Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Today was another magical day.

Owen was my front seat co-pilot today. :)

We took off a little later than yesterday morning and drove three hours west to Washita National Battlefield. We arrived and were immediately greeted by Ranger Kathryn.

I met Kathryn this past summer when I attended a teacher workshop she sponsored. I was so eager to write her when the trip was finalized and tell her we were coming.

I will tell you right now, she out did herself! The entire staff outdid themselves today! It was AWESOME!

As I previously told you, I have wanted to bring students to this park since I first visited almost four years ago. In my wildest dreams I could not have planned a better day for my students. The experience was outstanding--truly above and beyond. Kathryn, Minoma, Joel, and Crystal--THANK YOU!

When we arrived we were welcomed into a Cheyenne tipi. We had to imagine the walls of the tipi (the tip of which would have extended to the top of the very tall ceiling). Minoma taught us how to enter a tipi and we sat on buffalo skins and other animals from the area.

We were introduced to so many artifacts that were used by the Cheynne---parfleches (above)--used to carry items...it was also one of our vocabulary words at the very beginning of the year! We held a buffalo bladder which was used as a water jug (very appropriate, isn't it?)

Minoma told us about the pouch made of a buffalo stomach (see below). This was cool because I hadn't seen this before! I must admit it kinda grossed me out while at the same time making me excited to see it! :)

We saw moccasins made with the hide of a buffalo but turned inside out so that the fur was on the inside--can you imagine how warm those would be during the winter on the prairie?

And then we learned about the beadwork of a mocassin. We even saw Minoma's baby shoe!!!

The boys were able to try on some of the ceremonial pieces a chief today would wear during ceremonies. We also learned that there are currently several young men their age who are chiefs! Being a chief take a lot because it requires that you give to your tribe members if you can, without questions asked and without believing you will be repaid. The example was if someone from your tribe asked you for $1 and you have it you must hand it over without any questions asked.

We held a purse made out of a turtle shell (this was very cool too!!!!). Minoma also told us about eating turtle---and how delicious it is. She says she remembers how delighted her mother would be to find turtle eggs if they were having turtle---but she never got the eggs as a kid because her mom loved them so much! :)

Here are more of the artifacts---you can see the stomach, there are two horns---an unpolished one (like the one I used in our class at the beginning of the year) and a polished one that's used as a cup. There is also a buffalo hair rope!

We moved from the tipi--leaving it correctly of course...and walked over to a table and Ranger Joel, who was no longer ranger Joel but a doctor in the US Army.

He, too, had objects. He spoke about what it was like to be a doctor in the late 1860s. Through photographs and objects the boys learned about the lack of germ knowledge, amputation "in the field", and how to extract a bullet from a soldier. We learned all of this and then returned to the tipi.

The presentation was beautifully layered to show the differences in culture and help to explain how this clash of cultures happened. When we went back to the tipi Minoma shared pictures of plants that will be grown in a garden on the grounds. She went through and explained what each of these plants are used for.

She then shared family pictures and pictures from the scene. I have not mentioned this yet, but Minoma is a direct descendant of those who fought and died at Wishita. It is very moving to be led through such an experience by someone who has such close ties to history.

The boys learned what it meant to be a warrior and were led downstairs to make their own warrior shields. Ms. Minoma thought about being an art teacher before she became a Park Ranger--and so it was neat to do this activity and see her art background come to life!

It was a great activity that taught us a lot! The boys each chose an animal/nature symbol that they felt represented themselves. They used the traditional colors of life and race: red, yellow, black and white, to decorate their shields.

Then, Ms. Crystal had the boys put together an arrowhead....but it was an unique twist....she first had them group the pieces based on pictures that were on the other side of the arrowhead--they were pictures of things found in a National Park. They then put the arrowhead puzzle together. There was one piece left though---and the kids had to figure out what the picture on that piece was---and finally, the boys decided that it looked like trash....something that doesn't belong in the park.....It was a neat twist on a symbol we have been learning all about!

We then went upstairs and got our STAMPS! :)

And our ranger friends stamped our STAMPS stamp! :)

We then, headed for the battle site.

We took about a mile and a half round trip walk through the site of where history happened. Along the way Minoma and Kathryn set the scene for us, pointing out geographical landmarks to help us envision Custer's troops and the attack that fateful November morning in 1868. We also learned where the 50 lodges were set up the morning of the attack.

They also pointed out some of the plants that we learned about back in the Visitor Center and some new ones too!

We also visited a special tree that many Cheyenne come to leave something---we saw many cloths tied to the tree. Minoma explained that people come here and tie a cloth on the tree, say a prayer and hope to leave behind a struggle or grief or an issue they have. She says no one ever removes anything from the site because that would open oneself up to taking something you didn't want to take with you, home with you. She also poured a little water because you don't stop at the tree with water/food and not leave some. We were allowed to go to the tree and CJ left a little water behind as well. It was very moving.

Then, we stopped along the bank of the Washita and talked about the attack. We also walked tot he site of the Pony Kill---where 800 ponies were killed. For the Cheyenne this was like killing family members because the horses were so connected to the people that they knew how to respond to different sounds. They couldn't be rounded up originally by Custer's men because the horses didn't know their smells. The US Army used the women to round up the horses and then made the women and children stand nearby while they killed them. It was so powerful for all of us to hear this from Minoma while standing at the site.

We went back to the Visitor Center where we were all presented with gifts---tshirts for the boys and a mug and bag for me! This was so kind, especially after they gave us the Passport stickers earlier! Washita is the featured park for the Southwest region this year and Ms. Crystal designed it! Very cool!

Just before the boys learned about the role of the Forest Service here at Washita from Tom. It was nice for them to get such a complete picture of the history, culture and natural resources from everyone!

We left and started our three hour drive back to Norman. At the junction of I-40 we found a Sonic and enjoyed an afternoon treat of drinks, slushes, cream slushes, Sonic blasts, mozzerella sticks, chedd'r bites, and fries. It was a great pick me up!

We also stopped near Weatherford on the way back to do a little souvenir shopping at the Cherokee Trading Post.

CJ and Owen learned how to unlink two horshoes from a chain.

In Weatherford there are quite a few windfarms. Places where you can just see tons of windmills.

We hit traffic on the way back but finally made it to Applebee's for dinner and then back to the hotel for fitness time and blogging time.

I'm very proud of all the boys experienced and were open to learning about today. It was a lot and a very different story than what they have exposure to back in DC. They did a great job of engaging and reflecting on their experience.


Erica P said...

I wish I was there, this is such a great educational experience that I hope they never forget!!! Thank you so much for your dedication,eagerness and spirit!! Our boys are truly blessed to have a teacher like you!!!

Pamela said...

What a marvelous day! It's such a special opportunity for the boys to get such a deep, detailed experience of the park and its history.

Thanks so much for all of your work in making this possible!

And thank you to Rangers Kathryn, Minoma, Joel, and Crystal for such a wonderful day! The cultural and educational experiences are something that they will treasure for a lifetime.

Lauren said...

Thank you, WABA!! I'm so glad you guys had such a magical day!!

Mark H said...

The artifacts seem sooo cool. It is so amazing that they organized all that for you. I'm also glad to hear that it wasn't 120 degrees like it felt when we were there. I still can't believe it was in the 90's.