Poster: dawn is our classroom Dawn Poster
                                       ". . .What we have loved
Others will love, and we will show them how."

                                                          William Wordsworth

Helping students build the audiences they need

I enjoyed the chance to talk with Britney Maddox when we taped her reading her essay about her “oma” earlier this week. One of the things that struck me was the conviction in her voice when we asked her why she chose her grandmother’s story as her research topic. “She deserved to have her story told,” Britney said.

Her grandmother’s story is important--her family was dislocated and her brother was killed under Hitler during the war in Europe. It matters.

Lots of problems in education begin to untangle themselves when we attempt to do work that matters. Classes of high school students can create books that matter, like the one students in Harlowton wrote about the neighboring Hutterite colonies, building bridges between cultures. They can place buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, as students did in Chester, doing the research that preserves the struggles and achievements of those who made the town a better place in the past. They can reimagine the lives of young men who built the northwest through hard lives at logging camps, as students are doing in Libby.

Several things happen in such projects. Students learn the expected academic skills of research, writing, and presenting, of course. But they also create an audience for their work. They find themselves talking about what really matters to interested audiences--Hutterites, elders, archaeologists, ranchers. In telling the stories they find in their neighborhoods, they create the audience for their scholarship.

This is critically important. We know that young people figure out how to live their lives by forming a narrative identity--a life story that links what they have experienced in the past and what they perceive in the present with what they anticipate in the future--and that they model this life story upon the stories they find in the narrative environment that surrounds them. What is less often understood is that the narrative environment consists not just of the stories we hear, but it also includes the audiences that exist for the stories we tell.

In his important book The Redemptive Self, Dan McAdams cites research that people who tell stories to friends who appear not to be listening can’t remember those stories themselves a few weeks later. When the friends appeared to be interested, on the other hands, people remembered the stories they told vividly.

When we find appreciative audiences for stories we tell about good character and striving for good causes, even though we found those stories in the lives of other people, we are changed by telling them.

I found myself very engaged in the story Britney told me. At the end, she quoted her grandmother, and I imagined I heard the German Lutheran inflections enter her voice as she said, “I get a little disgusted with these people who bellyache about the war. .  .I had to see it when I was awfully young: the bullets flying around, the houses bombed. And then we had to go and pick up the dead soldiers. All those people who complain here, well, they need to go see it themselves. It’s a mess.”

When Britney began speaking her oma’s words, she stood up straighter and spoke with a firmness and conviction I hadn’t heard earlier in the paper. Then she shifted into her own voice. The firmness and conviction stayed: “Her story means a lot to me,” said Britney. “It has helped me better understand my own history and where I come from. And, it has shown me what things are worth fighting for, what things we should fight against, and that ultimately, there is always hope.”

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/18 at 03:43 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Lessons from Leading without Power

Mr. McNamar at the Daily Grind lists eight parallels between good families and good classrooms. These include such things as teaching clear and concrete values:  “In a world with shifting values, the classroom should be firm--a place where students know from day to day, what is expected.”

Useful advice for those who approach teaching as a way of helping young people see that an important reason for education, as for life itself, is to make the places we find ourselves into better places (and learning and telling the stories of all the ordinary heroes who find ways to do that).

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/18 at 12:12 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Lessons from Vine Deloria, Jr.

Sunday Vine Deloria Jr, a Sioux Indian, passed away following complications from an aortic aneurysm.

From the LA Times obituary:

Vine was a great leader and writer, probably the most influential American Indian of the past century — one of the most influential Americans, period,” said Charles Wilkinson, of the University of Colorado School of Law at Boulder and an Indian law expert. Deloria wrote more than 20 books, but it was his first in 1969, “Custer Died for Your Sins,” that brought him to the nation’s attention. In 2002, Wilkinson called it “perhaps the single most influential book ever written on Indian affairs” and described it as “at once fiery and humorous, uplifting and sharply critical.”

Deloria was an articulate, outspoken, and often controversial figure. Though it’s not his best-known work, I think some of his insights on education are valuable to consider regardless of the ethnic backgrounds of the students you work with. The following passage is from Power and Place which he published in 2001 with Daniel Wildcat.

“It is instructive to move away from Western educational values and theories and survey the educational practices of the old Indians. Not only does one get a sense of emotional stability, which indeed might be simply the act of nostalgia, but viewing the way the old people educated themselves and their young gives a person the sense that education is more than the process of imparting and receiving information. Indeed it is the very purpose of human society…

...Education in the traditional setting occurs by examples and not as a process of indoctrination. That is to say, elders are the best living examples of what the end product of education and life experiences should be. We sometimes forget that life is exceedingly hard and that none of us accomplishes everything we could possibly do or even many of the things we intended to do. The elder exemplifies both the good and bad experiences of life, and in witnessing their failures as much as their successes we are cushioned in our despair of disappointment and bolstered in our exuberance of success.

...We share our failures and successes so we know who we are and so that we have confidence when we do things…”

We can always continue to do more to build on the knowledge and experiences students already have, acknowledge where they come from and what they already know, and enlist the help of those at home who have been the first, and often times remain the most influential, teachers. 

Posted by Christa Umphrey
on 11/17 at 08:02 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Thoughtful and Responsible Student Blogging

Happenings in Africa and New Jersey are intersecting in interesting ways for teachers this past week.

In Tunis, 170 countries and more than 20,000 delegates are taking part in the UN’s largest ever summit. The delegates are looking into ways to use information communication technologies to help improve living standards in some of the world’s poorest nations. A key aim is connect all the villages of the world to the internet by 2015. “There is a tremendous yearning, not for technology per se, but for what technology can make possible,” said Kofi Annan, UN secretary General, urging delegates to take action.

