Anthropological Internship at the Moon-Randolph Homestead

During the fall semester of 2021, I was fortunate enough to partake in an internship at the historic Moon-Randolph Homestead in the rattlesnake. The homestead was first used by the Salish tribe, long before settlers came to the Missoula area. It was then homesteaded by the Moon family then sold to the Randolph family a few years later. Then in the 1990s, after the last member of the Randolph family to live on the homestead passed away, the city of Missoula purchased it in order to preserve its history and to increase the public land surrounding Missoula. While interning there I was tasked with two large projects and a number of small ones. The first of the two major projects, which took place in the first half of my time there, was to care for the homestead’s historic orchard; I learned more than I ever thought I could about orchards, by pruning the trees, weeding the area, spreading mulch, and almost single-handedly harvesting all the apples from the nearly sixty-tree orchard which were then given to Western Cider where the apples were crafted into a special cider which consisted of only homestead apples. The second major project which I undertook was the cleaning of the homestead’s original tack shed which had not been opened since the city first bought the land in the 1990s; while wearing a full-body Tyvek suit and respirator, I removed every artifact from the shed and used gallons upon gallons of bleach to clean more mouse nests, dead mice, and, above all else, mouse feces than I have ever seen at every other time in my life combined. I then cleaned every artifact individually and then reorganized the shed and created a meaningful display within it so that visitors could have a better understanding of how homesteaders relied on horses every day in a time when mechanical machines were almost non-existent. In addition, I helped with general maintenance of the historic homestead and gave tours on several Saturdays during the semester to help visitors understand what it was like to live during the time period of homesteaders.

My internship experience not only gave me relevant work experience which will help me in my anthropology career, but it also helped me to gain diverse perspectives on American history, including those on the opposing side of homesteaders- the indigenous peoples whose land was ultimately taken from them. Learning about the history of the area in which many of us call home from both the commonly learned perspective of the colonizer and the underrepresented perspective of those who were colonized helped me to fulfill my global theme: culture and politics. Those diverse perspectives are now assisting me in the way that I go about my capstone project which involves indigenous misrepresentation in the media, which stems directly from the US’s history of settler colonialism. The information that I learned at the internship in order to accurately provide information on tours has helped me to see a narrative about homesteading and manifest destiny which is not often taught in American history.

Teaching Dance at Lowell Elementary

My name is Chloe Burnstein and I use the pronouns She/Her. My chosen global theme is social inequality and human rights. For my beyond the classroom experience I had the opportunity to teach a somatic dance therapy focused class as part of Lowell Elementary after school program in. I was specifically interested in combining the practice of emotional regulation with the theory that kinesthetic movement can heal our souls and bodies through my teaching. Lowell is located in East Missoula and is considered the lowest income elementary school in the district. The after school program at Lowell Elementary is the only school in the Missoula County Public School district that offers a free after school program full of intellectual activities and opportunities, provided and funded by Missoulas’ Parks and Recreation department. Most of the children attending Lowell come from low economic households and often do not have the opportunity to attend dance or therapy. No child should have to miss out on activities that provide moments internal discovery due to financial hardship. Therapy should not be considered an “opportunity,” but instead, a health care “right.”

During the hour-long sessions I taught, I encouraged different emotions, feeling, and sensations through a variety of games and challenges, supporting the exploration of emotion, without fear and instead curiosity and empowerment. The goal of these activities were to visualize, regulate, and simply notice the feeling being experienced through movement. It was the hope that these techniques would be something the children could return to and utilize as an outlet. Throughout the last 14 weeks I was guided by both Heidi Eggert Jones and Brooklyn Draper, professors of dance and Tess Sneeringer, the director of the Lowell after school program. In moments of frustration and failure their words of guidance and suggestion, reminded me that dance and talking/feeling your emotions is incredibly vulnerable. I narrowed my focus into just giving my time and energy into allowing the 60 minutes to be a safe place, where every child was seen, acknowledged, and loved. A space where emotions could be felt, and a place where we began to slowly begin to explore what those emotions may look like in the body without judgement. I yearned to share to share the healing and magical benefits that movement can provide. 

This experience was incredibly humbling. I saw just a bit of what these children lives were like. I remember talking to a peer in the program, identifying that many of these kids were experiencing, “adult sadness, not kid sadness.” There were many moments of self reflection, gratitude, joy, and even guilt. I discovered the elation that teachers often speak about. The feeling of connection and community that is developed between both the learner and the leader. I unearthed through my own personal experiences that a teacher is just as much a learner as well. The feeling of providing support, structure, decision making, and a safe space for children whose homes lack those elements is incredibly special. I believe this realization will influence the future actions I take as a leader.

