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Authors and Living History Presenters to Kick-off
History Day for Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
On November 16 and 17, Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Western National Parks Association, and the Cheyenne School District will join forces with living history presenters and authors to launch the park’s annual involvement in the “National History Day” contest. Programs for educational groups will be offered on Friday, November 16, at the Cheyenne High School auditorium. Public events will be offered on Saturday, November 17, at the new National Park Service visitor center, which is west of Cheyenne, Oklahoma, on Highway 47A.
On Friday, November 16, presentations for area teachers and students (Grades 6 through 12) will be provided free of charge starting at 12:40 p.m. in the Cheyenne High School auditorium. Penny Heath, a history teacher at Canton High School, will begin the program with a “History Day is Fun!” presentation that will describe her and her students’ National History Day experiences. Penny has taken students to regional, state, and national competitions for twenty years. Next, Marla Matkin, a historian who specializes in living history programs, will present “Libbie’s Story.” The 35-minute dramatic performance will tell the life story of Elizabeth “Libbie” Custer. The last presentation will feature James Coverdale, a member of the Kiowa tribe who will present “Indian Life on the Southern Plains in 1868.” He will be dressed as a Kiowa warrior of that time period and will describe for the students the life and culture of the nomadic tribes that hunted the great buffalo herds.
The National Park Service is excited about helping inspire students to create National History Day projects. According to the National History Day (NHD) website (www.nhd.org): “The combination of creativity and scholarship built into the organization’s programs anticipated current educational reforms, making NHD a leading model of performance-based learning. Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide, participate in the NHD contest. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, exhibits, performances, and documentaries. These products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state, and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators. The program culminates in a national competition each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park. More than 5 million students have gone on to careers in business, law, medicine, and countless other disciplines where they are putting into practice what they learned through NHD.”
Teachers and students from area schools are being invited to attend the educational programs on November 16. Home-schooled students are welcome, and they also need to RSVP to Whitney Moore at the Cheyenne school at 580-497-3371, ext. 212. In addition to the 12:40 p.m. program, a student workshop has been added for Friday, November 16. The workshop will begin at 10:30 a.m. and is titled, “So You Want to be a Living Historian?” This presentation will be especially helpful to students who are considering doing a National History Day project in the performance category. Grades 6 through 12 are eligible to compete in the contest, which will have regional competitions in April of 2008. The National History Day theme for 2008 is “Conflict and Compromise in History.”
On Saturday, November 17, the public programs will run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the new National Park Service visitor center. The History Day activities will include programs by authors, historians, and living history presenters, as well as displays and arts and crafts activities. Sandy Barnard, a historian who has written several books about Little Bighorn and the 7th U.S. Cavalry, will speak about Sgt. John Ryan and Maj. Joel Elliott. Dr. Barnard has written Ten Years With Custer: A 7th Cavalryman’s Memoirs, a biography of John Ryan, an enlisted man who participated in the Washita attack in 1868. Dr. Barnard is currently writing a biography of Major Elliott, who was killed at Washita. Ron Jackson, a prize-winning journalist for the Daily Oklahoman will speak about his book Blood Prairie: Perilous Adventures of the Oklahoma Frontier. Jackson’s book includes a chapter about the Cheyenne woman Mo-chi, a survivor of Sand Creek and Washita.
Other presenters on November 17 include James Coverdale, who will portray a Kiowa warrior. Woodson Whitebird, from Kingfisher, Oklahoma, will set up a display and describe the life of a Cheyenne warrior. Marla Matkin will present “Libbie’s Story.” Bob Rea, Fort Supply Site Supervisor, will present a program on “Custer’s Trail to the Washita.” Bob Warren, Director of Historic Fort Reno, will present a program on Ben Clark, Custer’s Chief of Scouts during the Washita campaign. Area quilters, led by Judy Tracy, will also be on hand to demonstrate quilting patterns common to the settlement period. They will make two small quilts that will be a part of the displays for the new visitor center. There will also be arts and crafts activities for children. For event details, call 580-497-2742 or check www.nps.gov/waba.
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site protects and interprets the setting along the Washita River where Lt. Col. George A. Custer led the 7th U.S. Cavalry on a surprise dawn attack against the Southern Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle on November 27, 1868. The attack was an important event in the tragic clash of cultures of the Indian Wars era. The historic site is located in western Oklahoma near the town of Cheyenne, halfway between Amarillo, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Cheyenne is about 30 miles north of I-40 on Hwy 283 and about 20 miles east of the Texas border.