As the rest of the world strives for ways to allow more than the current 14% of citizens access to the global online community, here in the U.S. 62% of us are busy on the net. I think it’s highly likely that the percentage is even higher among our teens, so high that while the rest of the world is trying to figure out how to get their countries online, we have organizations (from educational to corporate) hard at work developing ways to restrict and monitor our students’ access.

Of course educators need to be concerned for our students’ safety, but recently the internet (and blogs specifically) are making mainstream news not because of all the innovative ways teachers are using them but for being banned completely, as happened last month in Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, New Jersey. At a school assembly the Roman Catholic school’s 900 students were told they must delete personal blog sites such as and or risk suspension. “The Internet is a forum with unrestricted global access,” a spokeswoman for the diocese explained. “For minors to be vulnerable in that forum is not acceptable.”

A few days later blogs were in the news again when threats on basically shut down another New Jersey high school after threats were posted. The school district is looking for the website to be held accountable and one of the teens was arrested.

Is this where our country is headed when in comes to teens and technology? The internet does give young people more power. It lets them express their own thoughts and ideas. It allows them to find other people who think like they do. And many who don’t. Scary yes, but important, too.

As the rest of the world comes on-line, if we as teachers try to screen everything first and make all the decisions about what students will see, learn and experience, we are going to fail. And more importantly, we are not going to be giving students the tools a good education demands. When it comes to the internet we need to help them learn to do the same things we have always done with whatever we are studying: think critically, filter appropriately, and develop an honest, informed and responsible voice to present their own ideas.

As a teacher I am always searching for an audience that is real and in some way consequential to my students. Blogging can provide this, but not if we don’t allow anyone to read the words we hope our students are carefully crafting.

In pondering the expanding assortment of software cropping up to make blogging safer for students Will Richardson shares an experience I think many of us who’ve had students use the internet could echo:

When I first had my students blogging four years ago, their blogs were open to the world. Nothing but good things came of it. They met people from Spain and Japan and Canada and all over the states who shared their ideas and questions and knowledge. It didn’t happen often that someone we didn’t know chimed in with a comment, but when it did happen, we all shared in a positive experience. Were we lucky? Maybe. But I think that by and large people are good, and it was nice to have that borne out in that class.

As more people from around the world begin to have access to the internet, they are going to find our students there. Young people already have so many examples of how the internet can be used poorly, we have a responsibility to step in and expose them to better alternatives. They are going to be out on the internet regardless of what is happening in school. Our students are already leaders in the field about which those 20,000 delegates in Tunis are meeting. What a wonderful opportunity we have to step in and help them to fulfill this role well. 

Posted by Christa Umphrey
on 11/16 at 11:43 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Podcasting and Place

Podcasting makes it possible for anyone with a tape recorder, a computer, and a website to run a radio “station.” It also makes it easy for listerers to listen to what they want to listen to while they’re driving, rather than putting up with commercials and DJ banter. So far, the selection for people living in places such as Montana has not been great, but that will change. My IPOD failed last week, and I was distraught at having to drive all the way from Helena with nothing but a radio to listen to.

New West announced today they they have partnered with the Billings non-profit organization MusEco to bring two podcasts to their website. They’ll be posting the weekly Montana Muse program and the monthly Waste Not Want Not: Conserving the Last Best Place. People will be able to listen to them at their computers or download them to listen to on an MP3 player.  Both shows are currently broadcast on Yellowstone Public Radio (which I can’t get where I live).

I’m particularly interested in Montana Muse, hosted by Scott Prinzing. This hour-long features music and entertainment by Montana artists. I hope they make time for a few readings by Montana poets. Waste Not Want Not, hosted by Kris Princing, focuses on environmental issues in Montana and Wyoming.

Links to the podcasts will be posted on the ”Intelligencer” sections New West, on the left-hand column of the Bozeman and Missoula pages.

I’m quite excited about the possibilities of turning some of those oral histories students have collected into 15 minute “radio documentaries” that can be placed on websites where they can be heard by anyone at any time. These new tools make developing robust local cultures both possible and important.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/14 at 04:34 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

New West is the Same Old

New West, the most interesting journalistic venture in Montana, is featured in Online Journalism Review. Mark Glaser wonders whether the online publication can become profitable given its liberal tone in a geographic region that “votes solidly GOP.”

I look at the site regularly and quite often find something I’m glad to read.

But rarely do I find anything that seems important. But then, I live by choice in a town of about 800 people on an Indian Reservation, where talk about bike paths, expensive coffee, new music albums, and other issues in the lifestyle of the New West don’t resonate much. The New West seems a very old place indeed.

I live with a beautiful wife in a garden I planted myself where I am visited often by thirteen grandchildren. On my computer I find the complete works of Yeats, the histories of Thucydides, news reports from Iraq and Jerusalem, and MP3 recordings of scriptures. I read in the Missoulian that Montana is the fourth worst state in the union in terms of teen deaths from accidents, murder, and suicide, and the expert notes that this is bad for economic development, because businesses won’t want to relocate here.

There’s an important story there, but I don’t expect to read it in the old media, including the online stuff.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/14 at 12:45 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project



Registration Closed

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/13 at 02:53 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Meeting Locations

Most sessions during our Summer Conference on Place-Based Teaching will be held on the campus of Montana Tech-The University of Montana in Butte.  We’ll be in meeting rooms in the Student Union and in the Auditorium. Rooms are spacious; we can head outside into the sunshine during breaks and enjoy the landscape we are considering.

