BOZEMAN, Mont. — Yellowstone National Park turns 150 on March 1, and numerous activities are planned to honor the occasion.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, park staff has not planned any large-scale events to commemorate Yellowstone’s centenary. That could change over the course of the year, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said at a virtual event Thursday that the park’s 150th anniversary is a time to reflect on the lessons of the past, but it’s also a time to focus on the future.
“This isn’t just about the past century and a half,” he said. “We also want to use this anniversary to better recognize the many Native American nations that lived in this area for thousands of years before Yellowstone became a park.”
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More than 10,000 years before the United States government maintained Yellowstone National Park, Native Americans had fished, hunted, gathered plants, collected obsidian and used thermal waters there for religious and medicinal purposes, the park staff wrote.
President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act on March 1, 1872, setting aside one of the world’s largest, nearly intact natural ecosystems for the “benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations,” according to the park.
Starting March 1, this year, the park will host a series of activities to commemorate that date. Many Native American Tribes are expected to participate.
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In August, multiple Tribal Nations will participate in installing a Tipi Village near the Roosevelt Arch. It will be an opportunity for them to interact directly with visitors and educate them about their culture and heritage in the landscape, Sholly said.
At Old Faithful, park workers are turning a structure near the visitor education center into a Tribal Heritage Center, and Tribal Nations can use that space to display their artwork and cultural items for visitors to see, Sholly said.
“We’re focused on making sure we tell these stories well, as managers of these parks,” he said. “We’re working with Tribal Nations to ask questions about ‘What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What are we completely missing?’”
Also this year, the park employees are preparing to open 40 new employee residences. In addition, major groundbreaking projects totaling more than $125 million are planned. Funding came from the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, which passed in 2020.
Following a $28 million road improvement project, the road from Tower Fall to Chittenden Road at Dunraven Pass will reopen this year, the staff wrote. The road has been closed for two years.
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Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Yellowstone National Park Lodges, said the park is a place of tremendous inspiration — inspiration that contributed to science, art, music, literature and more, and inspiration that led to America’s best idea. .
While the pandemic has delayed or affected much of the planning around the park’s anniversary, Xanterra Parks will host a public event on May 6 to commemorate the 150th summer season, Hoeninghausen said.
People can count on refreshments, and there will be a Native American art exhibit and marketplace at the Old Faithful Inn, and free tours of the Old Faithful area, he said.
Scott Frazier, a 72-year-old Crow Tribal member and the director of Project Indigenous, said he grew up and frequented the park, and in his opinion Yellowstone is a sacred place.
“In this time of struggle between the people, these places are very important,” he said. “To be able to come out and listen to nature – and not a machine, and not cars, and not your boss – to come out and sit down and just listen to nature – it’s very healing.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.