“Two Nations One Reservation” coming soon to a school or library near you!

Small pop-up exhibits introducing the story of the treaties, laws, events and people that shaped the history of the Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR) in central Wyoming will soon be arriving at every school district and every library system in Wyoming. School superintendents and county librarians responding to the initial invitation are receiving additional copies to move between districts, schools, or branches.

In response to the Indian Education for All legislation, Wyoming Humanities raised funds for projects to increase awareness about American Indian history and culture in Wyoming. Research quickly made it clear there are many other projects supporting the Indian Education for All Legislation already underway across the state. To avoid repetition, collaborate on promotion and share work, we reached out to organizations and scholars involved in these other projects.

Wyoming Humanities found a role communicating in a more formal way with the network of organizations and individuals also working on creating content to serve curricular needs for the Indian Education for All Act. On May 16, 2017 representatives of the Wyoming Department of Education, Wyohistory.org, Wyoming PBS, and numerous individuals working in and around the WRIR or working on topically related projects, met at the Intertribal Center of Central Wyoming College. Projects were discussed as were historical issues relating to the tribes of the WRIR. Important and valuable insight for planning educational projects in a thoughtful and inclusive way was provided and potential for small exhibits discussed. An immediate need for adding scholarly articles relating to the Fort Bridger treaties and creation of the Shoshone Reservation to the wyohistory.org website was identified. Wyoming Humanities immediately began working with Tom Rea of wyohistory.org to address that issue.

A previous kiosk project on the Bill of Rights was discussed as inspirational for an exhibit concept around the idea of Wyoming treaties. Wyoming Humanities recognized an opportunity to open a conversation in school systems across the state to educate citizens on current American Indian issues through an exploration of the past.

The story of the Ft. Bridger and Ft. Laramie treaties, administrative actions, congressional acts, and Supreme Court rulings that created the reservation that would become the Wind River Indian Reservation is extremely complex. The story includes the history of two previously enemy tribes sharing a reservation originally set aside as the Shoshone Reservation, and on which the Northern Arapaho were forcibly settled before the name was changed. Researching and developing an exhibit to introduce the story of the WRIR and the two recognized American Indian nations residing there would be very difficult. Wyoming Humanities, with the help of participating experts and tribal members outlined a plan to contract for a chronological summary document introducing the history of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes prior to their sharing the Wind River Indian Reservation within the larger context of the historical realities on the Northwestern Plains in the mid to late 19th century. The chronological summary would serve as the basis for exhibit designers as well as a research tool for teachers and students.

Names of dozens of individuals from both tribes were provided and identified as important sources of information. All were eventually invited to review and comment on a first draft of the chronological summary. The meeting discussion strengthened the list of items to research for inclusion in the chronological summary. The final revised chronological summary and annotated bibliography is included in an on-line tool kit with links to other curricular materials and descriptions of resources used to produce the overview.

In September of 2017 Tom Rea of wyohistory.org was selected to write the chronological summary. In October 2017 invitations were sent to more than a dozen non-native scholars and more than 30 Eastern Shoshone and more than 30 Northern Arapaho people. Some suggested additional contacts, all of whom were then invited to participate. In mid-December copies of the first draft of the chronological summary were sent to invitees indicating interest in participating in the review process. Although many responses of interest were initially received and the review process was extended two months past the original date, a limited number of written comments were received from tribal participants. Seven non-native scholars, and eight representatives of each tribe provided written comments on the first draft of the chronological summary. Scholar-conducted oral interviews were also completed with additional representatives of each tribe.

Warehouse 21 of Cheyenne was hired by Wyoming Humanities to use information from the first draft of the chronological summary and comments provided by participants to developed and design the exhibit. Final content reviews for the exhibit and guides were approved in July. The exhibit will be unveiled at the Indian Education conference August 8th and 9th at St. Stephens on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The exhibits are being shipped to schools, libraries, and other selected locations in late August and early September.

The mission of Wyoming Humanities is to strengthen Wyoming’s democracy through the humanities. The “Two Nations One Reservation” exhibit kiosks help to fulfill that mission by providing opportunities for better understanding the rich heritage and diverse cultures shaping our state and inspiring conversations by an engaged, educated electorate. Our collaboration with and financial support for other groups and individuals working to provide materials meeting the unfunded mandate of the Indian Education for All legislation is bringing important educational opportunities to Wyoming citizens and visitors. “Two Nations One Reservation” kiosks, valued at over $1500 each, provided free of charge to every school district, library system, community college, and some other relevant organizations become permanent components of Wyoming’s cultural and educational network.