Montana Tech opened its doors to students in 1900 as the Montana State School of Mines--a critical component of Butte’s full blown mining and smelting production. During World War II, Tech became an official Naval College, training more than 800 Navy and Marine officers. After the War and as the mining industry evolved, a “reconversion” committee began the process of broadening Tech’s mission and curriculum options. Currently 2,100 students attend Tech. The campus, with its mix of historic and contemporary buildings, overlooks Butte’s historic uptown and mines and its more recent development in “the Flats”

Tuesday evening’s banquet will be held at Butte’s Red Lion Hotel.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/13 at 12:58 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Best Practices: Workshops from Demonstration Sites

Monday, June 19

2:30 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS – Best Practices, Montana Heritage Project Teachers

“Getting to story: investigation as the basis of good writing” Jeff Gruber, Montana Heritage Project Site Director (Read these essays by Jeff’s students: “Songs of Hope” by Rachel Reckin and “Senator John Geiger: A Cold Front” by Amanda Shotzberger.)

“An Expedition to the 1930s: What you need to know and what you’ll want to take” by Mary Sullivan and Nancy Widdicombe, Montana Heritage Project Demonstration Site Directors

“Pointers, pitfalls, and payoffs: picking great topics for community research--and making any topic great” by Nancy Heggen, Montana Heritage Project Demonstration Site Director

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS – Best Practices, Montana Heritage Project Teachers

“Point of entry: using family heirlooms to connect students with the big questions in literature and history” by Renee Rasmussen, Montana Heritage Project Site Director

“How to get your kids to write like Studs Terkel: unleashing creativity through family and community history research” by Christa Umphrey, Montana Heritage Project Mentor (Read this essay by Christa’s student: “My Oma” by Britney Maddox.)

“Gifts of scholarship: real work your students can do for your community--with an emphasis on non-narrative modes of analysis” by Sarah Zook, Montana Heritage Project Site Director

Tuesday, June 20

1:15 - 2:15 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS– Best Practices, Montana Heritage Project Teachers

Finding the national in the local: American history through the lense of local history” by Josh Clixby, Montana Heritage Project Site Director

“Engagement and enchantment—motivating students by doing important work” by Dorothea Susag, Montana Heritage Project Mentor

“This storied place: ‘connecting’ as a step in the writing process” by Darlene Beck, Montana Heritage Project Site Director

2:15 p.m. Break

2:45 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS – Best Practices, Montana Heritage Project Teachers

“Students as leaders of community forums—updating the Montana Study Model” by Tom Thackeray, Tim Schaff, and Dale Alger with students from Roundup High School. Additional insights from Montana Study Projects at Libby High School (Jeff Gruber) and Chester High School (Renee Rasmussen)

“Keeping it real: using family history to teach authentic research and writing” by Phil Leonard, Montana Heritage Project Site Director

“Exploring other cultures: a case study of the Hutterite Project” by Nancy Widdicombe, Montana Heritage Project Site Director

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/13 at 12:28 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Is There a Distinctive Western Rural Culture?

Is There a Distinctive Western Rural Culture?

excerpted from The Rise of Urban Archipelagoes in the American West: A New Reservation Policy? by James R. Rasband, Environmental Law, 31: 1, 2001.

Instead of contending that the rural West is a backward culture in need of moral correction, other preservation advocates contend that Moab and other rural Western communities simply do not have a traditional culture to lose. As they see it, the idea of a distinct rural, cowboy culture is a myth.(242) Although some aspects of the West’s cultural narrative may be myth, suggesting that the rural West has no distinctive qualities seems just as inventive. The wide open spaces and soaring mountain ranges, the parching aridity,(243) and the endless acreage of sagebrush, pinion pine, and juniper are more than just the geographical aesthetics that attracted so many of us to the West. There is, as Ed Geary remarked in his study of Utah’s high plateau country,

a fundamental difference between inhabiting a landscape and coming to it as a visitor.... To be a native of a place like Escalante is a kind of fate, unchosen, inescapable. The scene of one’s first consciousness--the shape of the horizon, the quality of the light, the taste of the air--forms the baseline of reality.(244)

This sense of place, the sense of being rooted in a geographical setting,(245) helped create the distinctive qualities of the rural West. Distance and isolation dictated that the residents rely upon their families and one another to help with the hard work of farm and ranch.(246) It also caused rural residents to draw together for sociality and companionship, resulting in a strong tradition of volunteerism and participation in community affairs.(247) Churches became not only places of worship but also of recreation, education, and charity; local high schools became centers of community activity,(248) as attested by any week-night drive on the rural highways of the West, where high school sports are the primary fare. Critics of the idea of a distinct Western culture would be quick to point out that modern society and technology have long been making inroads on all Americans’ sense of place, including those in the communities of the rural West. Residents of the rural West travel outside the region with ease, eat the same food, watch the same videos and television shows, and root for the same sports franchises as residents of other parts of the United States.(249) Even if the West at one point was culturally unique, critics might say, it is no longer.(250) It is hard to dispute that the culture of the rural West is a diminishing resource, but my perception is that a sense of place still animates the rural West to a greater extent than elsewhere. This is particularly true of those communities primarily dependent on ranching and agriculture whose families often enjoy multigenerational ties to the land.(251) This conclusion may be a bit romantic, but as Charles Wilkinson has remarked: “Objectively justified or not, the West is a place where romance is unavoidable fact, a place you cannot talk about, cannot think about, without an overlay of romance."(252)

Perhaps more important than what commentators think about the distinctiveness of the rural West is what rural Westerners think. And the evidence is strong that many, if not most, view their way of life as distinctive and jeopardized. Witness the plethora of books and articles on the demise of the rural West.(253) If rural communities value their distinctiveness, isn’t that some reason to consider their claims regardless of definitional disputes? Given the nineteenth century’s devaluation and demolition of cultural distinctiveness, isn’t there danger in being so certain about a cultural valuation?


