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Preserving the history of Yellowstone

If you ask a local resident to identify some of the animals or geysers in Yellowstone National Park, you’ll likely get an extensive list. The same is true with names of various valleys, rivers or mountains in the park.

But what if you ask them to name the Native American tribes who first marveled at the wonders of Yellowstone? You may hear some crickets instead of an answer.

More tribes are connected to Yellowstone than many of us may realize. In fact, 26 current tribes have historic connections to the park’s resources and lands. A few of those tribes include Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapaho, Kiowa, Shoshone–Bannock, Crow Creek Sioux and Blackfeet, according to the National Park Service.

We’d venture to say that while many locals and visitors to Yellowstone learn a lot about the park’s geysers and animals, few are aware of its human history, which dates back thousands of years.

Long before early explorers documented Yellowstone’s unique features, Native Americans hunted, fished and gathered plants there; they also used its thermal waters for medicinal and religious purposes.

The Tukudeka, or Sheepeaters, followed the migrations of bighorn sheep and the animals made up a significant part of their diet. They soaked sheep horns in hot springs, making them pliable for bows that they then traded to other tribes, the Park Service says.

This is just one story among many. It’s important to preserve the history of tribes in the Yellowstone region, and we believe more could be done to teach this history to park visitors as well as locals. There are a few sites in Yellowstone named in honor of Native Americans, such as Nez Perce Creek, Shoshone Lake and Sheepeater Cliff. 

In recent years, tribes have sought to rename Mount Doane and Hayden Valley, calling their namesakes “proponents and exponents of genocide.”

Read entire article at Powell Tribune