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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Butte / Big Hole Battlefield

We stopped in Butte, Montana to talk about the idea of core / periphery in world resource extraction and global capitalism.  Butte used to be the largest city between Minneapolis and San Francisco, but is now a ravaged environmental disaster.  The wealth of the city was built on copper, lead, manganese, silver, gold, and lead mining, but with the minerals played out, so is the wealth of the city and all that is left is a beautiful old town and a few people that hang on in a place that presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Richard Nixon considered a must-stop part of their campaign trails.  For images of the pit mine in Butte, see here.

After Butte we headed to the Big Hole National Battlefield where the Nez Perce were ambushed by US Troops as the Native Americans camped along the banks of the Big Hole river.  This was just one in a series of battles between US forces and the Nez Perce as they attempted to flee the United States for Canada in the longest fighting retreat in US Military history.  The Nez Perce were able to put US troops under seige at Big Hole, buying time for their families to escape the rifles and howitzer of the US 7th Infantry.

Our walking guide for our tour of the "red light district" of Butte.  Here he discusses the corruption of the Butte police and arsons in the city.

Student David surveys the inside of one of Butte's many former brothels.

The Blue Range Brothel.  The windows and doors were for miners to select from the menu of prostitutes.

Butte had a thriving Chinese population.  This parade dragon is part of the museum of the Chinese community.

Cases with some of the thousands of artifacts found in digs in the Chinese district of Butte.

Providing food for miners was a key role for Chinese businesses.  Mining camps gave birth to the dish "chop suey" - essentially scraps thrown together for miners that was cheap and filling - as well as tasty.

While at the big hole, our Texans struggled with their being "too many bugs" in Montana.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Grand Tetons / Yellowstone / Virginia City, MT

Two nights in the snow in Yellowstone for our Texans had them chilled and thrilled.  We covered the history of the Park Service, resource and natural uses in the world and the U.S., and different adaptations of technology and practices from the Sheepeater band of Shoshone to the Gunpowder Empires of the Islamic World.

Dr. Bremer discusses mountain men with student Jordan who read and then presented material on her book about the lives of various trappers.

Our group with the grand Tetons of Wyoming/Idaho in the background.

Isn`t this a better back-drop for a class than a chalk board?

Student Allie had great fun in the snow...

... making a Dr. Bremer snowman.  Yes, that is a hat, not hair on top.

The Porcelain Basin of geothermal pools and springs with the mountains of Yellowston in the back.

Dr. Dormady's tent dug in on the side of the tent pad.  

Views like this helped convince Congress to set Yellowstone aside as a national park.

Virginia City, 2 hours north of Yellowstone, is the former territorial capital of Montana.  Stores, vigilante history, African American history, women in the west... and good ice cream - Virginia City was a hit with both professors and students.

Street scene in Virginia City.

Friday, June 17, 2011

On the Road in Wyoming

WiFi is slow and spotty.  Beauttiful drive through the Uinta's to Rock Springs, WY.  We visited the Mountain Man Museum in Pinedale then had an evening off in Jackson Hole, WY. We are off to Yellowstone Park this morning... if we can get everbody out of the grocery store.  About 40 degrees... these Texans are convinced this is December.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Canyonlands National Park

Great visit to Canyonlands National Park.  While the students thought Chaco was a bit too dry and hot, they were all crushed we could only have two nights at Canyonlands.  We started the visit by watching the sun set at Split Top at the same time the moon came up.  The next day we hiked ten miles (round trip) to the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers.  While there, Dr., Bremer talked about water issues and the west while student Kevin talked about explorer John Wesley Powell who boated to the exact place we were at.  Dr. Dormady made comparisons between Powell and world explorers Dimid Pandya and Ibn Battuta.  After we hiked back we attended a park program on cowboys use of the area before it was declared a natinal park. We all slept REALLY well that night.

Newspaper Rock petroglyphs.

The cave the students slept in.  They were like little kids when they saw they were sleeping in a cave.

Moon rise at sun set in Canyonlands.

