Winter Speaker Series 2024 lineup

Events set for every third Thursday from January through May 2024
Speaker Series 2024 logo

The Great Falls Public Library, in conjunction with Humanities Montana, is thrilled to announce the 2024 Winter Speaker Series. The 2024 Winter Speaker Series is dedicated to the storytellers of Montana, connecting us to the world, to our land, and to our people. The speakers are scheduled for every third Thursday starting in January through May 2024. Programs will begin at 7 pm except for the May 16 event, which will start at 5:30 pm. All of the speakers will be in the Cordignley Room (basement.) 

The events are as follows: 

January 18
Lailani Upham mugshotStorytelling: The Power to Connect Our World with documentary filmmaker Lailani Upham (Starts at 7 PM)
Using her experience working on the documentary film projects The Sixty-Four Flood and The Blackfeet Flood, Lailani Upham leads participants through a discussion on the creative and healing process of storytelling. Upham is an Amskapi Pikuni (Blackfeet Nation) tribal member, along with Aaniiih, Nakoda, Dakota tribal descent and an adventure explorer, photographer, videographer, writer, and storyteller who travels throughout Montana to tell stories from an Indigenous perspective. She also is on the board of directors for the Freeflow Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Missoula, Montana, that delivers opportunities for creativity, space, and access to wild places for writers, artists, and leaders of all backgrounds. She also is an advisory board member for The Common Ground Project, based in Yellowstone. 

In her two films, survivors on the Blackfeet Reservation told firsthand, historical accounts nearly 50 years after a tragic flood took lives and homes in the worst natural disaster in Montana history. Upham discusses how the documentary story connected our world. This program will offer engaging discussion on untold stories and understandings. 


February 15
Alyssa Roggow mugshotThe Art of Storytelling featuring local violist Alyssa Roggow (Starts at 7PM)
Spend an evening at the library with art, live music, and poetry! In this multi-sensory, inquiry-based event, folks will embark on a guided exploration of narrative across different art forms and experience how elements of storytelling can help us understand what we see and hear led by the talented Alyssa Roggow. Guests will gain tools to engage with artworks of all types. Both seasoned lovers of the arts and curious beginners are welcome.

Roggow is a musician, writer, and multifaceted educator. She is a Master Naturalist and a trained VTS facilitator, and can often be found incorporating her passions for the arts and the outdoors into interdisciplinary workshops for learners of all ages. 

An avid proponent of contemporary music, Roggow studied at the International Ensemble Modern Academy, Klangspuren Schwaz, and has performed with Slee Sinfonietta at the June in Buffalo Festival. She has also performed at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival with [Switch~Ensemble], the Red Note New Music Festival, and the Breaking-the-Fourth-Wall Festival Marathon. Composers she has worked with include Beat Furrer, Chaya Czernowin, Hilda Paredes, and Rand Steiger. 

March 21
Chris LaTray mugshotMontana’s Poet Laureate Chris La Tray "Importance of Storytelling" (Starts at 7PM)

Montana's Poet Laureate Chris La Tray approaches the practice of poetry the same as he does the spiritual life of an Anishinaabe person: which is to say, if one lives an Anishinaabe life, with particular attention to the seven guiding principles of the Seven Grandfather teachings – Humility, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Truth, Respect, and Love – then every footstep becomes a prayer. Similarly, if one approaches poetry in a similar fashion, recognizing that everything that happens may be viewed as a poem, and that every moment in life is an experience best paid constant and careful attention to, then every footstep becomes a poem. La Tray’s programs exist to remind people that their stories matter, that they are the only ones who can properly tell them, and that poetry, however it is defined, is a beautiful means for doing so.

La Tray's first book, One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays From the World At Large (2018, Riverfeet Press) won the 2018 Montana Book Award and a 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best First Book). His second book, Descended From a Travel-worn Satchel: Haiku & Haibun came out in 2021 from FootHills Publishing. His latest book Becoming Little Shell, came out in 2022. La Tray is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Native Americans and lives near Missoula.

April 18
John Clayton mugshotStorytelling and Public Lands with John Clayton author of Natural Rivals (Starts at 7PM)
In 1916, when Steve Mather and Horace Albright founded the National Park Service, they imbued their new agency with the stories of essential heroes (like John Muir in Yosemite and John Wesley Powell in the Grand Canyon), ideas (such as America’s Best Idea of the national park inspired by the grandeur of the American West), and stories of what their agency’s lands could do for America. Other public-land formats — such as national forests, national monuments, and lands of the Bureau of Land Management—don’t have such well-known stories. Why not? And if they did, what might these stories look like? John Clayton, author of Natural Rivals: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the Creation of America’s Public Lands, examines elements of storytelling and how they apply to the public land debate. He shares examples of stories from the world’s first national forest (quick: where was it?) to the creation of Muir Woods to the alliance of rivals John Muir and Gifford Pinchot on the shores of Glacier’s Lake McDonald. 

Clayton is an independent author, journalist, and historian based in Montana.  He writes books, articles, and the weekly newsletter Natural Stories.
John's book Natural Rivals: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the Creation of America’s Public Lands was featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Review of Books, and on NPR's OnPoint. His previous book, Wonderlandscape: Yellowstone National Park and the Evolution of an American Cultural Icon, was a Montana Book Award honor book and winner of the High Plains Book Award. John's now-out-of-print first book, Small Town Bound, was featured in Time and Harper's magazines and on the Today and Oprah Winfrey shows.

May 16
Marc Moss mugshotTell Us Something Storytelling Workshop with Marc Moss (Two Hour Program from 5:30 to 7:30PM) 
You have a wealth of incredible stories in you. Join host Marc Moss of Tell Us Something as he guides you on a journey of finding your own story. Marc will help you shape that story into one you can share at a live storytelling performance the evening of the workshop. We will learn about the sense of place in a story through observation of the natural surroundings of the State Parks, learn about story arc, and learn how to better speak in front of a crowd. The workshop is open to all ages and abilities.

Moss, as mentioned above, is the producer of the podcast "Tell Us Something." He also teaches storytelling in the Missoula County Public Schools as part of Spark!

Tell Us Something awakens imagination, empowers storytellers and connects the community through the transformative power of personal storytelling. It is a celebration of each other, our stories and how we move through the world together. All of the stories at Tell Us Something are true. 
This program is a 2 hour program starting at 5:30 PM.