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Yellow Thunder book named finalist for Great Plains Book of the Year

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The Center for Great Plains Studies named Stew Magnuson’s “The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder: And Other True Stories from the Nebraska-Pine Ridge Border Towns,” one of six finalists for the 2008 Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize.

The winner will be announced May 6.

“The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder,” published by Texas Tech University Press, spans 130 years in the history of two communities, the Oglala Lakotas of Pine Ridge, S.D., and bordering Sheridan County, Nebraska. It centers on the death of Native American ranch worker Raymond Yellow Thunder at the hands of four white men in February 1972. The book provides the first, full account of the crime, the American Indian Movement’s march and occupation of Gordon, Nebraska’s city auditorium to demand justice for the death, and the sensational trial of the perpetrators in Alliance, Neb. The book also includes a history of Whiteclay, Neb., a controversial border town that sells millions of cans of beer per year to the “dry” reservation.

Magnuson will be making several regional appearances in April including Left Hand Books, Boulder, Colo., April 2 at 7 p.m.; Riverton (Wyo.) Branch Library, April 4 at 2 p.m.; Scottsbluff Public Library, April 6 at 6 p.m.; Chadron State College, April 7 at 7 p.m.; Dudek’s Christian Bookshelf in Gordon, April 8 at 11:30 a.m.; North Platte Public Library, April 9 at noon; and Kearney Public Library, April 9 at 7 p.m.

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Among the finalists is University of California at Santa Barbara Associate Professor Pekka Hamalainen, the author of “Comanche Empire” and writer of the forward to Magnuson’s book.

“I feel honored to be the only journalist selected among so many distinguished professors, including Pekka Hamalainen who wrote such a nice forward and who was an early champion of my book,” Magnuson said.

The center, based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, created the prize to “emphasize the interdisciplinary importance of the Great Plains in today’s publishing and educational market,” according to its Web site.

Other finalists include: University of Alberta Professor Sarah Carter for “The Importance of Being Monogamous;” Purdue University Professor R. Douglas Hurt, “The Great Plains During World War II;” Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University-Idaho Andrea Radke-Moss for “Bright Epoch: Women and Coeducation in the American West;” and Mark Scherer, associate professor of history, University of Nebraska at Omaha for “Rights in the Balance: Free Press, Fair Trial and Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart.”

The author of the winning title will receive a $3,000 cash prize and will be invited to present a lecture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.