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Public Involvement Sought To Celebrate Fort Union's 50th Anniversary And The National Park Service's Centennial


Williston area residents convinced Congress to create a nation’s park nearly 50 years ago. And to celebrate that accomplishment and the MonDak region’s inspiration for “America’s Best Idea,” its national parks, the National Park Service seeks community input.

To share your thoughts and ideas for how the National Park Service could celebrate Fort Union Trading Post’s 50th anniversary in 2016, join the park’s staff for a public meeting at the Williston Public Library. The meeting will be Wednesday, April 29, at 7 p.m.

“The park exists because of the people of Williston and the greater MonDak area,” Fort Union curator Fred MacVaugh said. “They inspired Congress to authorize the historic site in 1966. Then, despite NPS opposition, they convinced Congress to fund the post’s reconstruction in the 1980s.”

That same community enthusiasm and commitment is desired again to celebrate not only the park’s 50th anniversary but also the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial. “Without historic Fort Union,” MacVaugh said, “America might not have national parks at all.” It was after visiting Fort Union and the Upper Missouri in 1832 that the artist George Catlin first called for Congress to create a “nation’s park.”

In addition to seeking community input at the meeting, Fort Union’s staff will introduce and solicit support for two anniversary-related proposals. The first is to collaborate with individuals and community organizations like the James Memorial Art Center to develop a museum exhibit that showcases the region’s role in the park’s creation. “Rather than us telling the story,” MacVaugh says, “we’d rather invite local residents to share their stories and memorabilia of their own and the communities’ involvement.”

The exhibit would be displayed at Williston’s James Memorial Art Center and Sidney’s MonDak Heritage Center during the summer of 2016, MacVaugh said. At the meeting, park staff will outline the exhibit proposal and ask for interested community members to share their memories and help develop the exhibit.

The second proposal is for park art workshops. Because of the region’s rich tradition of American Indian and Euro-American artwork, the park wants to develop art workshops for school-age children in collaboration with community partners such as the James Memorial Art Center. The hope is to inspire kids to explore the park and learn the area’s history while developing their own skills as sketchers, painters, photographers, or storytellers. To help with this, the park wants to recruit interested local artists as volunteers to lead workshops either at the park or the heritage center.


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