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American expansion on the local, regional and national levels has always been about the removal of American Indians from the landscape and how the migrations and forced relocations of eastern Indians from their homelands in the late 18th century and early 19th century shaped the arc of the 20th and 21st centuries.

In his Ruric and Mary Roark lecture at Eastern Kentucky University on Tuesday, April 5, Dr. John Bowes, associate professor in EKU’s Department of History, will connect the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and its treatment in the American national narrative to contemporary understandings and misunderstandings of the history and status of American Indians in the U.S.

The lecture, free and open to the public, will begin at 7:15 p.m. in Walnut Hall in the Keen Johnson Building and be followed by a question-and-answer session. A reception at 6:30 p.m. will precede the lecture. All events are sponsored by EKU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“Most American history textbooks hold to a narrative framework that focuses on the removal of the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears,” Bowes said. “In the process, those textbooks both ignore the broad geography of removal and restrict the history to a limited chronology. Thus, while this lecture will begin in the 1800s it will conclude in the 2000s, and in the process will examine everything from forced removals to dam construction to mascots.”

Prior to joining the EKU faculty in 2006, Bowes was the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and his doctoral degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.

His research emphasis is Native American history, particularly the enactment and impact of Indian removal.

In addition to numerous other published works, Bowes is the author of four books, “The History and Culture of Native Americans: The Choctaw,” “Exiles and Pioneers: Eastern Indians in the Trans-Mississippi West,” “The Trail of Tears: Removal in the South,” and “Black Hawk and the War of 1832: Removal in the North,” A fifth book, “Land Too Good for Indians: Northern Indian Removal,” is slated for publication this year.

In 2008, he was appointed by former Gov. Steve Beshear to serve as a commissioner on the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission. His work as a research consultant for the National Museum of the American Indian was part of an exhibit on treaties on site in Washington, D.C. In 2010, Bowes was one of approximately 80 individuals nationwide selected from more than 1,000 applicants to receive a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend award to conduct research and write chapters for his book on Northern Indian removal.

The Roark Lecture is an annual recognition and presentation that showcases excellence in scholarship by a College of Arts and Sciences faculty member at EKU. For more information about the series, visit or contact Dr. Tom Otieno at or 859-622-1393.

Ruric Roark served as the first president of Eastern Kentucky State Normal School when it was established in 1906. When he became ill and eventually passed away in 1909, his wife, Mary, was named acting president and continued in that role for approximately 14 months. In 2015, EKU’s Board of Regents removed the “acting” label and officially designated Mary Roark as the institution’s second president.