Russ Gifford
Connecting Regional History with National History... by Telling the Stories of Individuals

Need a Speaker?

Upcoming Talks

Sample Work


About Russ

Connect with Russ

I am always looking for new places to present my talks.



Upcoming Talks

Traveler's Tales: Riverboats on the Missouri, 1850-1879 - August 15 - Ponca

Experience traveling along the Missouri river in the wild days of the 1850s to 1870s via first hand accounts. Meet the gamblers and grafters that occasionally traveled the riverboats, along with doctors and farmers, teachers and tradesmen. No less than Mark Twain traveled by steamboat on the Missouri at least a time or two. Hear their impressions as we see the experience through their eyes! Join Russ Gifford for this trip back in time when steamboats traveled the Missouri! 

August 15 at 2 p.m.

(Location to be Announced)

Ponca, Nebraska

Iowa's French Connection - August 17 - Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center - Sioux City

Schools teach us the English colonists swept from the east to the west in the settlement of America. That story is far too narrow. The Spanish and the French, as well as the British, originally explored and settled the North American continent. Each had far different goals for their settlements, and each had their moment, and set into place some far reaching customs and ideas. Their interactions with the natives of those regions left their mark.

The French were Iowa's first non-native explorers, but of great significance is the fact it was the French that settled the Siouxland region.

See the important differences that made in Native interaction when Russ Gifford examines "Iowa's French Connection."

August 17 at 1 p.m.

Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center /
Betty Strong Encounter Center

900 Larsen Park Road

Sioux City Iowa

Coming in September:

Power to the People? - TBA - WITCC Sioux City

(5 sessions)

If we look at the sweep of time from America's founding, it has all been a path toward greater inclusion. Consider - the great American experiment in self government - an idea that was ridiculed and dismissed in 1776 - would inspire the world. But as in all experiments, the initial groundbreaking idea was severely limited. Only the highest class of citizens were extended the vote. Yet in as little as 15 years, these same individuals would move to open the door a little wider. And that is the reality of America's promise in self government - every generation or so since the American revolution, the country opens the door a bit wider. By the 1820s, the property ownership idea was dropped. In the 1860s, black males were included. By 1920, all adult females were included.

And each time it happens, at least part of the preceding generation fights the stop it from happening.

Join Russ Gifford for a trip down memory lane as we recount the highs and lows of America from 1965 to 2015. While the session titles use the Presidents as touchstones, the story is the journey of the American public from 1965, as the Baby Boomers come of age, to fifty years later as they reach retirement.

In those 50 event-filled years, we will follow the generation 'Born to Be Wild' as they ride the tiger of transitioning from 'outsiders demanding change' to 'insiders in charge.' Having dispatched Johnson and Nixon, will they uphold the protests that ended the war in future years, when they are faced with the choice of sending troops abroad? Will they continue to embrace change as women and people of color demand their Constitutional rights? Will they remain inclusive as the entire fabric of their workforce changes and competition for jobs increases as real pay plummets with more workers and fewer jobs?

We will tell the story of the PEOPLE, and watch as the Hippies become Yuppies, and many of their friends become Reagan Republicans in the post populist disappointment of Jimmy Carter. Rock goes Country, and Country goes Pop as the middle class faces a middle age of rising debt. They try to live the dream and bring up kids of their own, but some question the results. The older ones say, hey, wait. The Wall fell, the Cold War is over. Where is that Peace Dividend?

As the first Boomer reaches the Presidency, Clinton told us to 'Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" - but celebrations are short lived. The 1990s seem to be a moment with lots of incredible events, but not many good ones. As technology charges forward, and email and the internet change work and business, some wonder if we lost something along the way? Music and fashion blend together, as always, but in the 1990s, so do news and entertainment. It seems bad now - but wait until the new millennium!

Everything changes in the early 2000s! While computers disrupted some industries in the late 1990, like print and internal communications, by the 2000s other businesses seem to be almost destroyed by the new mix. Network and later Cable delivered television had ruled since the 1960s, defining reality and fashion for the lifetime of the Boomers. But by 2000, Reality TV is the byword in programming, though it has no reality at all. Within a few years, that entertainment option will spread to the news departments, as they require ratings to stay solvent. Fake News becomes any news someone wants to ignore.  Into the vacuum flows new players, but some will question their intentions. The 2016 election shows that not only banks and industries can be compromised by hackers, but so can truth and knowledge.

From 'Power to the People' to 'Triangulation' and 'the Tea Party' this series will cover it all. It might look like a 'Ball of Confusion' from your current viewpoint but join Russ Gifford for trip back in time and see how the cultural trail leads directly to the hot spots of today. Get ready because we think you will agree "What a long, strange trip it's been!"  


Lifelong Learning, Western Iowa Tech Community College

4647 Stone Avenue

Sioux City Iowa

Coming in October:

The Prehistory of the Natives of the Southwest  - TBA - WITCC Sioux City

Learn the story of the people behind the Pueblos, the Great Houses, and the Cliff Dwellings. Who were they? Where did they come from?  And where did they go? We will hear first hand accounts of what early explorers thought when they stumbled on these abandoned great houses, larger than any building most had experienced. We will also discuss the construction and how they got the materials to build them, and why they were built where they were. Beyond the buildings, which remain awe inspiring nearly 10 centuries later, we will also investigate the vast trade network that united these people - and their possible connection to other native groups of the era. What have scientists determined in the past few decades about the inhabitants of these regions, and their disappearance? 

(Dates still being finalized.)

An early photo of a cliff dwelling, from 1874. Photographed by William Henry Jackson.

Chaco Canyon (Session 1) - TBA

Mesa Verdi and the Four Corners Region (Session 2) - TBA

Lifelong Learning, Western Iowa Tech Community College

4511 Stone Park

Sioux City Iowa

Looking for a speaker that holds audiences spellbound? Attend one of Russ Gifford's many classes!

       “His ratings were the highest for our entire season of 12 workshops, and far eclipsed those for the previous season. He created a fantastic class, and people left feeling empowered.” -- Dr. Lynn Barteck, Tri State Graduate Center

Why Hire Russ Gifford?| Connect with Russ Gifford