Some will surely be quick to point out that even if the rural West has distinctive qualities that may be said to rise to the level of a culture, it is surely not as real or unique as the cultural heritage of Indian tribes.(255) Professor Dan Tarlock, in an essay titled Can Cowboys Become Indians? Protecting Western Communities as Endangered Cultural Remnants, explores the question of whether rural communities in the West should receive some of the same cultural protections as Indian tribes. Initially, he observes that cultural claims of rural Westerners have not been given much credence “because we recognize cultural rights almost exclusively to protect defined religious groups or aboriginal minorities with non-Western value systems from oppression by the dominant culture; not to protect one segment of the dominant culture from another."(256) Tarlock argues, however, that with post-modernism’s recognition that culture is a construct,(257) the distinctive culture claims of rural Westerners, who dwell in what he terms “at-risk” communities,(258) are “more legitimate than many have assumed."(259) He concludes that even if the distinctive culture claims of rural Westerners are different and not as strong as those of Indian tribes, their claims have enough merit that they should be “factored into efforts to re-envision the Western landscape and the legal institutions that will develop to manage and sustain this vision."(260)

Professor Tarlock focuses on the comparison between present-day Indian tribes and rural communities rather than on the historical analogy between our conduct today and that of our nineteenth century predecessors that is the focus of this article, but he has it about right.(261) Professor Tarlock is correct, for example, that rural Westerners do not have a history of oppression. Indeed, they participated in the dispossession of the Indian tribes and have long been politically powerful in the West. But the tribes’ history of oppression only began with the first white settlement of the West. Moreover, the political power of rural communities has been dissipating since Baker v. Carr,(262) and the aggregation of voters in the urban archipelagoes of the West has generally reduced rural interests to a disfavored political position.(263) Even in historical context, however, the rural West’s claims to cultural identity do not seem as powerful as those of Indian tribes, particularly given the absence of blood ties and the pervasive influence of popular culture in the West. The rural West’s culture claim may not be as strong, but it is not insignificant. Even though tribes’ ties to their land date from time immemorial, that should not devalue the real ties to the land of some communities in the rural West which have families whose ties to the land go back six or seven generations.(264)

The questions about the analogy between Indian tribes and rural communities in the West go beyond the issue of whether the rural West has an equally distinctive culture. A number of other legitimate concerns arise with respect to whether the analogy works. Initially, it must be recognized that whatever pain is caused by the economic and cultural dislocations in the rural West, it pales by comparison to the suffering and hardships faced by Indian tribes. If ranchers and other commodity users are forced off the public lands to which they have become attached and into the urban archipelagoes and Moabs of the West, at least they can choose where to go and are allowed to live with relative dignity.

Another distinction is that certain components of the rural economy have been upheld by federal subsidy, which was not the case for Indian tribes in the nineteenth century. The mining law requires only the barest of payments for the right to locate valuable minerals on the public lands(265); the fees charged for grazing on the public lands are generally below market price(266); and timber on the public lands is often sold at prices below the federal cost.(267) It is one thing to encourage the demise of rural communities by stripping them of rights and privileges; it is quite another to facilitate that demise by ceasing to subsidize certain public lands uses.(268) That said, the subsidies, particularly for public lands ranchers--the group best identified with a distinct rural culture--are not that large,(269) and hardly distinguish commodity interests from other sectors of society. Moreover, if rural Western communities established themselves as a result of federal subsidies, it is only because they responded to the national goal of settling and developing the West.(270)

Whether rural communities have reason to rely on subsidy is a smaller part of a larger issue, namely whether rural communities have any right to rely on the continued use of the public lands. Some may believe that this issue is what separates current public lands communities from the Indian tribes of the nineteenth century. Indian tribes, whose presence preceded that of the federal government, had a valid claim to title that the United States, via the discovery doctrine,(271) failed to honor; whereas rural communities have no legitimate property interest in the public lands. Removing rural communities from the public lands is different, the argument could be made, because their use of the public lands has always been at the sufferance of the public. This distinction has some merit, but ironically, to make the argument is in some sense to make the analogy.

It is important to recognize that in some instances rural residents do have property rights in the public lands. Unpatented mining claims,(272) water and ditch rights,(273) and R.S. 2477 rights-of-way(274) are examples. But with respect to the largest and most frequently trumpeted property rights claim of rural communities--namely a property right in grazing allotments--it is accurate to say that there is no private property interest in the public lands.(275) The reason there is no property interest is what makes the analogy interesting. Although those who adhere to the Lockean notion that property is an inalienable right(276) might disagree, most others would contend that property rights exist because the state chooses to recognize them.(277) Traditionally, long-established ties to particular land have been a key element in the determination of a property interest; witness the rules of adverse possession.(278) In the case of Indian tribes, however, the United States chose not to recognize their long-established ties to the land, except to permit use and occupancy until Congress decided upon purchase or conquest.(279) In the case of grazing allotments, the United States has likewise chosen not to recognize ranchers’ historical ties to the land, except to permit grazing until BLM decides otherwise under its land use planning procedures.(280) Thus, it does not distinguish the two removal policies to argue that tribal property rights could have been recognized but those of rural communities could not. In fact, both are the result of a positive law determination.(281)