Prickly pear were in bloom - a rare sight.

Confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  We were not and will not be near any of the flooding areas of the Green River.

Student David catches some shade after the five mile hike in.  Is he from Texas?

Students get some shade, rest, food, and water after the five miles in... knowing if you walk it in you have to walk it out.

Student Kevin talks about John Wesley Powell and the book Cadillac Desert.

Daily Sentinel

Last night we got cell phone service and Dr. Dormady as well as students Dan, and Jordan had a phone interview with the Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches, TX. Watch for the story by Kimberly Foli.

Mesa Verde National Park

We rolled into Mesa Verde after two dusty, hot, days out in Chaco and the students were VERY happy to be up out of the desert floor.  We arrived a little later than planned due to some unexpected car sickness - but they bounced back fast and we had plenty of time in the park.  After visiting the excellent displays at Far View we visited the guided Cliff Palace tour.  It was a great comparison with Chaco's religious design versus the Cliff Palace defensive / shelter goals.  Back in camp Dr. Bremer went over Ancestral Puebloan culture.  Dr. Dormady talked about the effects of environment on social structure by highlighting the comparative case of the Andes.  We also took some time to talk about the Columbian Exchange - the exchange of bilogical material between the Afro-Eurasian Complex and the Americas.  Plants were the main focus, and students were asked to watch for and journal about the effects of the exchange as the trip continued.

Students Dan and Jordan view the Mancos Valley from an overlook in Mesa Verde.

The Cliff Palace.

Student Kayla conquered her fear of heights and shimmied down the ladders to get to the Cliff Palace.

The group takes 5 after the tour of Cliff Palace.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chaco Culture National Park

We spent two nights in Chaco Culture National Park near Nageezi, NM.  The park is home to some of the Southwest's most impressive architecture from Ancestral Puebloan civilizations.  In the park we discussed the questions of the foundation of agriculture in human society, the settlement of the southwest, nomadic vs. settled societies, and how historians and archaeologists ask questions about a place like Chaco where we have no written records.  We toured Pueblo Bonito - the absolute center of what they think is a religious ritual complex - as well as visiting the great Kiva at Casa Rinconada.  We were also able to attend presentations by Dr. Ruth Van Dyke on the purpose of ritual, directionality, and religion at Chaco.  We also attended a presentation on the use of natural fibers in the Southwest (such as yucca and bullrushes) for making clothing, sandals, baskets, and many other daily items.

Photos: Top: Student Joe Monreal enjoys 'smores around the campfire at Chaco.  Middle: Students gathered together at Chaco's Pueblo Bonito.  Below: A view of the great Kiva in the central plaza of Pueblo Bonito.

Santa Fe II - More Pictures

Below: The Catholic cathedral in Santa Fe. Bottom: the replica of a village church in New Mexico as reproduced in Las golondrinas, New Mexico.  The central image at the altar is San Isidro Labrador - a saint of workers and farmers.  San Isidro carries a "media luna" for hamstringing cattle - a common practice of hide hunting vaqueros seen throuought the Southwest as well as in East Texas.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Santa Fe / Rancho Golondrinas

We're finally at a functional WiFi system in Mesa Verde and we can catch up on what we've been up to for the last few days.  After Washita we headed to Santa Fe to discuss the Spanish conquest, law and empire, and the World History practice of putting subjects in their habitat/context.

We let the students cool their heels after a long day of driving then hit the Spanish Rancho Golondrinas, which bills itself as the Colonial Williamsburg of the Spanish Period.  More to come when we have a faster WiFi connection.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Washita National Battlefield, Cheyenne, OK

9 June 2011 - Washita National Battlefield.  We kicked off our morning with a visit to the site of the massacre of a peaceful band of Cheyenne on the Washita river in Southern Oklahoma.  The site is designed to memorialize both the fallen Cheyenne as well as US Troops.  Professor Bremer discussed the beginning of reservation policy enforcement and Prof. Dormady compared forced migration and extermination to similar patterns seen in Mesopatamia and the Levant.