The second session I attended as part of #ncph2012 focused on the reinterpretation of the Indian Wars by the National Parks Service (NPS). The panel contained a number of NPS service staff who worked at specific parks and at the upper management level.
The main desire to reinterpret many historic sites has arisen from many Forts clinging to older interpretation models which approach the past in a ‘John Wayne’ fashion or only tell one side of the story. Many of the sites which were crucial to the Indian Wars make no mention of the impact of colonialism or take into account the Native point of view. NPS hope to change this in upcoming years.
The panelists had a number of good ideas about the importance of creating programming with the audience and not for the audience. Some individual parks have made efforts to connect with local native groups and begin to start to understand a more complete history of their site. These conversations and ultimately partnerships are crucial to any approach the NPS takes in revamping their interpretation strategy.
I found a number of parallels between the interpretation of the Indian Wars and Canada’s ongoing struggle to educate the general public about the legacy of Residential Schools. Both pieces of history are important to their country’s past, but have been long neglected in national stories of interpretation.
Following the session on NPS reinterpretation I attended a speed networking session, desert before dinner, and the opening reception of the conference. All of these events provided me with opportunities to meet other new and experienced professionals, discuss trends in the field, and get a better field for the NCPH. The conference continues to be a great learning experience.