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A museum exhibit in Sheridan tells the story of Native American healthcare on Montana reservations

Native American healthcare exhibit at Museum at the Bighorns in Sheridan
Hugh Cook
/
Wyoming Public Media

The Museum at the Bighorns in Sheridan is hosting a temporary exhibit that tells the story of healthcare and healing practices on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations in Montana. It’s from the collection from of the Western Heritage Center in Billings, Mont.“Baá Hawassiio & Ènomóhtåhéseh: Healthcare on the Crow & Northern Cheyenne Reservations” has been on display at other museums and will continue to make the rounds after it leaves Sheridan.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to get this exhibit was because it’s a topic that people don’t know anything about,” said Jessica Salzman, Collections Manager for the Museum at the Bighorns. “Yes, the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations are technically across the Montana border [but] the people that live there came to Sheridan to shop, they were part of the community here, and they still are.”

The exhibit “explores the history of healthcare and healing on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations…how native peoples demanded better conditions and blended traditional beliefs with Western medical practices in the face of legal action and apathetic government workers.”

“[It’s] kind of easy for people to forget and especially with this negative aspect of that history, we wanted to be able to not be afraid of tackling a difficult topic like this, especially one that is so tied into the history of Sheridan,” Salzman explained. “When Native Americans needed to go to a doctor, in a lot of cases, they had to use a reservation physician. They couldn't come to Sheridan to go to a doctor even if they wanted to. That makes this story very much a part of Sheridan’s history. And we just really wanted to take this opportunity to be able to show this lesser-known part of relatively recent history.”

There was initially some concern about how the exhibit would be received by the public, though these fears were unfounded.

“With a topic such as healthcare, you’re always worried that somebody’s going to think that it’s an appropriate topic, but everybody has been like, ‘Man, I didn’t know that, I didn’t know what was going on on the reservations, I didn’t know this about this history, [that] it’s surprisingly recent,” Salzman said. “They’ve [the public] generally been really supportive of the museum having an exhibit like this and being willing to discuss a topic like this.”

The cooperation between the two entities has proven to be a positive relationship, giving the opportunity for residents in both states and beyond to learn more about this topic.

“It's been great to work with the Western Heritage Center. They've just been really supportive of the museum, [and] we've been supportive of them,” Salzman said. “It’s just been great to have that professional relationship continue to grow and evolve for the museum, and with other museums in the region, outside of this exhibit situation. We’re just really grateful for these professional connections that museum has.”

The exhibit will remain at the Museum at the Bighorns until Jul. 30.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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