© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

A Native American interpretive ranger program is being sponsored by entities in northern Wyoming

Replica teepees at Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site.
Michael & Sandy
/
Flickr via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Replica teepees at Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site.

Federal, state, and local nonprofit organizations in Sheridan County have formed a partnership to sponsor a Native American interpretive ranger program this summer. It will allow funding for two college students to be rangers at Fort Phil Kearny, the Wagon Box Fight site and the Fetterman Battlefield, sites managed by staff from Fort Phil Kearny, in addition to the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark.

The partnership is between the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association, the Bighorn National Forest, and Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site, and the Wyoming Humanities Council.

“They'll be greeting visitors to those two sites and providing some historical information probably and also do some site maintenance,” said Dave McKee, president of the Fort Phil Kearny/Bozeman Trail Association. “When they have an opportunity to work at Fort Phil Kearny, they'll probably have an opportunity to work in our bookstore that's inside the visitor center. So, after nine weeks, the two students will have experienced most of the job tasks that come along with working at a historic site.”

The program is scheduled to last for nine weeks and will include working at both Fort Phil Kearny and its affiliated sites as well as at the Medicine Wheel. The first week of the program, the student interpreters will attend a 32-hour course using the National Interpretive Association’s curriculum, where they will receive their interpreter guide certification. This includes creating a short interpretive talk of approximately 15 minutes on a topic of their interest. After training has been completed, one of the interpreters will be placed at the Medicine Wheel with the other at Fort Phil Kearny. They will switch positions halfway through the program.

“One thing that always rose to the top consulting with tribal folks in their communities was the kids and opportunities for the kids,” McKee said. “It was a desire to increase the cultural diversity of the interpretive staff and make sure that we had an opportunity to learn about and incorporate American Indian views and histories about sites like these. So, it's about giving kids an opportunity and it's about improving our interpretation.”

This is the first time that a program like this will be implemented for Fort Phil Kearny and its affiliated sites, though the Medicine Wheel, which hosts approximately 60 Native American ceremonies annually, has had Native American interpretation.

“I have had tremendous support from both of those entities for trying to do our part to increase the cultural diversity of the interpretive staffs and bring people in,” McKee said. “So [it’s] something a little new little bit new at the Fort, and something we just want to keep improving on at the Medicine Wheel.”

The Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark lies in the Bighorn National Forest. Native American ceremonies and interpretation are part of the offerings for visitors each year due to the sacred significance the site holds to many tribes. Approximately 10,000 visitors stop by each season.
brewbooks
/
Flickr via CC BY-SA 2.0
The Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark lies in the Bighorn National Forest. Native American ceremonies and interpretation are part of the offerings for visitors each year due to the sacred significance the site holds to many tribes. Approximately 10,000 visitors stop by each season.

Information packets were sent out in November and December and have been sent out to several institutions of higher education in addition to tribal officials seeking potential applicants. McKee anticipates making more contacts soon and being able to host site visits later this month and next.

The partnership is providing financial support to the student interpreters during the program’s duration. If an interpreter doesn’t have transportation, that will also be provided as part of the program. Funding is also available to enlist the help of two tribal members that would act as mentors to the student interpreters.

“[They] would come visit the students at those two sites to provide counsel, to provide support, and to provide their knowledge of tribal history in regards to those two sites into the landscapes there,” he said. “In addition to recruiting students, we're also seeking to recruit to mentors, and in addition to helping the students, the partners also feel like it would be really nice for the mentors to watch and receive the interpretation we currently do and give us feedback from their perspective as people of tribal knowledge on how we're doing, and where we might improve.”

There is hope that what can be established this year will provide long-term benefits to visitors, local communities, provide valuable work skills and experience for student interpreters and improve relationships between tribal communities and governments.

“This is our first year [and] kind of call it a pilot year,” McKee said. "[We’re] looking forward to some positive outcomes and also a learning year for us as we implement the program and so that we can keep going in additional years and improve as we go.”

Fort Phil Kearny visitor center is open seasonally from May 1 to Oct. 31. The Medicine Wheel is open from mid-June to around Labor Day. Accessibility is also dependent on snowfall in the area.

Corrected: January 23, 2023 at 3:57 PM MST
This story has been updated to clarify the locations of the sites that the Native American interpreters will be serving at. The Medicine Wheel is located in Big Horn County. Fort Phil Kearny is located in Johnson County. The Wagon Box Fight site and the Fetterman Battlefield are located in Sheridan County. The headline has been changed to reflect their locations in northern Wyoming.
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.

Enjoying stories like this?

Donate to help keep public radio strong across Wyoming.

Related Content