Clyde Ellis

Professor of History
Lindner Hall - Arts & Sciences 101A
2335 Campus Box
Elon, NC 27244 (336) 278-6417

Brief Biography

      Clyde Ellis is a nationally renowned scholar who has spent much of the past 25 years living and working on the Southern Plains in the Kiowa community of southwest Oklahoma conducting extensive fieldwork on boarding schools Christian missions, Native hymn traditions, and powwow culture. More recently he has expanded his research to include southeast North Carolina's Indian communities and has recently published a series of important studies on that region's powwow culture. Selected publications include:

    Professor Ellis served as the Gordon Russell Endowed Visiting Professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College in 2002, and was named both the College of Arts and Sciences and University Distinguished Scholar for Elon University in 2004, and was named a Senior Faculty Research Fellow in 2010-2012. In 2007-2010 he served the Organization of Americans Historians as a Distinguished Lecturer, and in the summer of 2011 was selected as a National Endowment in the Humanities summer scholar.




A.B., English, A.B., History: Lenoir-Rhyne College, 1980

M.A., American History, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1986

Ph.D., American Indian History, Oklahoma State University, 1993


Courses Taught

U.S. Survey to 1865

U.S. Survey since 1865

Senior Seminar in History

Research Methods in History

Indians in 19th Century American History

Indians in 20th Century American History

General Studies Seminars on American Indians

American Indian Religions

American Indians and Warfare

Early National America

Colonial America

The American West in the 20th Century


Current Projects

I'm currently working on two essay-length works - one on powwow singing traditions in eastern North Carolina, and one on gender and post-war powwow traditions on the Southern Plains. I'm also at work on a book-length study under contract with the University Press of Kansas on the 20th century Indian hobbyist movement in the United States.



Powwow. Clyde Ellis, Gary Dunham, and Luke Eric Lassiter, eds. (University of Nebraska Press, 2006)

A Dancing People: Powwow Culture on the Southern Plains (University Press of Kansas, 2003. Paperback edition, 2006). Finalist, 2004 Western Writers of America contemporary non-fiction prize; Finalist, 2004 Oklahoma Center for the Book Non-Fiction Prize; Nominee, 2004 Western History Association John Ewers Prize.

The Jesus Road: Kiowas, Christianity, and Indian Hymns (with a compact disk of 26 hymns), with Luke Eric Lassiter and Ralph Kotay (University of Nebraska Press, 2002). Nominee, 2002 Society for Humanistic Anthropology’s Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing; nominee, 2003 Society for Ethnomusicology’s Alan P. Merriam Prize. Named to Choice magazine’s list of the most significant university press titles published in 2001–2002.

To Change Them Forever: Indian Education at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1893-1920 (University of Oklahoma Press, 1996. Paperback edition, 2008). Winner, 1997 Gustavus Myers Award for the Outstanding Work on Intolerance in North America. Nominee, Oklahoma Center for the Book Non-fiction prize.

Selected Essays

“More Real Than The Indians Themselves: The Early Years of the Indian Lore Movement in the United States.” Montana 58:3(2008): 3-27. Winner, 2009 Montana Historical Society Vivian Paladin Award; Finalist, 2009 Western Writers of America prize for non-fiction; nominee 2009 Western History Association Arrell M. Gibson Award.

“‘We Had a Lot of Fun, But of Course, That Wasn’t the School Part’: Life at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1893-1920,” in Clifford Trafzer et al, eds., Boarding School Blues: Revisiting American Indian Educational Experiences (University of Nebraska Press, 2006): 65-98.

“Reading Between The Lines: A History of the Old and New Testaments in the Absaroki or Crow Indian Language,” with Charlene Porsild. Montana 55:1(2005): 72-75.

“Five Dollars a Week to Be ‘Regular Indians’: Shows, Exhibitions, and the Economics of Indian Dancing, 1880-1930,” in Brian Hosmer and Colleen O’Neil, eds., Native Pathways: Economic Development and American Indian Culture (University Press of Colorado, 2004): 181-206.

“‘There’s A Dance Every Weekend’: Powwow Culture in Southeast North Carolina,” in Celeste Ray, ed., Southern Heritage on Display: Public Ritual and Ethnic Diversity within Southern Regionalism (University of Alabama Press, 2003): 79-105. Choice award for books published in 2003-04.

“‘There is No Doubt…the Dances Should Be Curtailed’: Indian Dances and Federal Policy on the Southern Plains, 1880-1930.” Pacific Historical Review 70:4(2001): 543-69. Nominee, 2002 Western History Association Arrell M. Gibson Award.

