2015 High Plains Chautauqua Program

The 2015 High Plains Chautauqua program explored the development of the American West with a focus on the Rocky Mountain region.  Featured on stage were historical figures whose social, political, and cultural influence shaped the West we know today. The festival theme, The American West – Hope and Heartbreak, was chosen to coincide with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Chautauqua offers a unique blend of theatre, history, and the humanities under the big tent where audiences meet and engage in conversation with personalities from the past. The event took place Aug. 4-8 on the Aims Community College campus.

2015 Chautauqua Characters:

Chief Standing Bear (1839-1908) was a Ponca Indian Rights’ activist who spoke eloquently on behalf of his people throughout the eastern U.S. and Europe. He successfully argued in U.S. District Court in 1879 that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" and have the right of habeas corpus

Father Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801-1873) was a Jesuit missionary who befriended the Native Americans and traveled extensively in the West. He also served as a peace envoy for the U.S. government and became one of the best-known and most-respected white men in the Rocky Mountain region.

Orator and politician William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) was the most popular speaker on the Chautauqua circuit, delivering thousands of speeches on current events throughout rural American in the early part of the 20th century. Champion of the common man, Bryan was the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1896, 1900 and 1908.

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885) was an American poet and writer who became an activist on behalf of better treatment for Native Americans by the U.S. government.

Desperate to escape her dead-end Dust Bowl life, Bertha Spears (1908-unknown ) jumped at an opportunity for hard work and adventure as a Harvey Girl along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway in the American Southwest. Serving meals at Harvey House hotels and resorts, she and thousands of women like her were able to earn a respectable living.

Rosamond Underwood (1917-2011), a cultured, educated Eastern society girl, left her comfortable life to teach school in Elkhead, Colorado, a remote homesteading community and one of the last frontiers. With her friend Dorothy Woodruff, Underwood introduced the students to a world outside of Elkhead—merging East and West—changing the students’ lives and their own.

Born to a Cherokee family on a ranch in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory, Will Rogers (1879-1935), later gained fame as a cowboy Vaudeville performer, humorist, actor, and social commentator. Known for his witty anecdotes and folksy style, Rogers was widely quoted and immensely popular in the 1920s and 30s.

Dubbed the First Lady of Leadville, Augusta Tabor (1833-1895) came west with her husband Horace and two-year-old son Maxcy with the first wave of the Rush to the Rockies in 1859. She later endured with grace one of the era’s infamous scandals, that of Silver Baron Horace Tabor and Baby Doe.

One of America’s great literary icons, Mark Twain (1835-1910) rode a stagecoach west, through the Plains and over the Rocky Mountains. Along the way, he chronicled the people and lifestyles that were later memorialized in his books and short stories.

Painter George Catlin (1796-1872) was the first person to visually record Plains Indians as they lived when he travelled to the American West five times during the 1830s. His portraits of Native Americans in Old West detailed the appearance and customs of America’s native peoples.

Although a New Yorker through and through, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was the nation’s first cowboy president with strong ties to the West. Roosevelt’s most enduring domestic legacy is the preservation of the nation’s wildlife and natural resources. He championed federal policies which saw their greatest impact in the western states.


High Plains Chautauqua engages all ages. In addition to nightly performances, daytime programs for adults and children are featured. Young Chautauqua scholars present their living history portrayals as a culmination of months of independent research.

High Plains Chautauqua is made possible thanks to the generosity of sponsors; individual donors; and many, many dedicated volunteers. For more information as the 2015 HPC program is developed, go to www.highplainschautauqua.org or call Visit Greeley (the Greeley Convention and Visitors Bureau) at 970-352-3567.