A Season on a Women’s & Nonbinary Chainsaw Conservation Crew

For my Beyond the Classroom experience, I had the immense privilege of joining a women’s and nonbinary chainsaw crew through Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC). I wouldn’t hesitate to call my time on this crew the best of my life. The work was definitely hard, but that’s what made the experience so impactful. I lived, camped, and worked outside for the entire season for both the on and off hitches. I was able to be a successful full time student on top of the twelve hour work days. I packed my life down to the bare minimum (one has to do that when living out of a 2002 Toyota Corolla), learned how to wake up at five thirty every morning, learned how to become safe and competent with a Stihl 461 chainsaw, learned that Russian Olives are really thorny, learned that drinking seven Nalgenes a day was necessary, learned that disassembling and reassembling saws is a sort of art form, learned that living outside in November in Colorado is demanding but beautiful, and that I am so much stronger—both physically and mentally—than I ever thought I could be. But the physical demands of the job were only a part of the picture.

When living and working full time with a small crew of people, being able to work with others and accommodate all perspectives is key. Being on a conservation crew means that every person absolutely has to pull their weight, but there is also room to support one another when rest (either physical or emotional) is needed. In order to form a good group culture, our crew as a whole would pick one reading they found impactful each hitch and we would discuss it around the fire before bed. One of our members brought us a different group craft to do each hitch. On Halloween, we dressed up in our best backcountry costumes and went trick or treating to each person’s tent. Personally, I felt that there was a lot of space created for me to expand my leadership capabilities. Work ethic and motivation were key, but so was being able to show up to the group and facilitate a fun environment. During the final evaluation of the season, my crew leaders recommended that I myself try my hand at being a crew leader with my own crew in the future. 

My GLI theme is inequality and human rights, and I found that this tied in well to my experience in many ways. For starters, the crew that I was on was something called an “affinity space.” This means that it was a space reserved specifically for women and queer folks, and was intentionally formed this way in order to create a safer space to live, work, and have fun. Our crew was its own sort of wonderful, intentional community built around queerness and a love of the earth. This made me realize that having affinity spaces at every level of work and society in the real world could be a way of cultivating social justice and support everywhere in the future. In addition, the work itself that we were doing was invasive species removal (Russian Olive and Tamarisk) and the subsequent conservation of riverbanks and riparian areas. Social justice is environmental justice, and vice versa. Humans and the natural world are deeply connected, and being able to preserve and protect the environment is vital if we hope to achieve many of the goals of social justice, specifically the ones oriented around having stable and safe and accepting places to live, work, and express oneself, as well as having clean water, air, and food to be able to do so. 

Wilderness & Civilization

My name is Libby and I spent the Fall 2021 semester backpacking and camping throughout western Montana as part of the Wilderness & Civilization program. My theme is Resources and Sustainability, which pairs well with my major in Wildlife Biology. My major is a fairly niche field, but Resources and Sustainability encompasses a greater scope of topics that I was able to explore through this program, including wilderness ethics, nature writing, and land art.

Land art at Blackfoot Pathways sculpture garden in Lincoln, MT

What I really loved about this program was the way it balanced teaching us about big, abstract concepts driving discourse about the wilderness with learning practical skills for surviving in it. There were many days where I would get into heated discussions about the future of the Wilderness Act in the morning, then literally heat it up in the afternoon with emergency fire building. It challenged me to rethink my opinions on everything from land designations to the logging industry, and more importantly, to put those ideas into words and actions.

Logging site owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy in accordance with the principles of ecological forestry

One of the ongoing conversations we had in almost every class was about whether or not “wilderness” is even a worthwhile concept in the first place. “Big W Wilderness” as we called it is the strictest, most protected land designation we have in this country. It preserves landscapes in their most pristine condition, with no roads, motor vehicles, or extractive activities. However, it operates under the assumption that “pristine” means untouched and “untrammeled” by people. This is a very Western idea because it ignores a long history of active management by Native peoples in these landscapes. We spent over a month reading about the wilderness from the perspective of early foresters, indigenous leaders, nature writers, and modern scientists. At the end of the semester, we had to distill all of these conversations into a final essay defining our wilderness ethic and our hope for the future of wilderness. This is one of the hardest essays I have ever had to write. 

I learned so much this semester about the amazing place I live and the many perspectives and experiences that have made it the place it is today. But I also learned a lot about myself. I put myself way out of my comfort zone to do this program, and it was worth it in more ways than I can count. I realized I am so much more capable than I thought I was. I lived in the backcountry for 10 days, I navigated my trek crew through river crossing and bushwacking and trusted them to lead me in turn, I learned from indigenous voices and challenged my assumptions about industries I knew little about. And all the while, I was making friends for life. Thank you, W&C cohort of 2021. I will never forget you.

Admiring a valley in the Badger-Two Medicine, the aboriginal land of the Blackfeet Nation. The next day, we would hike past that furthest peak.