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The Next Generation In The Study Of Custer's Last Stand
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Friends Summer Events June 24-25, 2011 -- 135th Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
by Bob Reece
All photos © Bob Reece unless otherwise noted.
Youngest new Friends member, Jordan, with her mom Marisa
This year marked the 135th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Friends of the Little Bighorn’s highlight for the weekend was the Friday evening field trip, “Sunset of the Lakota Nation”. Besides the field trip, we held our general membership meeting and annual Friends Feast on Saturday the 25th which included a retirement party for Chief Historian John Doerner. Both Friday and Saturday, our member volunteers manned the trails to interpret the battle story for the Monument’s visitors. We enjoyed an increase in the number of first-time volunteers to interpret along the trails. Our volunteers worked the Deep Ravine and Keogh/Crazy Horse Trails, Last Stand Hill, the Indian Memorial, and Reno-Benteen Battlefield. A big thank you to our volunteers for doing another fantastic job sharing their expertise about the battle to the Monument's visitors.
For our annual fundraiser, we changed formats and instead of sitting inside listening to a renowned speaker, we took our speakers outdoors on a sunset walk upon the battlefield. It was a smart move, and thanks to the NPS giving us permission to do this, it was the most successful fundraiser in our organizations’ history. We were sold out by the end of February.
Our long line of attendees was led by Park Ranger and former Friends board member, Jerry Jasmer. Also adding to Jerry’s interpretation were former superintendent and current Friends board member Neil Mangum, as well as John Doerner. The wealth of information these three interpreters provided was priceless.
Our newest youngest Friends member, Jordan. Her brother, Logan, is the second youngest. Does this mean we'll have another newer youngest member next year? Matt? Marisa?
The field trip included Last Stand Hill, Keogh/Crazy Horse Trial, Calhoun Hill, and the Company C defense of the southern end of Calhoun Hill. For the complete details of the field trip and plenty of photos, just click on the navigation button near the top right side of this page. Or just jump on over via this button.
Friends members Dale Kosman and Anita Smyntek above Horse Holder Ravine
John Doerner begins his presentation
photo courtesy Scott Burgan
Friends Command Post & Public Feed
Our command post this year was on the second floor of the administration building. For the last two years, our location was the basement of the visitor center; however, it was filled with boxes of the collections waiting shipment to Arizona. Except for the location being far from the center hub of activity, it did provide for a comfortable resting spot with air conditioning and easy access to bathrooms. Over the weekend, some folks were fortunate enough to be at the command post at the same time that Jerry Greene, Jim Donovan, Neil Mangum, or Mike Donahue were sitting around the table talking battle talk.
Starting first thing at 9:00 AM on Friday, our members and trail volunteers arrived to register and get their scheduled shifts for interpretation. We placed interpreters along the Deep Ravine and Crazy Horse/Keogh Trails, Last Stand Hill, Indian Memorial, and Reno Benteen Battlefield. Joanne Blair provided snacks and thanks to her employer, Mountain Valley Spring bottled water was available. Our volunteers continued with interpretation through Saturday.
We also provided assistance to the NPS during the public lunch feed on Saturday the 25th. I especially want to thank Ruth Rhode, Kay Hunsaker, Joanne Blair, and our newest member Jan Reed for working on the feed. I’d heard all weekend from various NPS staff members that visitation was down. I was able to observe this from the fewer numbers enjoying the feed compared to last year. Gas prices have taken a toll on travelers up to June 25th.
Friends board member Kay Hunsaker assisting during public feed
“Ghost Herder” Signing
Friday afternoon we held a signing for the Friends first historical journal “Ghost Herder” (GH). Authors Mike Donahue, Jerry Greene, and Neil Mangum (also Senior Editor GH), and the editorial staff Bob Reece, Mike Semenock, and Ryan Trainor sat around a small table in front of the visitor center autographing copies for the visiting public. The response to GH has been positive. All proceeds from the sale of GH go into the Friends coffers to assist with projects at Little Bighorn. Jump here to order GH. And, head here to learn what projects Friends has supported so far in 2011.
