Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cemeteries and Museums

This is what we're still dealing with here in the Lander area.  All the branches of the Popo Agie River are still flooding and the rain hasn't let up yet.  The only change is that instead of temperatures in the low to mid 60s, we're now having highs of the mid 40s.  Yee haw.

There was a brief break in the rain the other day so Denny and I drove up to Fort Washakie, named after the Shoshone Indian chief who worked very hard at keeping the peace between the Indian nations and the white people who moved into the area.  Fort Washakie was built in part to protect the Shoshone from other tribes who weren't so friendly to the white pioneers and those who dealt with them.

Fort Washakie is located within the borders of the Wind River Reservation and is home to two cemeteries; one of which has the grave site of Chief Washakie and the other containing the graves of Sacajawea and her two sons and other relatives.  Sacajawea (also known as Sacacawea, Sacagawea, Sakakawea among other spellings) assisted her husband in guiding Lewis and Clark from the Dakotas to the Pacific Ocean, starting just two months after the birth of her son, a journey of 6,000 miles.  Her story has always fascinated me and so we decided to chance the rain to locate her grave site.
The bronze monument to Sacajawea dominates the rear of the cemetery.  In her hand she holds a sand dollar, which she later gave to Chief Washakie whom it is said always had it with him from that point on.  Someone has tied the tail feather from a hawk to her hand and at her feet are scattered stones and coins and small trinkets.  I can only assume this is following the Jewish tradition of placing stones and coins at a grave site to show that one has visited. 

Sacajawea had one natural son who was later adopted by Captain Clark after the expedition was finished and she adopted a son named Brazil.  Both are now buried on either side of her grave site, although there is still controversy as to whether or not Sacajawea is actually buried there.  Some say she died in childbirth in her mid 20s, the minister that led the burial ceremony here said she died in her 90s.  The only clear fact is that no one knows much of her life after the expedition ended.

The grounds of the Sacajawea Cemetery also house the first school house built to educate Indian children in 1878.  It is the small log structure in the picture below.  Many of the original graves had simple whitewashed stones as headstones, some of which had names or symbols painted on in black paint, most of which has washed away.

The cemetery is still in use and brilliantly colored artificial flowers grace both the new sites and most that are very old.  It is obvious that the Native Americans here hold the departed in great respect.  Many grave sites had objects that were close to the person's heart or that held memories for those who remain behind.

After stopping at the other cemetery to visit Chief Washakie's grave site we headed back to Lander to visit the Fremont County Pioneer Museum.

Housed in a bright new building, the museum is well laid out, with exhibits detailing Lander's and Wyoming's history including the discovery of oil, Wyoming jade and gold, ranching, Native American history and artifacts, personal effects from families who settled in the area and more.

A hand-beaded scene of Native Americans fighting the cavalry, sewn onto deerskin. Exquisite.

At the rear of the museum are several old buildings which you can apparently tour but are not part of the museum itself.  We saw no one around to allow us entry so we passed on this.

This is so much better than learning from history books!


Linda in New Mexico said...

The tour you give of wherever you are is so cool. I am thrilled to learn something new from you almost daily. You're a superb tour guide.
The beadwork hide is amazing.
The clouds are very...hummmmmmm threatening.
until next time, The Olde Bagg
vert word: hyptu. When marching remember it is hyptu three four.

Gloria said...

Wow! What a treat. I got to see Sacajawea's gravesite. Thank you so much. I've always been fascinated by her. Wow! Awesome tour you took me on. I love it and the pictures are great. Thanks a lot.

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