Describing the United States’s allocation of the tribes’ property rights as a question of positive law is not intended to ignore the question whether the United States had any jural or legislative authority over the tribes as separate sovereigns. The argument that the United States had no such power is, however, a natural law, inalienable rights argument.(282) To the extent natural law is the basis of a criticism of the analogy between the two communities, it does not make sense to distinguish rural communities’ claim to a property interest in the public lands on the positive law strength of those claims. Rather, rural communities’ claims would need to be judged on the same basis, namely whether rural communities have the sort of distinctive culture and longstanding ties to the land that merit some sort of recognition. As discussed above, the answer appears to be that the tribes had greater cultural distinctiveness and longer ties to the land but that the distinctiveness and rootedness of rural communities is not inconsequential.

Of course, the positive law status of ranchers and rural communities is not unrelated to the strength of their natural law claim because the determination that ranchers would have no property rights in the public lands adjoining their communities was arguably made before they arrived(283); whereas the determination for tribes came after. Thus, public lands users today do not have as strong a reliance argument as did the tribes in the nineteenth century. But just as was the case with the distinctive culture question, to say that rural communities’ reliance interest is less than that of the Indian tribes does not mean that rural communities can assert no reliance interest at all. That reliance comes not only from long use but also from the fact the federal government had long encouraged rural community use of public lands as a part of federal public lands policy.(284) Despite the legal doctrine denying them property rights in their grazing lands,(285) ranchers can also point to a longstanding federal practice of renewing their permits(286) and the promise in the Taylor Grazing Act that their grazing privileges will be “safeguarded,” albeit “so far as consistent with” the other provisions of the Act, including the denial or “any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the lands."(287) In the end, even if the signals have been mixed, it is hard to blame rural communities for coming to rely upon their ability to continue using the public lands. If that reliance interest is not as pristine as that of Indian tribes, it still cannot be easily dismissed.

A final distinction between the two removal policies is that unlike the de jure removal and reservation policy of the nineteenth century reflected in statutes, treaties, executive orders, and judicial decisions, the move today from rural communities to urban archipelagoes and gateway oases is only partly de jure and often the de facto result of a variety of economic realities and social preferences. In contrast to the Indian tribes, ranchers and commodity users are not often being forced off the public lands. Rather, they are leaving of their own accord in pursuit of greater economic opportunity.(288) The decline of the rural West is not solely attributable to federal public lands policy. It is also a result of markets and technology that for over a century have imposed a downward pressure on employment in rural communities.(289) The mining, logging, and farming industries do not produce the same number of jobs they did fifty years ago, because they do not require the same number of employees. Technology has rendered many tasks obsolete.(290) Economic dislocation in the rural West is not a new phenomenon,(291) and it will almost surely continue, regardless of whether the law continues to shift in favor of preservation.

That said, change and economic dislocation in communities dependent on public lands has not all been de facto. It has also been de jure. As discussed above, during the last forty years, the law has responded to the majority’s demand for preservation and removal by limiting or eliminating commodity use on significant portions of the public lands.(292) Moreover, as discussed in more detail below, during Secretary Babbitt’s tenure as Interior Secretary, this pattern has accelerated.(293) It is precisely this de jure removal effort that prompts the analogy to nineteenth century Indian policy.

In sum, although a number of potentially legitimate questions could be raised about the analogy between the two removal policies, the similarities between the two policies remain significant. The current policy of removal for preservation is not as egregious as the removal for settlement and development in the nineteenth century, nor is it as direct as the removal for preservation policies advocated in other countries of the world where indigenous peoples have been the target.(294) Nevertheless, the similarities between our current and our nineteenth century removal policies should be sufficient to prompt a critical examination of our approach to enshrining preservation and recreation as the new dominant uses of the public lands.

In Fire on the Plateau, Charles Wilkinson argues that the history of the American West has been one of “conquest by certitude."(295) His conclusion rings true with respect to federal public lands and Indian policy in the nineteenth century. Americans were confident in the moral, economic, and scientific wisdom of manifest destiny. Americans knew the best use of the public lands and what was best for the Indians who dwelled there. The tougher question is whether Professor Wilkinson’s conclusion is an equally apt description of the current shift to preservation and recreation. Is that shift simply the latest chapter in a history of conquest by certitude? The purpose of the analogy is to make us wonder. Can we confidently declare our desire to preserve the public lands is more altruistic than the desire of our nineteenth century predecessors to settle and develop them, particularly when a significant, if not the foremost reason for setting aside those lands is to provide recreational and scenic amenities, both of which have significant negative impacts? Can we be so certain that removing commodity users from the public lands in favor of preservation is in the best interests of the adjacent rural communities? Are we sure the distinctive characteristics of the rural West and the residents’ bonds to the land are not worthy of some recognition? I believe the answer to these questions is no. And if we cannot be certain that our new public land aspirations are so much more noble than those of our Nineteenth century counterparts, what should we do differently?

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/10 at 03:39 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Lodging Information

We have arranged two lodging options

Option 1: The Red Lion Hotel

We’ve reserved a block of rooms in the Red Lion Hotel (formerly the Warbonnet Inn) at the junction of Interstate 15/90 and Harrison Avenue at state conference rates:

Single and double - $63 per night, plus tax.

To book a room at the Red Lion Hotel for any of the nights of June 18, 19, or 20, please call 406-494-7800 or 800-443-1806. You are booking within the Montana Heritage Project/Individual block of rooms.

