Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2012


Great Plains Research 22 (Fall 2012):99-122


© 2012 Copyright by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The National Park Service has generally interpreted its sites in the Great Plains in terms of a Eurocentric narrative of westward expansion. Though some sites are changing (e.g., Little Bighorn), others are not (e.g., Scotts Bluff). Even those sites that have changed still retain important elements of traditional narratives, which often date to the 1930s or to the Mission 66 period (1956-66). The newest sites, such as Washita Battlefield, tell newer stories that resonate well with today's visitors. These provide a model for revising older sites. Giving greater attention to causes and consequences, aiming for a richer mix of disciplinary perspectives, including a wider range of historic and prehistoric peoples, and providing more balance in cases of war or cultural conflict will all improve interpretation. Exploring multiple meanings of resources such as wilderness will bring the National Park Service's practices closer to modern academic literatures. Engaging both controversial histories and modern controversies over policy constitutes good pedagogy and should also be part of updated interpretative programs.