Montana is a gorgeous place. Millions of years of Mother Nature’s harshest weather and catastrophic geothermal events have worked to shape this landscape that we all know and love. Native Americans, people who have inhabited this area for thousands of years, have collected a wealth amounts of knowledge and wisdom about this land.
Many people are unaware that a plentiful amount of information about the Greater Yellowstone area has been ignored and forgotten by mainstream American culture. But the Native cultures still have this knowledge and wisdom. They have not forgotten. The invasive culture just moved it to the past. One such example is Iichíilikaashaashe.
The Yellowstone River has been called Iichíilikaashaashe in Crow, for hundreds of years, and they still know it by this name. This translates in English to the Elk River or the Elk Crossing River. The large abundance of elk that live near the river. They are often seen crossing it.
The name Yellowstone came into being when French explorers mistranslated the word “Elk” for the word “Yellow”, and the are very similar in sign language, along with the word “Crossing” for “Rock”. The explorers called the river “La Roche Jaune” or “Yellow Rock River” in English. This name can be found on early maps of the area.
Elk are culturally significant to Yellowstone because they display the astonishing historical beauty of who we are, and who we used to be.
A Frenchman named De la Verendrye may have been the first to call the river, “La Roche Jaune,” as he explored the area in the late 18th century. An Englishman named David Thompson was the first use the English translation, “Yellowstone,” in an 1897 notation. Lewis and Clark also called the river “Yellowstone”. Eventually, “Yellowstone,” became the name of choice for the river.
This land is ancient. But it is ours. It seems to be a forbidden thought that we could put away our electronics and enjoy our experiences on a deeper level. This place, the Yellowstone area, is not leaving. We should experience and enjoy the land as it was meant to be, the way that the Native Americans did. We should learn and recognize their cultures, because it is not dead. It has just been ignored.
According to Dr. Shane Doyle, a Native American historian and member of the Crow tribe, the fix is simple. Tippis and lodges can be set up at the entrances of the park. There, tribe members of various tribes would be able to give talks, where they would share their knowledge, their perspectives of this area. Somewhere where people can learn about the original cultures and experience them first hand. A place where all of that wisdom about this area, that has been gathered for thousands of years, can be passed on to the present inhabitants. It gives every person who enters the park the opportunity to experience the land in a different way, The way that it has been enjoyed for thousands of years.
If people experience the park the way that it was meant to be, the way that the Natives did, there would be more respect for the natural order of things. People would respect the animals, and keep their distance. People would realize, this land is ours and we should protect it. Teach people to slow down, soak things in, and bask in the everlasting beauty that is this area.