Rooms not reserved prior to June 1 will be released.

Option 2: Montana Tech (The University of Montana) Centennial Hall

We’ve also reserved a block of rooms in this new, well-appointed dorm. Rates are as follows:

Double room - $12.70 night per person
Single room - $17.60 per night per person
Suite single - $20.60 per night per person

Tech will provide linens for an additional $2.50 per person or you can supply your own.

To book a room in the “Montana Heritage Project” block for any of the nights of June 18, 19, or 20, please call: 406-496-4425. The Residence Life Office staff will make reservations for you and explain payment options.

Rooms not reserved prior to June 9 will be released.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 11/04 at 02:11 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Space and Place

Space and place are two distinct terms here; of the two, space is probably the less understood or the more-taken-for-granted. As logic or common sense would indicate, space is “bigger” than place, but the two are intricately related. Places emerge from space with the passage of time: “Spaces become places as they become ‘time-thickened.’ They have a past and a future that binds people together round them” (Crang, Mike. Cultural Geography. New York: Routledge, 1998, p. 103). Space is the more conceptual notion—a realm of practices—while place is defined by people and events. In one sense, places are fixed positions on a map, or you can follow directions to get there. Space, if you will, structures our habitats but cannot be inhabited. Places touch people’s lives and evoke memories and emotions.


Geographies of Writing: Inhabiting Places and Encountering Difference, by Nedra Reynolds (Carbondale, IL : Southern Illinois University Press, 2004)

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/03 at 05:45 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

2006 Montana Heritage Project Conference Schedule

Montana Heritage Project
2006 Summer Conference

Exploring Where We Are
Through Literature and Writing

“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders its, loves it so radically that he remakes it...”
—Joan Didion

A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labors men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar nonmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge.
—George Eliot

June 19 and 20, 2006
Butte, Montana

MONDAY, June 19, 2006

9:00 a.m. “Where We Are, and Why We are Here,” Marcella Sherfy, Montana Heritage Project Education Director

9:15 a.m. “Getting to the Heart of Place” David Sobel, author of Place-Based Education and Director, Teacher Certification, Education Department, Antioch New England Graduate School

10:15 a.m. Break

10:45 a.m. “Rural Voices: Place-Conscious Education and the Teaching of Writing” Sharon Bishop, Nebraska Writing Project Co-Director and Heartland Community Schools

11:45 a.m. Lunch - “A Place Like No Other: An Introduction to Butte” Ellen Crain, Director, Butte-Silver Bow Archives

1:15 p.m.  “Beyond the Text: Fieldwork as Education, “ Guha Shankar, Folklife Specialist, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

2:15 p.m. Break

2:30 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS – Re-Enchanted: Seeing Anew through the Eyes of Regional Writers

Fools Crow, James Welch – Dorothea Susag, Montana Heritage Project Mentor

Wind From an Enemy Sky, D’Arcy McNickle – Christa Umphrey, Montana Heritage Project Mentor

Photographing Montana: 1894-1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron, Donna M. Lucey – Phil Leonardi, Montana Heritage Project Teacher

3:30 p.m. Break

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS – Montana Heritage Project Best Place-Based Practices

“Starting from Home: the Family as a Resource for Research” – Renee Rasmussen and Phil Leonardi, Montana Heritage Project Teachers

“Tell Me the Stories: An Introduction to Oral History,” Dorothea Susag, Montana Heritage Project Mentor Teacher

“Beyond Story: Non-narrative Modes of Analyzing Historical Information” – Sarah Zook, Montana Heritage Project Teacher.

6:30 p.m. Dinner, “A Reading of Butte Poetry,” Mark Gibbons

7:30 p.m. “Following the Story,” Premiere of PBS film “The Richest Hill on Earth” Introduced by producer Pam Roberts and author Ed Dobb.

Tuesday, June 20, 2005

9:00 a.m. “Finding Our Way: Examples of Place-Based Teaching from Around the Nation, “ Rachel Tompkins, President, Rural School and Community Trust

10:00 a.m. Break

10:30 “History and a Sense of Place: Good Primary Sources Lead to Good Writing” Dave Walter, Research Historian, Montana Historical Society

11:45 a.m. Lunch, “Ireland’s Musical Heritage in Butte,” Members of Dublin Gulch, Butte and Helena Irish musicians

1:15 - 2:15 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS Engaging Students in Writing

“A Hunger for Reality: Teaching the Essay of Place,” Mike Umphrey, Montana Heritage Project Executive Director and Katherine Mitchell, Heritage Education Editor

“Editing Student Writing: A Case Study,” Mary Sullivan, Montana Heritage Project Teacher

“Introducing Students to Narrative Journalism,” Darlene Beck

2:15 p.m. Break

2:45 p.m. CONCURRENT SESSIONS – Best Practices, Montana Heritage Project Teachers

“Engaging Students and Community Members in An Assessment of a Community’s Future: Recreating the ‘Montana Study’” – Montana Heritage Project Teachers from Libby, Chester, and Roundup

“Researching Misunderstood Community Places and Events,” Nancy Heggen, Montana Heritage Project Teacher

“Understanding Other Cultures: Documenting Hutterite Life,” Nancy E. Widdicombe, Montana Heritage Project Teacher

3:45 Break

4:15 “Environmental History, Education, and Community Renewal in Butte, Montana” Dr. Chad Okrusch, Faculty, Montana Tech-The University of Montana

6:00 Banquet, “Becoming Placemakers: Keeping It Real,” Michael L. Umphrey, Montana Heritage Project Director

Project exhibits available for review during meal and mid-day breaks.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 11/03 at 02:40 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Time and Place in Butte

by Larry R. Ford

Excerpted from Continuity and Change in the American City, The Geographical Review. Volume: 85. Issue: 4. 1995.

