War And Consequences: The American Indian Movement Vs. The National Park Service At Fort Laramie

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Driving my VW Bug along Interstate 70 in early January 1973, I was bound for the Golden West, crossing the wide Missouri and on to Denver to report for work as a historian with the National Park Service. With both a degree and employment in hand, and aware that the academic job market for historians had crashed, I felt extremely lucky. Yet the Park Service had offered me only a temporary position, and no guarantee of a permanent appointment.

I was not exactly sure what historians did for the Service. Having completed studies mainly in western and environmental history and American literature, I had no background whatsoever in historic preservation, its practice and philosophy—a topic ignored by most universities at that time.

Soon I began working at the Denver Service Center with a cadre of Park Service historians, historical architects, and archeologists, which provided the parks professional support in historic preservation. Almost immediately I got my first field assignment: to prepare a short report on preservation and research at Fort Laramie National Historic Site in southeastern Wyoming. When I asked how to approach this topic at a long-established historical park, my supervisors, busy with other projects, provided only the slightest guidance, perhaps assuming I knew what needed to be done. Although unprepared, I drove up to the fort hoping to learn what preservation at a historical park was all about. It was not what I expected....

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