“‘We Don’t Want Your Rations, We Want This Dance’: The Changing Use of Song and Dance On The Southern Plains.” Western Historical Quarterly 30:2(1999): 133-54. Nominee, History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s 1999 Covert Award in Mass Communication History; the American Society for Ethnohistory’s 1999 Robert F. Heizer Award; and for the Society for History in the Federal Government’s 1999 James Madison Award.

“Commentary: Applying Communitas to Kiowa Powwows,” with Luke Eric Lassiter. American Indian Quarterly 22:4(1998): 485-91.

“Boarding School Life at the Kiowa-Comanche Agency, 1893-1920.” Historian 58:4(1996): 777-93.

“‘There Are So Many Things Needed’: Establishing The Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1891-1900.” Chronicles of Oklahoma 72:4(1995): 414-39.

“Louise Erdrich.” American Studies Journal, Zentrum fuer USA Studien, Stiftung Leucorea an der Martin Luther Universitat, 34(1994): 44-45.

“‘A Remedy for Barbarism’: Indian Schools, the Civilizing Program, and the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation, 1871-1915.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 18:3(1994): 85-120.

“‘Our Ill-fated Relative’: John Rollin Ridge and the Cherokee People.” Chronicles of Oklahoma 68:4(1991): 376-95.

“‘Truly Dancing Their Own Way’: The Modern Revival and Diffusion of the Gourd Dance.” American Indian Quarterly 14:1(1990): 19-34.









"Powwow Singing in Eastern North Carolina." Annual meeting, North Carolina Folklore Society, 2012.

“Daddy Told Us Girls To Just Put On Those Bustles and Go Dance: Young Women and the Changing Nature of Southern Plains Powwow Dancing, 1950-2010.” Annual meeting, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2011.

“‘This Music Means A Lot To Us, Too’: Powwow Singing in North Carolina.” Annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association. 2011.

"Testing the Limits of Tradition: Gendered Space and Southern Plains Powwows." Annual meeting of the Western History Association, 2010.

“Singing To Us, Singing For Us”: The Ralph Kotay Collection at the Oklahoma Indian Archives.” Invited address, 75th Anniversary of the Oklahoma Historical Society Indian Archives, October 2009.

“The Jesus Road in Indian Country: Some Reflections on Maintaining Tribal Identity in a Native, Christian Community in the 19th Century.” Plenary Address at “The Road to Darlington: Mennonites and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes,” a conference co-sponsored by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations and the Mennonite Church. Clinton, Oklahoma, April 2006.

“’We Can Be Better Indians than the Indians’: Ernest Thompson Seton and the Indian Lore Craze.” College of William and Mary, April 2006.

“Red Indianism and the Cure for Modernity: The Early Roots of the Indian Hobbyist Movement.” University of Oklahoma Fall Speaker Series, September 2005.

“’Enormous Crowds Attracted by the War Dances’: Craterville Park, the American Indian Exposition, and the Beginnings of Southern Plains Powwow Culture,” at “Powwow: Performance and Nationhood in Native North America,” The British Museum. London, 2003.

“‘We Had a Lot of Fun, but…That Wasn’t the School Part’: Life at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1890-1920,” at “Boarding School Blues,” a symposium sponsored by the University of California at Riverside Humanities Research Council, UCR Department of History and American Indian Studies Program, and the Sherman Indian Museum and Sherman Indian High School. Riverside, CA, 2002.

“‘We Don’t Want Your Rations, We Want This Dance’: The Revitalization of Dance Culture on the Southern Plains, 1880-1930.” 26th Annual Plains Indian Seminar, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WYO, 2002.

“‘I’m Always Thankful That I Went to That School’: Kiowas, The Rainy Mountain Boarding School, and the Negotiation of Identity on the Southern Plains.” 25th Annual Plains Indian Seminar, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WYO, 2001.


Professional Activities

Member American Society for Ethnohistory; Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

Editorial Board, Western Historical Quarterly, 2007-2009

Editorial Board, Montana: The Magazine of Western History, 2002-present.

Board of Advisory Editors, Great Plains Quarterly, 2002-present.

Editorial Board, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 1996-present.


National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar on the Ethnohistory of Indians in the American South. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, June-July 2011.

2009 Vivian Paladin Prize for the best essay published in  Montana: The Magazine of Western History, for “More Real Than The Indians Themselves: The Early Years of the Indian Lore Movement in the United States.”

Senior Faculty Research Fellowship, Elon University, 2010-2012.

Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians, 2007-10.

University Distinguished Scholar. Elon University, 2004.

College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Scholar (inaugural award). Elon University, 2004.

Gordon Russell Visiting Associate Professor of Native American Studies, Dartmouth College. Winter Quarter 2002.

Elon University Summer Research Fellowship, 1997, 2005.

Elon University Research Funds for Advanced Study, 2005.