Margaret D. Jacobs

Charles Mach Professor of History; Director, Center for Great Plains Studies Profile Image
Charles Mach Professor of History; Director, Center for Great Plains Studies History 402-472-0602 306 Hewit Place (68588-0214)


I study the history of the American West in comparison with Australia and Canada. I focus on women and gender as well as children and families. For the last twenty-five years I have studied Indigenous child removal. Many of my books and articles concern government policies from 1880-1940 that demanded that Indigenous children be separated from their families and sent to distant boarding schools and other institutions. My more recent scholarship examines how government authorities in the U.S., Australia, and Canada continued to remove Indigenous children after World War II through foster care and adoptive placements in non-Indigenous families. This work also focuses on how Indigenous women mobilized transnationally to reclaim the care of their children. Since 2015 I have also been studying and writing about how settler colonial nations are reckoning with historical abuses against Indigenous people and working toward some form of reconciliation.

  • Reconciliation Rising is a multimedia project that showcases the lives and work of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the U.S. who are engaged in honestly confronting painful and traumatic histories, promoting meaningful and respectful dialogue between Natives and non-Natives, and creating pathways to reconciliation.
  • The Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project seeks to contribute to reconciliation and healing by making the history of the Genoa Indian Boarding School more accessible to the families of those who attended and by raising public awareness about Indian boarding schools.
  • Outstanding Research and Creativity Award (ORCA), University of Nebraska, 2021.
  • Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, inducted October 2019.
  • Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions, Cambridge University, 2015-16
  • Bancroft Prize, Columbia University, 2010, for White Mother to a Dark Race.
  • Robert G. Athearn Book Award for best book on 20th-Century American West, 2010, for White Mother to a Dark Race.
  • Armitage-Jameson Prize for best book in western women’s history, 2009, for White Mother to a Dark Race.
  • Arrell Morgan Gibson Award from the Western History Association for best article of the year in American Indian history, 2005, for "Maternal Colonialism."
  • Gaspar Perez de Villagra Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico, 1999, for Engendered Encounters.
  • Sierra Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians, 1999, for Engendered Encounters.
  • Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2018-2020, for “Does the United States Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?”
  • “Digitizing Hidden Collections” grant, Council on Library and Information Resources, for Genoa Digital Reconciliation Project. 2018-2020.
  • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 2012-13.
  • Visiting Fellowship, Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Australian National University, 2008.
  • Spencer Foundation Grant, 2005-06.
  • Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, 2001‑2002.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Extending the Reach Faculty Research Award, 2000-2001.
  • After One Hundred Winters: In Search of Reconciliation on America’s Stolen Lands. Princeton University Press, 2021.
  • A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014.
  • White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009.
  • Engendered Encounters: Feminism and Pueblo Cultures, 1879‑1934. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
  • “Seeing Like a Settler Colonial State,” Modern U.S. History, forthcoming. Published online, March 16, 2018:
  • “Triangles to Stars: How Indigenous Adoption Expands the Adoption Triad,” Adoption and Culture 6, no. 1 (2018), special issue on Critical Adoption Studies.
  • Reproducing White Settlers and Eliminating Natives: Settler Colonialism, Gender, and Family History in the American West,” Journal of the West 56, no. 4 (Autumn 2017).
  • With Susana Geliga. “New Directions in Indigenous Women’s History,” review essay for Gender and History 29, no. 1 (April 2017): 198-210.
  • “Genocide or Ethnic Cleansing? Are These Our Only Choices?” response to Gary Clayton Anderson, “The Native Peoples of the American West: Genocide or Ethnic Cleansing,” for a roundtable, Western Historical Quarterly 47, no. 4 (November 2016): 444-448.
  • “Entangled Histories: The Mormon Church and Indigenous Child Removal from 1850 to 2000,” Journal of Mormon History 42, no. 2 (April 2016): 27-60.
  • With Mikal Brotnov Eckstrom, “Teaching American History as Settler Colonialism,” for Why You Can’t Teach U.S. History without American Indians, ed. Susan Sleeper Smith, Nancy Shoemaker, Jean O’Brien, and Scott Stevens. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
  • “The Habit of Elimination: Indigenous Child Removal in Settler Colonial Nations in the Twentieth Century” in Colonial Genocide and Indigenous North America, ed. Andrew Woolford, Jeff Benvenuto, and Alexander Laban Hinton. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.