As people and capital have become more mobile and as cities increasingly compete for a slice of the economic pie, a marketable place image has become an essential component of nearly all urban growth strategies. Although the media have long focused on the problematic images of large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, small cities also have had to be concerned with creating a charming and interesting sense of place to present to the world. Some cities emphasize the old and proclaim themselves historically significant; others emphasize their key roles in the modern scheme of things. Most cities, however, seek a middle ground - a judicious mixture of new and old images, which Wyckoff nicely illustrates with a case study of Butte.

Butte was once relatively more important than it is today, but unlike Charleston, Savannah, or other historic cities the landscape of Butte cannot be easily described as cute or picturesque. The massive open-pit mine as well as numerous additional icons of mining that dot the landscape are reminders of the brutality of industrial-era production rather than of a pleasant pace of genteel living. Toxic waste and other forms of environmental degradation add to the problematic status of the historic Butte image. Consequently, the city eagerly has sought new images and functions as the old ones have become obsolete.

There is an irony here that in current parlance could be called deep. We continue to generalize about cities with models derived from the industrial era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while we endeavor to erase the landscapes of that time through everything from urban renewal and highway construction to governmental policies that encourage housing and commercial abandonment and industrial decay. We have also endeavored to erase many of the images associated with the past and to define them as inappropriate for modern consumption. Many actual landscapes are destroyed, and their histories as preserved are often rewritten. The United States is in danger of becoming a nation of derelict landscapes, a nation without a meaningful history, unless it learns to appreciate the terrible scenes of its industrial past as well as the more pleasing ones.

The pleasant and picturesque landscapes of the past are easier to integrate with the new than are those that are truly awesome. Nearly every American city has an Olde Towne or perhaps a revitalized set of waterfront piers and warehouses. Steel mills, oil refineries, and open-pit mining are not only difficult to recycle and adapt to new uses but also are usually located far from new developments. Images of the new and the old are more discordant in such cases. A viable sense of place, however, should include icons of the whole past; one layer should lead to the next. Sanitized pasts that eliminate important transitional periods and places can be befuddling. When this happens, the geography of the city can be confusing, because districts with declassee images are likely to be missing or ignored while others are displayed with gusto.

Butte has a relatively simple and uncomplicated past, but the spatial integration of images is nonetheless problematic. The postmodern city of consumption seems in danger of becoming spatially and historically separate from the older city of production. As the high-altitude sports center and other new activities and images that have nothing to do with the older sense of place emerge, there is an increasing trend toward the creation of a sharp break between the past and the present and future. When new icons are located far from old ones, the break becomes even more distinct, and the overall sense of place is more muddied. If the older images are brutal and even toxic, the sense of separation may be required by law and may be economically and socially desirable.

The issue again is one of the size and spatial arrangement of the different types of territories. Although it can be asserted that all American cities suffer from too much space and thus too much sprawl and uneven development, the smaller cities of the West epitomize this condition. Some American cities seem to be constantly running away from themselves. Butte provides an especially interesting case study of a city that is attempting to build a new urban geography by emphasizing both its cultural heritage and a physically separate and unrelated set of new functions and images. Perhaps the United States can learn from its experience.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/01 at 10:04 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

2006 Syllabus: Conference on Place-Based Teaching


P.O. BOX 672

Participants will learn how to plan place-based learning expeditions with the ALERT framework. Place-based education as developed in the Montana Heritage Project pulls together a host of research-based instructional strategies.

1. Generating and Answering Questions: Questions are developed, discussed, and researched on three levels, as discussed in the ALERT framework.

2. Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback: Since learning expeditions culminate in scholarly gifts to the community, they are quite naturally organized around objectives that give direction to student work. Teachers use benchmark tools to monitor progress and provide feedback and to assist in the creation of interim goals both for groups and individuals. Students are guided toward forming long-range goals and coordinating them with the many short-term goals needed to complete a successful research project.

3. Note Taking and Summarizing: Students are taught to take notes from interviews, from readings in primary and secondary documents, from observed processes at community events, from visits to historic sites, and from classroom discussions. Additional resources will be provided for teachers that delineate the cognitive basis of note taking and how note taking skills can be taught. Since students engaged in expeditions work together in teams on large research projects, they face many natural opportunities for summarizing their findings for other members of the group, both verbally and in writing, as they create a shared “data base” to keep the group project progressing.

4. Identifying Similarities and Differences: The overarching questions for learning expeditions to the past are “what has changed?” and “what has stayed the same?”Students are given many opportunities to compare and contrast the present with the past in many ways. They compare, contrast, and classify a broad range of phenomena.

5. Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers: Advance organizers are strategies to orient students to the work before they begin learning. These take the form of introductory stories, graphic images, and brief texts. The more analytical these tools are and the more they focus on what is important about the topic, the more successful they are, so heritage teachers emphasize helping students analyze and identify important points in materials.

6. Nonlinguistic Representations: We store information both visually and linguistically. Students learn best when they have chances to use both modes to increase their understanding. Each expedition includes samples and strategies for students to work with photographs, artifacts, heirlooms, architecture, and historical sites. They also create maps, exhibits, posters, and multimedia presentations.

