FIFTY: Nebraska — "Omaha Claim Club"
Each story in the FIFTY collection focuses on a remarkable American from a different state. Below are some recommended topics to inspire further investigation of the history and geography of the state, as well as themes that can support our children's growth and development.
Gertrude Wiley was fed up with the Omaha Claim Club. She understood its benefits and origins, but in 1860 it looked more like a handful of greedy rich men who wanted to keep everything for themselves than an organization that cared for the community. She generally tolerated their oppressive ways — until her nephew became their target and Gertrude stepped forward and refused to be intimidated.
Note: Though this is historical fiction and the characters have been developed to accommodate a story, their attributes and development may be useful as reference points and inspirations.
- History of Kansas/ Nebraska Territory through statehood
- Study of the Omaha Claim Club and its founders
Nebraska Geography - Map of Kansas/Nebraska Territory in comparison with modern Nebraska - Map of early Omaha and how it has changed.
“Omaha Claim Club” Study Topics - Claim Clubs and justice in the American Wild West - Early feminism in the territories
Topics for Reflection
From a Child Development Perspective:
In this story, your child might learn that:
Thrift and grit are important skills to have to forge a successful life out of challenging circumstances. Thrift is being in the habit of saving and using your resources very carefully. Grit is courage and endurance. In our story, Gertrude models for us just how useful those personality traits can be!
While being independent can be equally as helpful as thrift and grit, we can forget that we live and work and grow best in community making each other stronger together. We all rely on others whether or not we know it! Gertrude also models for us how to be independent.
Rules are established to help individuals and communities to work more harmoniously together. Sometimes we need to follow rules, even if we don't always want to. Sometimes we create new rules that we think will be better for all. The pioneers created new rules when they formed their own organization called the Claim Club. Sometimes even rules made to take care of the interests of others can do harm if they are misused by the wrong people. The rules of the Claim Club were originally set up to make sure that neighbors got along and that no one had an in balanced advantage. But the rules were not followed properly, and the mission of the Claim Club needed to be a challenged. And Gertrude while he saw to it that it would be!
- Generosity leads to happiness. Generosity is the medicine needed for greed and selfishness. One might not think that giving things away whether it is possessions or our care would lead to our feeling richer, but that is often what happens. Being greedy and selfish leads to unhappiness. Those who took over the Claim Club were used to getting more than they needed and taking care of their own interests without regard for others. And this lead to bullying and intimidation that made Gertrude so furious!
People who use greed and power against others can often intimidate us from standing up for what we know is right. We can be afraid that we’ll get in trouble if we complain. This is why we need each other. Doing something alone can be scary, and even unsafe, but if we stand arm in arm with our neighbors, then we are protected and unified. And together we can turn complaining into action and this is just what Gertrude and her neighbors did.
- There are times when our cleverness and our wit is needed far more than our muscle when resolving our disputes. Gertrude used her intelligence to re-interpret the laws that were being abused by the members of the Claim Club. She proved to Cam the hypocrisy in the laws as they were written enforced, could equally so be used against those who made them. It was all a matter of interpretation. It was this combination of thrift, grit and neighbors banding together in solidarity with an added splash of intelligence that ultimately led to the Claim Club being disbanded and the values of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness being attained!
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About the Authors
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.
Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.