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Book, exhibit highlight human stories in Glacier Park centennial

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  • Rob Schmidt
    http://www.missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/article_7988368c-f1b4-11de -9d3f-001cc4c03286.html Book, exhibit highlight human stories in Glacier Park
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2010

      Book, exhibit highlight human stories in Glacier Park centennial

      By DAN ELLIOTT Associated Press | Posted: Saturday, December 26, 2009 3:00

      HELENA - The stunning scenery and bountiful wildlife of Glacier National
      Park have lured travelers for decades, but the human stories that unfolded
      there - some sweeping, some personal - are getting a share of the attention
      as the park commemorates its 100th anniversary.

      "People have these amazing stories, their own histories associated with the
      park," said Jennifer Bottomly-O'looney, curator at the Montana Historical

      "We talk to people who visit the park and they all have something in their
      heart associated with it," she said.

      Glacier became a national park on May 11, 1910. The centennial
      commemoration, which is already under way, includes a rededication ceremony
      on May 11 and an array of concerts, movies, art exhibits, history
      conferences and other events.

      Glacier spans more than 1 million acres, or about 1,600 square miles,
      against the U.S.-Canadian border. Besides its two dozen glaciers, 175
      mountains and 760 lakes, the park is home to animals ranging from mice to
      grizzly bears, plus hundreds more species of birds, fish and plants.

      Just across the border is Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park. The U.S.
      and Canada designated the two parks the Waterton-Glacier International Peace
      Park in 1932.

      Archaeological evidence indicates humans were in Glacier 10,000 years ago,
      Bottomly-O'looney said. Both the Blackfeet Nation on the park's east side
      and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the west side gathered
      food and found spiritual solace there long before it was a park.

      "What makes the park come alive are not just the park's natural and cultural
      sites, not just the landscape, but people's experience on that landscape,"
      said Chas Cartwright, the park superintendent.


      Glacier's centennial committee published a book, "A View Inside Glacier
      National Park: 100 Years, 100 Stories," with recollections from visitors,
      residents, park employees and others. The Montana Historical Society Museum
      in Helena, about 130 miles south, has an exhibit called "Land of Many
      Stories: The People & Histories of Glacier National Park."

      Some of the park's stories are ugly. In 1895, under pressure from miners
      hoping to find copper and gold, the federal government pressed the Blackfeet
      into selling the government thousands of acres, land that would later become
      the east side of the park.

      "They forced a sale upon us," said Jack Gladstone, a Blackfeet Indian
      singer/songwriter who specializes in Native American myth, legend and

      But the land grab had a silver lining, he said. Had the area remained under
      Indian control, it might have been "sliced and diced and sold off" when
      federal law allowed tribal members to sell their individual land allotments.
      Instead, when no valuable minerals were found, it was kept intact.

      "What was in the short-term a curse and really a debacle turned into
      probably about as good as it could have been because of the enhanced
      protection afforded by Glacier as a national park, a national treasure," he

      "What is important from our Blackfeet perspective is that this is where our
      identity was born and this is where we became consciously aware of ourselves
      as human beings on Earth," Gladstone said.

      Cartwright said a long-delayed exhibit on Indians' place in Glacier history
      will open at a visitor center next year.

      James Steele Jr., chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes,
      said he's pleased with the park's effort to tell their side.

      Gladstone said he's waiting to see how the commemoration plays out before
      deciding how well the Blackfeet story is recounted.


      Some of Glacier's other stories are about grand human accomplishments. The
      Great Northern Railway built a series of elegant hotels and picturesque
      chalets in the park in the early 1900s that still shelter guests today.
      Going-to-the-Sun Road, an engineering feat that seems to cling to vertical
      mountainsides, was finished in 1933.

      Still other park stories are personal. Glacier ranger Kassandra Hardy, the
      park's centennial coordinator, recalls seeing a man in his 80s leafing
      through "A View Inside Glacier Park" when he realized he had witnessed one
      of the events recounted in the book.

      "Tears came to his eyes and he pulled the book to his chest and said, 'I
      love Glacier Park,"' Hardy said.

      Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, whose series "The National Parks: America's
      Best Idea" aired on PBS this year, recalled taking a short but memorable
      hike in Glacier with his young daughter.

      "It's not so much what you see but who you see it with that matters so much
      in the national parks," Burns said in an interview. "It's part of the same
      alchemy of the national parks."

      Dayton Duncan, co-producer with Burns of the PBS series, calls Glacier "kind
      of a Rosetta Stone" of the national parks.

      Glacier's history encapsulates the campaigns of the early conservationists,
      the railroad-driven rise of tourism and the U.S. government's tumultuous
      relationship with Native Americans, Duncan said. He also called it an ideal
      place to monitor environmental change.

      "These places that we have saved for all time are also places where we can
      see the effects of time," he said. "We can see that the hand of man has a
      longer reach than we ever anticipated because of the shrinking glaciers

      Park officials said they want the centennial to be a springboard for future
      efforts. Cartwright, the superintendent, said the park needs to work to
      attract a more diverse population.

      "We are finding ourselves with a visitor base that still doesn't reflect the
      diversity of our nation as a whole," he said.

      Hardy, the centennial coordinator, said engaging "future stewards" is one of
      her goals.

      "Our strategy is trying to make sure this is a sustainable program rather
      than a one-time birthday bash," she said.
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