Afghan Refugees Tour State Capitol Building to Learn About Nebraska History and Culture

Afghan Refugees toured the Nebraska State Capitol building to learn about Nebraska's Native American influences, history, culture, and unicameral government. Organized by Omaha Public Schools, the activity is just one of many planned by Lincoln Public Schools, Omaha Public Schools, Millard Public Schools, & Asian Community & Cultural Center of Lincoln to provide support and enrichment for Afghan Refugees in their respective communities. The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center (NUPPC) provides evaluation support of enrichment activities (e.g., English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, driving classes, and after school programs for students) to Afghan Refugee families in Omaha, Lincoln, and Millard.

Approximately 80 people filed onto 4 buses in Omaha to attend a tour of Nebraska’s state capital in Lincoln on a wet and snowy March day. Attendees included Afghan Refugee families, Omaha Public School employees, and translators. Families were made up of parents and other elders (grandparent, aunties), and children both school aged and younger. The tour guide provided an overview of Nebraska’s Native American influences, history, culture, and government structure. Attendees learned that Nebraska’s name comes from the Oto word for “flat water” referring to the Platte River and about European settlement by homesteading in the 1860s. They marveled at all of the examples of ornamental corn throughout the building (door handles, ceiling décor, and window dressings) and the murals representing Nebraska culturally (1877 (Children’s) Blizzard, agriculture).

The group was able to view the Senate Chamber where Nebraska’s senators debate and pass laws and the Nebraska Supreme Court, the highest court in Nebraska. Attendees were engaged and asked questions related to the state’s culture, history, and government. They learned that Nebraska’s unique form of government is called a Unicameral due to only having one legislative house as opposed to two in every other U.S. state as well as the federal government. Following the tour, families made their way to the elevators to the top of the tower to enjoy the view. 

--By Jason Shonerd, NUPPC Research Coordinator