Several groups are working on a project aimed at representing the cultural importance of elk to the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes.
The High Plains American Indian Research Institute at the University of Wyoming received an $150,000 national humanities grant for the project called, “Understanding and Communicating the Role of Elk on the Wind River Indian Reservation.” Some of the money will fund the collection of stories and traditions surrounding elk, presented through music, storytelling, art, and linguistics. Wind River Native Advocacy Center director Jason Baldes will lead that part of the project.
“Gathering our people of the community and listening to their stories is one of the key parts of it,” Baldes says, “and then also making sure that those are adequately and correctly told and written down, so that we’re able to provide that information to our young people.”
Baldes plans to create a curriculum for K-12 students at Fort Washakie and Wyoming Indian schools. He says it will complement the recently passed Indian Education for All Act, which is intended to expand Wyoming students’ awareness of Native American history and culture.
“Being able to provide our stories to people outside of the reservation – it’s a hope that this is going to create and foster understanding – and less of the racial disparity that we see. With greater understanding comes greater respect,” Baldes says.
Fort Washakie and Wyoming Indian schools will use the curriculum during the project’s third year, according to the University of Wyoming. Eventually, Baldes intends to make it available statewide. The project, he says, is connected to new scientific research mapping migration patterns on the Wind River Indian Reservation.