The Klondike Gold Rush in Washington, D.C.
27 Jun 2018

The Klondike Gold Rush in Washington, D.C.

 

27 Jun 2018

The Klondike Gold Rush

By: Alysha Page

Introduction: A Medievalist turned Afro-Americanist

My first day out on assignment to view how the public interacts with National Parks. FDR Monument, Washington, D.C

First things first, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Alysha Page, I am a current PhD student at Howard University, Washington D.C. I received both my B.A. and M.A. from Ball State University in Medieval history before obtaining my M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies from Tufts University (Yes, I am very aware I have been in school too long). I changed my area of study from the periphery of Medieval English history to the periphery of American history because the voices of so many people of color are still lost in the archives or are being silenced by the lack archival material and interest. It is my civic duty as a Black historian to give these men and women a space to speak through the records and material culture they left behind.

I am the incoming Research Historian working with the Klondike Gold Rush National Park Service with their Buffalo Soldiers 24 th Infantry, Company L project. Over the last few months I have done quite a bit of work on the Buffalo Soldiers and am excited to continue my work doing ground breaking research into one of the many groups of heroes in American history. For the next few months I will be researching in Washington, D.C. before I travel to Skagway, Alaska to work onsite with the wonderful members of NPS.

Untold Stories of American Heroes

I would also like to introduce the Buffalo Soldiers, the first all-Black Army regiment in U.S. history. The Buffalo soldiers were among the first park rangers patrolling untamed terrain and parts of the West. Following the  Civil War and the Emancipation proclamation, in 1866 Congress authorized the formation of six all Black regiments (from The United States Colored Troops) which would later be consolidated down to just four regiments (9th, 10th, 24th, & 25th). From the 1860s to the early 1890s four black regiments were stationed in the West to protect white settlers whilst also protecting themselves from the harsh realities of being Black in a nation that had not accepted or welcomed their existence. The Buffalo Soldiers were sent to harsher climates and terrains from extreme heat to extreme cold. They were paradoxically considered resilient and strong as well as lazy, undisciplined, and cowardly by their white counterparts. Even with low expectations and low funding and resources they laid the foundations for many National Parks and surpassed all expectations.

Buffalo Soldiers in Dyea prepare halibut for a fresh meal for their army unit.
Photo courtesy of the https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm

History has nearly forgotten the Buffalo Soldiers and the wonderful leaders like Col. Charles Young and their service in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and most important for my project Skagway and Dyea Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. The NPS is doing wonderful work to reveal and retell these stories. I will be looking at the lives and service of Company L, 24th Infantry on “the Last Frontier” in Southeast Alaska. During my time working with the Klondike Gold Rush NPS I hope to be able to help bring to life the stories and everyday lives of hundreds of soldiers and families that once called Skagway, Alaska home starting in 1899.

To find out more on the Buffalo Soldiers in Skagway, please visit https://www.nps.gov/klgo/learn/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm

My American Conservation Experience Swag and the Smoked Salmon from Skagway, Alaska (yumm)

My first two weeks of my position at the Department of the Interior was very short but sweet. I was introduced to all my wonderful coworkers and future friends. Unfortunately, for my first blog post I don’t have much to share. The days and hours were spent navigating the technological hurdles of becoming a part of the team as well as the varied ways to communicate with the three institutions I must be in contact with for my position (NPS, CRDIP, ACE). The lesson learned is never remain quite when concerned or confused about the goals of your project or your role. Seek clarity and always be transparent. Your team is there to help you succeed. I also learned ends and outs of the building as well as navigating working and research in Washington D.C. while my team are thousands of miles away in Alaska. I am pleased to have such a wonderful team and I can’t wait to see how the project develops.

The lovely view of Washington, D.C. from the top of the DOI building where I’ll be working for the next few months.

One last thing before I go, I did want to note that this week (20 June-27 June) I am blessed to be able to be in Preston, UK to present at a Women’s conference. I say this to let any incoming intern know that even though we are starting new positions never be afraid to ask your team and administration to pursue other career paths and dreams. They are amazingly helpful and supportive. GO FOR IT!

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