Stephen F. Austin State University

The Travel Blog of the history faculty and students of Stephen F. Austin State University.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Trails, Trails, Trails

We stopped at the National Trails Interpretive center in Casper, Wyoming.  A massive facility with information on the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails, the facility is a must-see for those interested in the westward movement.  The next morning we stopped at Independence Rock in central Wyoming where westward trekkers stopped and wrote their names on the rock.

World history looked at the westward movement in the context of the massive global upheaval of movement from 1860 to 1920.

Top: An example of the "register" of names found at Independence Rock.
Middle: Student Jacob discusses his book on the Oregon Trail with the rock in the background.
Below: Students climb up Independence rock.

Monday, June 27, 2011

We Lost the Little Big Horn... Re-enactment, that is.

Hardin, MT, was too chaotic for us, and we made an executive decision for the safety of our physical property to skip the re-enactment of the Little Big Horn.  We did, however, have a good visit to the actual battle area where we talked about the the US and Native Americans as well as talking about the book The Dust Rose Like Smoke, that compared the Sioux of the Great Plains with the Zulu of South Africa.

Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel

The Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel carried a front page story about our trek on Saturday, June 25th.  It contains interviews with students Dan and Jordan as well as several of the photos from the blog.  If you missed it, stop by Sentinel office in Nacogdoches and pick up a copy!

Lewis and Clark at the Great Falls

We discussed the Lewis and Clark expedition at the L&C Interpretive Center in Great Falls, MT, the location of the portage around the falls of the Missouri River.  This followed stops in the surrounding malting barley areas surrounding Great Falls where Dr. Dormady talked about the role of beer in ancient society as well as the importance of and implications of irrigation in ancient civilizations.  Dr. Bremer connected that to the importance of the hydraulic west.

Top: Student Robin examines replicas of Mandan items at the Lewis and Clark center. Middle: Student Kevin measures his own strength against what it takes to pull a keel boat up river against the current of the Missouri river.

Bottom: A scene from the Lewis and Clark center regarding the portage around the falls of the Missouri River.

Friday, June 24, 2011

St. Ignatius Mission

In the 1840s the Jesuits arrived in Montana with fathers DeSmet and Ravalli, establishing missions among the various mountain indigenous groups.  At our stop at St. Ignatius in (of course) St. Ignatius, Montana, we discussed syncretism and religion.  We used the mission to discuss similar influences as seen in Hellenism as carried east by Alexander the Great on Buddhism, and the case of Catholicism in Aztec and Maya society.
The tipi in the picture holds the Eucharist - the most sacred place in the mission, where the body and blood of Christ resides.  Putting him in the tipi in this reservation parish is a sign of respect.

Jesus Christ is portrayed in the mission as an Indian Chief - notice the Sacred Heart image in the picture.

 This was the background for our discussion - once more, this beats the pants of a chalk board.

Hostel in Missoula

For those of you not familiar with a hostel, this is the Hutchins Hostel we stayed at in Missoula.  Clean, comfortable, and great location.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


We've made a two night stop in Missoula, MT. Missoula sits in a nice little valley in the mountains where the Blackfoot and Bitteroot rivers enter the Clark Fork of the Columbia River. Not only did the students get a chance to warm up (after Butte and Yellowstone...brrrrr) and stretch their legs along the river and mountain trails, but we had a great visit to the new Traveler's Rest site. Traveler's Rest is the location of Lewis and Clark's stop in the Bitteroot Valley recently discovered by modern archaeology. We discussed exploration, Native American migration, women as translators in world history, liminality and borderland theory, and then discussed books about prostitution and saloons. In short, we got recharged to get back on the road but still hit some great topics in world and US West history.