7. Cooperative Learning: The practices that make cooperative learning a powerful instructional strategy include chances to work interdependently, support for both individual and group accountability, opportunities for group reflection and discussion, activities that allow for working together face-to-face, and assignments that provide guided use of effective social skills. When classes use research done by several members to create collaborative public exhibitions and presentations, students must think together about what the important story is, how the pieces fit together, what information is most essential to that Students take part in “learning expeditions” planned within the ALERT framework. story, and what words and images best tell the story. Good place-based teaching includes structured sequences of activities that combine individual research projects into group presentations or publications.

8. Practice and Homework: Many ALERT processes can be practiced and extended outside the classroom, and place-based teaching includes assignments that can be used as homework, designed to support practice at important skills.

9. Providing Recognition and Reinforcing Effort: An integral part of Heritage Project learning expeditions is that the work results in gifts of scholarship to the community. These culminating products can take many forms, including public presentations to the community, heritage evenings in which students read papers, display exhibits at local museums, or dramatic presentations based on their research. Students use original research as the basis for various forms of publication, including radio and television programs, web sites and published books and magazines. Such work provides authentic recognition from the community beyond the school as well as from peers.

From Robert J. Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock in Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001)

In short, place-based teaching can engage students in real work; it draws students and community members together; it results in thoughtfully developed ideas and materials that contribute to community organizations. It involves true (rather than “created”) performance-based assessment.

The Place-Based Teaching Conference will feature nationally-recognized educators whose writing has shaped our understanding of place-based learning. Montana Heritage Project teachers will provide immediately useful classroom strategies for implementing place-based teaching; Butte natives will present details of life in a particular place.

Although upper-grade and middle school teachers are invited to attend, presenters will
concentrate on practical application strategies for high school students. The course will provide materials that link place-based learning to 9-12 social studies and English standards. The course fee of $140 covers five meals, the primary texts for this course, and additional handouts.


As result of this course, participants will learn:

The rationale for place-based teaching
Specific strategies for place-based teaching, with an emphasis on research in history and folklife
Techniques for teaching research-based, nonfiction writing


Following are the general course requirements weighted for determining the granting of university credit.

1. Attendance in all class sessions: 35%
2. Satisfactory completion of all outside assignments: 35%
3. Reading of all texts provided prior to the institute: 30%


Depending on your preferences and professional situation, complete one of the following assignments:

Apply the ALERT processes to complete a small research project in your town. The final paper should be 2-3 pages (about 750 -1000 words of text) and should include visual information (photographs, maps, drawings, etc). Your topic needs to be discussed with the instructor and approved in advance.


Submit one lesson plan that details objectives and strategies for a lesson in one of the ALERT skills. More information about the ALERT skills can be found here:
The lesson plan should include a list of books, articles, media or websites that would be useful in teaching the lesson. The form for submitting the lesson plans can be found here: (or by following the “Publish” link in the upper right corner of the Place-Based Teaching Conference website:


Depending on your preferences and professional situation, complete one of the following assignments:

Write a traditional historical essay (5-10 pages) drawn from researches in your community or another community of your choice. Though the topic should have a local emphasis, a national or global context should be at least sketched. (For example, if the local railroad plays a role, explain the national events and trends that affected the railroad at that time). You may use any or all of the research processes discussed during the conference, including oral history and archival research.


Submit two lesson plans that detail objectives and strategies in one of the ALERT skills. More information about the ALERT skills can be found here:
The lesson plan should include a list of books, articles, media or websites that would be useful in teaching the lesson. The form for submitting the lesson plans can be found here: (or by following the “Publish” link in the upper right corner of the Place-Based Teaching Conference website:


Assignments should be provided as Word or WordPerfect documents and sent as attachments to the instructor (this link will open a form, which will enable you to see the instructor’s email address).

Alternatively, lesson plans may be submitted online.

Paper copies of material will not be accepted.

All assignments are due to the instructor by August 1, 2006.


When you submit your assignment electronically, please indicate in your email if you would like to receive written feedback from the instructor on your unit plan. Feedback will come in an email response.


Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities by David Sobel (See Bibliography) and a 50-100 page notebook of related readings and instructional materials.  Both will be mailed to registered participants two weeks prior to the institute.


$140 in cash or a check for 5 meals, required texts, and a course notebook of additional resources. Fee should be paid by mail prior to the course (Marcella Sherfy, Montana Heritage Project, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201) or at the beginning of the institute. Checks should be made payable to the Montana Heritage Project/Montana Historical Society.


Informal clothing adaptable to a high-altitude community and comfortable for sitting at long stretches.
Materials you use to take notes: paper and pen or laptops, etc.


Michael L. Umphrey has directed the Montana Heritage Project since 1995. He authored many of the administrative and learning strategies on which this place-based program has been built. Mike is an experienced classroom teacher and high school and middle school principal. He has served as a graduate-credit instructor for 11 prior Heritage Project institutes through Montana State University and the University of Montana. Mike’s writing in education and humanities topics has been published in education and public interest journals. He has published two books of poetry with university presses. He has given numerous presentations about student-community learning and has served as a consultant for programs similar to the Montana Heritage Project in Arizona, Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Louisiana.


Brooke, R. (2003) Rural Voices: Place-Conscious Education and the Teaching of Writing (New York: Teachers College, National Writing Project).

Dixon D. (1993) Writing Your Heritage: A Sequence of Thinking, Reading, and Writing Assignments (Berkley, CA: National Writing Project).

Sobel, D. (2004) Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities. Barrintgton, MA: The Orion Society.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 10/14 at 02:41 PM
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