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On Friday, April 20, Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, in cooperation with Western National Parks Association (WNPA), will be hosting nine authors who have written books related to the park’s themes. Authors Bob L. Blackburn, Michael Blake, Kim Doner, Tim Giago, Jerome A. Greene, Raylene Hinz-Penner, Mary Jane Warde and Bill and Cindy Paul will be greeting visitors and signing books after the 10:00 a.m. ribbon cutting ceremony at the park’s new cultural heritage center. Books will be available for purchase in the WNPA bookstore in the center. The authors will sign their books until 3:00 p.m.
Washita Battlefield NHS is managed by the National Park Service to protect and interpret the site of the Southern Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle and the attack on the village launched by the 7th U.S. Cavalry under Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer on November 27, 1868. The site’s new cultural heritage center is located on Highway 47A just west of Cheyenne, Oklahoma.
Bob L. Blackburn is the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society and co-author of the book, You Know We Belong to the Land: The Centennial History of Oklahoma. Written with Dr. Paul F. Lambert, the book features short essays about a broad spectrum of remarkable Oklahomans who contributed to the state’s character and diversity. Subjects include Lawrence Hart, the Director of the Cheyenne Cultural Center who will be a featured speaker on April 20, and Roger Mills County’s own “sagebrush artist,” Augusta I. Metcalfe. Dr. Blackburn will be a speaker during the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 20.
Michael Blake is best known for writing the novel Dances with Wolves and the screenplay for the movie that earned him an Academy Award. He has also authored a sequel to Dances with Wolves titled The Holy Road and other fiction including a book about George Armstrong Custer titled Marching to Valhalla. His latest book is a work of non-fiction on the Indian Wars period titled Indian Yell: The Heart of an American Insurgency, which includes a chapter about the engagement along the Washita River in 1868. Mr. Blake will also speak during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Children’s book author and illustrator Kim Doner of Tulsa will be on hand to sign copies of her book, Buffalo Dreams as well as two she illustrated, Green Snake Ceremony and White Bead Ceremony. She travels the state visiting schools and attending conferences sharing her talent and stories with students and adults alike.
Tim Giago, author of Children Left Behind: The Dark Legacy of Indian Mission Boarding Schools, is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He has been involved with American Indian publications for more than twenty years. In this book he gives a personal and historical view of the role of the government and mission boarding schools in the lives of native peoples. Black and white illustrations by his daughter, Denise Giago, compliment the text that explores an often tragic chapter in American history.
Jerome A. Greene, retired National Park Service historian, returns to Cheyenne with a new book titled Indian War Veterans: Memories of Army Life and Campaigns in the West, 1864-1898. Greene has authored many books on the Indian Wars period including Washita: The U.S. Army and the Southern Cheyennes, 1867-1869 and the recently released Finding Sand Creek: History, Archeology, and the 1864 Massacre Site. Mr. Greene will be a featured speaker during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Raylene Hinz-Penner, teacher and author, will sign copies of her book, Searching for Sacred Ground: The Journey of Chief Lawrence Hart, Mennonite. This insightful biography follows Lawrence Hart from childhood to the present, telling the story of a man who has been a Marine Corps jet fighter pilot, Cheyenne Peace Chief and Mennonite minister. Hart is the Director of the Cheyenne Cultural Center and an early proponent of establishing Washita as a National Park Service site. Hinz-Penner teaches English and literature in Kansas.
Local Oklahoma authors Cindy and Bill Paul will sign copies of their book Shadow of an Indian Star. A novel based on family history, this story follows three generations of the Paul family and the Chickasaw tribe in Indian Territory. The book won the 2006 Independent Publisher IPPY award for “Best Regional Fiction Mid-West.”
Mary Jane Warde is no stranger to Cheyenne or to the history of Washita. Her book, Washita, was based on dozens of oral history interviews and much research. Washita has been a major resource for Washita Battlefield National Historic Site and has been published by the National Park Service and the Oklahoma Historical Society. Dr. Warde’s work examines the long-term connection many different people have had with the land in and around the Washita engagement site, from ancient times to the twenty-first century.
Visitors are invited to mingle with the authors, have books signed and tour the new facility after the opening ceremonies until 3:00 p.m. Buses will shuttle visitors from the Cheyenne rodeo grounds up to the new visitor center and back. Due to limited parking at the event site, people wishing to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 20 need to park near the rodeo grounds at the northwest corner of Highway 47 and Fairbarn Road in Cheyenne. Buses and vans will take park visitors from there to the event site. The shuttles will begin transporting people at 8:30 a.m. and it is recommended that visitors arrive by 9:00 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. ceremony. Unfortunately, construction delays related primarily to inclement weather have pushed back the permanent opening of the new visitor center until late May or early June. However, the visitor center will temporarily open for the ribbon cutting and Cheyenne – Arapaho Old Settlers Reunion activities on April 20 – 21.
The Cheyenne – Arapaho Old Settlers Reunion events will continue on April 20 with free hamburgers and hotdogs at Dobson Telephone at 4:00 p.m. and the PRCA Rodeo at 7:00 p.m. For more information on the opening ceremonies call 580-497-2742, ext. 0. For more information on the Cheyenne Arapaho Old Settlers Celebration call 580-497-3318 or visit www.rogermills.org.