentation “Intercultural Dialogue And Belarus: Crisis Or Chance?” at the University of Florida caused a great and a very active discussion. There were many people who came to look at “the alive Belarusian” for the first time in their life and were surprised with absolutely new information about unknown country. Some of them said that my point of view about America looked like “Official American Propaganda” but I know nothing about official American propaganda! Probably, patriotism needs to be grown and supported by the state. But in any case this “propaganda” is rather directed towards patriotism of American citizens, and not against other countries. I just sincerely love America, I believe in America, and I am sure that this country is not only very free, but the most progressive and moral. I made sure in this thanks to my personal life experience.

Sometimes the Americans don’t understand real situation in the Eastern Europe and the US role over there. Some of them criticize their own country because they have never lived anywhere else.

At the meeting I spoke about importance of intercultural dialogue in the modern world, similarities and differences of American and European approaches to intercultural dialogue, as well as about common features of the Americans and the Belarusians (in aspects of history, culture, different influences, famous persons, etc.). I also showed specific features of the Belarusian industry, nature, culture (folk and professional), history of the state and contemporary social and political situation because the participants of the meeting knew nothing about Belarus.

As far as I see Ukraine saves us (Belarus and the Belarusians) in many aspects. At least every person in the USA heard about Ukrainian struggle for freedom and has a sympathy to this country. When I say that I am from Belarus and my country is a neighbor of Ukraine I see a smile and feel understanding.

I found a lot of professional partners in the USA and around the world. Especially the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Enrichment Seminar (April 1-4, 2015— Tulsa, Oklahoma) “Old to New West: The Role of Land in Shaping the American Story” was very useful for international communication. Participants from dozens countries were united by their love to the USA.

There is no better place than Oklahoma to learn about the role of land in shaping the American West. Oklahoma land was center-stage in the American story during the 19th and 20th centuries. First as Indian and Oklahoma emerging oil industry. Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the second-largest city in the state, once known as the “Oil Capital of the World”. Most of modern Tulsa is located in the Tribal Land of the Native American Creek, Cherokee, and Osage Nations. Today, Tulsa is considered the cultural and arts center of Oklahoma, and is home to the famous Gilcrease and Philbrook Museums. The Gilcrease Museum houses the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West. Downtown Tulsa is famous for its beautiful Art Deco architecture-one of the nation’s largest concentrations. Ten higher educational facilities serve the metropolitan Tulsa area, including the University of Tulsa, a leading private research institution.

Dr. James Ronda introduced the broad history of the American West and pinpoint Osage county as a key place to understand and appreciate the West. His remarks also helped us to understand the human and physical landscape at the Tallgrass Prairie preserve. A day trip to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the largest preserved remnant of native tallgrass prairie on earth, enabled us to learn about the evolution of thought and practice concerning the natural resources of the West. We saw buffalo (they look like Belarusian zubrs!), an oil and gas hydraulic fracturing site, and visited the Osage Tribal Museum. The Tallgrass Prairie near Pawhuska, Oklahoma is a fitting locale to discuss the evolution of thought and practice concerning the natural resources of the West. Vast lands, extending from Texas to Manitoba, once supported grass that was said to be as tall as a horse’s shoulders. These areas supported a wide range of wildlife, including massive herds of bison. The TPP is one of the few remaining remnants of the tall grass environment. Almost none of TPP has been subjected to the plow or field crop farming. The town of Pawhuska, the gateway to TPP, has been the tribal center of the Osage Nation since the 19th century, when the Osage sold their reservation lands in Kansas and purchased the land surrounding Pawhuska. They might have continued their traditional ways of life, except for the discovery of oil, which transformed the Osage subsistence farmers and ranchers into one of the wealthier ethnic groups on the planet. To this day, the Osage tribe owns the mineral rights on their land, and uses the substantial income oil and gas bring to benefit its people and others in the region. The TPP was created by the Nature Conservancy, acting in the spirit of responsible land use that spawned the Buffalo Commons idea. The Buffalo Commons is a cultural and social movement for positive, restorative social and ecological change on the Great Plains. This land aside has benefited not only the bison but also all of the other animals, birds and insects of the natural environment. The lack of farming and pesticides helps maintain the quality of the water in the region and encourages natural soil development. The management of TPP also recognizes that the economic needs of running such a large operation, and generate income in a manner consistent with their conservation principles. Each fall, they sell off excess bison to private ranchers or other parks to generate income and to insure that the number of bison does not exceed the carrying capacity of the land.

The bison, or buffalo, once totaling around 30 million in number, were kings of the prairie. These magnificent animals can be up to six feet high at the shoulders and weigh a ton or more—so huge that early settlers thought it was the bison that had cleared the trees from the prairie. They roamed the range in herds of dozens to millions, never overgrazing, always moving, and granting the land time to recover. Like fire, they were a mainstay within a delicately balanced ecosystem.

In the late 1800s the bison were almost entirely eliminated, with less than 1000 individuals left at the lowest point. Today, their numbers have rebounded to about 350,000—only about 1% of their original numbers, but enough so that bison are no longer in danger of extinction. About 15,000 reside on public lands in the U.S., the rest are private herds such as those maintained by the Nature Conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy has reintroduced bison at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve as a critical part of the restoration of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Visitors to the preserve can usually see one or more small herds of bison by driving the 10-mile bison loop, though bison are constantly on the move and may be hidden by the rolling prairie terrain.

The Osage Tribal Museum was the first American Indian Tribal Museum anywhere. Volunteers who have lived the life of the Osage both traditional and modern, and are versed in the history, traditions, customs, and problems facing the Osage Nation staff the museum. The museum sponsors many activities throughout the year both to celebrate the history of the Osage people, and to educate those who wish to learn about them.

During the panel discussion ”The Real—and Reel— History of the American West” we had a great opportunity to listen to Professor Steven Woods (“The Native American Experience”), Dr. Roger Hardaway “African Americans in the American West”), and Professor Byron Price (“The American West in Popular Media”).

Dr. Hugh Foley, Professor of Fine Arts at Rogers State University, spoke about Oklahoma music. American Indian music often refers to earth or the natural realm, as well as some songs that specifically mention land. The music of working cowboys also reveals connections to the land in the state as songs express the positives and frustrations of late 19th century prairie life on the southern Great Plains cattle trails. The songs of Oklahoma’s best-known folksinger, Woody Guthrie, chronicled the “Okies” and other migrant farm workers who left land that had either been foreclosed on due to the Depression, or made untenable by the Dust Bowl drought conditions of the 1930s.

Now I know about American history, culture, industry, and lifestyle much more than before, and I am going to write about this in my new books. What about you?