Mike Donahue, Neil Mangum & Jerry Greene "Ghost Herder" signing
photo courtesy Joanne Blair
General Membership Meeting and Friends Feast
We had a great turnout for our general membership meeting, Friends Feast, and John Doerner’s retirement party. Once again, Julie Elkshoulder made the best Indian Tacos you’ll find in the West. Turns out, she also does a traditional Indian dinner which includes wild turnips and various berries that she picks in August. I’ve asked her to prepare such a meal for next year’s Feast, so it should be a treat, as well as educational for all of us.
It was amazing to look out upon the members in attendance. Many in the audience were young; we had two toddlers present and a great surprise visit by Superintendent Kate Hammond with her new son, Miles.
Joanne holds baby Miles. Kate gets a break
Acting Superintendent Barbara Johnson brought us up to date on battlefield news. I enjoyed my time with Barbara on and off the battlefield. Superintendent Kate Hammond selected the right person to fill her shoes while out on maternity leave. Barbara took to the job as if she’d already been in that position for years. Kate will return from maternity leave in August.
Friends logo shield -- Friends General Membership Meeting
photo courtesy Dona Tomita
5-year Memorandum of Agreement
Kate and Bob signed the new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Remember last year during the general membership meeting, we signed an extension to our MOA since we were in the process of rewriting the current MOA. During this year’s meeting, we celebrated an incredible accomplishment with the final draft of the MOA. Board member Mike Semenock led that process with help from Krista Muddle in the Denver Regional Office. The reason for celebration: we renewed our MOA with the NPS for five years (practically unheard of) instead of the usual three. We are one of the first partners to finalize the MOA based on a new template from the Washington office, and some newly started Friends groups are having to delay their start-up due to issues with the template and/or lack of staff to write them. Mike and Krista did an exceptional job working through this.
I'd like to give one last big thank you to Superintendent Kate Hammond for her encouragement and continual motivation to complete the MOA template.
Supt Kate Hammond & Bob Reece sign MOA
photo courtesy Kay Hunsaker
John Doerner Retirement Party
We wrapped the evening by publicly acknowledging the outstanding career of John Doerner. It was incredibly sad for many to finally admit that John will not be a cornerstone in the Stone House and one of the Monuments long-serving historians. Whomever takes on his position will have really big shoes to fill.
I presented a plaque to John on behalf of Friends to honor his career and his amazing help in making Friends the success it is. The plaque included our logo in full color and it read: “The Friends of the Little Bighorn Battlefield present to John A. Doerner with sincere appreciation for your pursuit of truth and honoring all who fought in Custer’s Last Stand and for your tireless dedication to Friends.” In the photos we have included on this page, you’ll see real tears in John’s eyes from receiving this plaque and from what many others said to honor him. Jerry Greene, Mike Donahue, Valerie Zeeb, Neil Mangum, and Tom Heski publicly honored and shared wonderful stories about John.
photo courtesy Scott Burgan
It was another great battle anniversary weekend events for Friends members. For our members who could not make the trip, we hope you’ll be able to sometime soon. I’d like to thank the Friends board members who made it this year: Kay Hunsaker, Neil Mangum, Mike Semenock, and Ryan Trainor. Also, thanks to Mike for managing the volunteers. He’s done that for enough years now that he can almost do it with his eyes closed. Thanks to Den Mother Joanne Blair for doing countless number of things that ensured all went smoothly. She kept all of us fed and hydrated. Thanks to Neil for hitting businesses in the area to sell “Ghost Herder”. A big thank you to Kay Hunsaker for preparation of the GH signing – everything about GH that weekend and in the future – working hard on the public feed, bringing Jan Reed, and being an incredible marketing guru. Thanks to the Park Service staff: Barbara Johnson for helping us with logistics, Ken Woody for the volunteers, and Jerry Jasmer for everything to do with the field trip. And, thanks to all the Friends members who volunteered on the trails. You represented Friends incredibly well and enhanced the visitor experience, all while having a blast.
I’ll see you on Last Stand Hill.
Thanks again Mountain Valley Spring Water.
Copyright 1999-2013 Bob Reece
Friends Little Bighorn Battlefield, P.O. Box 636, Crow Agency, MT 59022