  • “Remembering the ‘Forgotten Child’: The American Indian Child Welfare Crisis of the 1960s and 70s,” American Indian Quarterly, special issue on Indigenous Adoption in Settler Colonial Nations, 37, no. 2 (spring 2013): 136-159.
  • “Breaking and Remaking Families: The Fostering and Adoption of Native American Children in Non-Native Families in the American West, 1880-1940.” In On the Borders of Love and Power: Families and Kinship in the Intercultural West, ed. David Wallace Adams and Christa De Luzio. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
  • “Diverted Mothering among American Indian Domestic Servants, 1920-1940.” In Indigenous Women's Work: From Labor to Activism, ed. Carol Williams. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.
  • “Western History: What’s Gender Got to Do With It?” Western Historical Quarterly, 42, no. 3 (Autumn 2011): 297-304.
  • “Getting out of Rut: Decolonizing Western Women’s History,” Pacific Historical Review 79, no. 4 (2010): 585-604.
  • “The Great White Mother: Maternalism and American Indian Child Removal in the American West, 1880-1940.” In One Step Over the Line: Toward a History of Women in the North American Wests, eds. Elizabeth Jameson and Sheila McManus, 191-213. Alberta, Canada: University of Alberta Press, 2008.
  • “Working on the Domestic Frontier: American Indian Servants in White Women’s Households in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1920-1940,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 28, nos. 1 and 2 (2007): 165-99.
  • “Indian Boarding Schools in Comparative Perspective: The Removal of Indigenous Children in the U.S. and Australia, 1880-1940.” In Boarding School Blues: Revisiting the American Indian Boarding School Experience, eds. Clifford Trafzer and Jean Keller. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.
  • “Maternal Colonialism: White Women and Indigenous Child Removal in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940,” Western Historical Quarterly 36 (Winter 2005): 453-476.
  • “A Battle for the Children: American Indian Child Removal in Arizona in the Era of Assimilation,” Journal of Arizona History 45, no. 1 (spring 2004): 31-62.
  • “Playing Pioneer Woman,” presentation for the Nature and Culture Seminar, University of Kansas, 27 April 2018.
  • “A Battle for the Children: Indigenous Child Removal in Canada, Australia, and the United States, 1880-1980,” keynote Presentation for “Colonizing Children: Gender in Dutch Colonial Governance Practices” Symposium, University of Amsterdam, 5 July 2017.
  • “From Triangles to Stars: How Indigenous Adoptions Expand the Adoption Triad,” keynote address for Sixth Biennial Conference of the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture, 27-29 October 2016, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • “Creating and Sustaining an Environment for Reconciliation in Settler Colonial Nations,” keynote address for the UK Native Studies Conference, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, 7 July 2016.
  • “American Indian Child Removal and the Elusiveness of Reconciliation,” presentation for the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford University, 10 May 2016.
  • “Reconciling Native American History with Twentieth-Century American History,” presentation for Cambridge American History Seminar, Cambridge University, England, January 18, 2016.
  • “Entangled Histories: The Adoption of Native American Children by Mormon Families,” presentation for Mormon History Association, Provo, Utah, June 6, 2015.
  • “A Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World,” 41st Annual Walter C. Schnackenberg Memorial Lecture, Pacific Lutheran University, February 25, 2015.
  • “Transnational Indigenous Women’s Activism and the Indigenous Child Welfare Crisis in Settler Colonial Nations, 1960s-1970s,” presentation for Melbourne Feminist History Group, March 21, 2013, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.
  • “The Habit of Elimination: Indigenous Child Removal in Settler Colonial Nations in the Late 20th Century,” presentation for Te Tumu, School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, March 7, 2013, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
  • “Colonizing the Senses: New Sensory Regimes for Indigenous Children in the United States and Australia, 1880-1940,” presentation for the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH) at the AHA Annual Meeting, January 5, 2013, New Orleans.
  • “Comparative Settler Colonialism and the History of the American West,” Presentation for a “The Significance of The Frontier in The Age of Transnational History” symposium, sponsored by Huntington Library and the University of Southern California Institute on California and the West, February 25, 2012, Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
  • “Where Have All the Children Gone? A Comparative Historical View of the Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in Non-Indigenous Families in Settler Colony Nations,” a presentation for “Investigating the Long History of Child Welfare and Adoption: Global, Historical, and Comparative Perspectives” workshop, Feb 24 and 25, 2011, Hobart, Tasmania.

Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 1996
M.A., University of California, Davis, 1992
B.A., Stanford University, 1986


Colonialism and Decolonization;
Indigenous Peoples;
Native American;
North American West;


New Books in Native American Studies Interview
Erstwhile Interview