Monday, June 10, 2013

Coming to Fort Lincoln

Coming to Fort Lincoln

By Matt Schanandore

In a world where information travels the globe at the speed of light, and our finger tips are the magic wands of our mind, sorting, swiping, and scrolling through an endless universe of information. we still find the need and an interest to see, touch and experience the stories of the past and present for ourselves.  
There is so much about what we do as interpreters that is part of human nature, but yet can be so foreign to many. I am an interpreter, and to describe our line of work, as my grandmother would say, we are simply storytellers. “We tell stories to remember and learn from the days that have passed and to plan for the days in our future.” We naturally tell stories about us, from a little tike, to an old age withered senior, we enjoy recounting our past and educating the future.  Many cannot take another’s past and tell it as their own. That is where an interpreter comes in, we tell stories about others. 

Our stories our not made up fantasies taking place on a distant planet, but rather in our own backyard. Our stories do justice to those people that lived before us and helped shape the human story. We tell about love, friendship, loss, and about life as a family. The characters in our stories sometimes are truly the birds and the bees. We explain steps of life, death, and living life in harmony with nature, we talk about relationships good and bad, and every story contains a little about our own life, and world. Our stories are about the world we see, the world we can touch, the world we can experience. That is Interpretation. 

Today, I sat atop the large earthlodge at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. It is by far my favorite place to sit looking out over the south end of the On-A-Slant Village and down to the Missouri River.  I’ve been walking this village for many years now telling its story, as a young man now looking back, that was a lot longer than I would have ever expected. I’ve realized long ago that there is something about this place that continues to comfort me. Maybe it is the peace that one can experience as the warm rays of the sun’s light overtake the park in the morning. It could be the many people we meet in a summer traveling from many different places, places that I may travel to someday. I think most of my staff feels that they also have stayed a lot longer than they expected, maybe it could be something in the water. We will never know. 

I have stayed because of the chance I get to interpret the story of people that have lived here, their lives and marks left behind on this place. Something, I think we all desire to do in our own lives. Whether we were simple farmers like the Mandan or like General Custer a legend to generations past and present, we all hope that, we to, will be remembered for our role in the human story. As interpreters we leave our mark on every visitor we greet, every visitor we get to know, and each visitor that comes to experience a true story. In the end our job is never done, it just closes for the season. 

This year the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department welcomed my staff and me into its family. It’s been a smooth transition one that will take time as we venture forward on the same path together, but the future is very bright. I’m amazed looking back on the changes that this park has seen, from the early caretakers, the Mandan Indians to General Custer and his famous Seventh Cavalry, to the Civilian Conservation Corps, to the North Dakota Historical Society, to the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation, and most recently the baton was handed fully to the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. Each group having been stewards of the land and its story: each leaving behind something that will carry the park’s story forward. They all had a reason to be part of this place and they all became part of its story. Now starts the next segment in its story.  

The story of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is one that will never end it will always continue to go forward, forming new relationships and forging new beginnings.  As the current caretakers grow old and leave this place so will come a new generation of individuals looking to interpret the story of this place and they will continue their work as so many have been doing for centuries. 

I tell me staff “This is our story, not just a story of old or a story of new, but a story worth telling over and over again.” This is a quite place along the river once called Miti-Ba-wa-esh, Fort Abraham Lincoln D.T., and now Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, but has forever been called…home.

Come, Visit, and be part of the story of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.