Vore site reports successful spring field trips

Volunteer Barry Floyd helps a student ready a dart at the atlatl station.
Volunteer Barry Floyd helps a student ready a dart at the atlatl station.

With help from 20 volunteers, most from Crook County, the Vore Buffalo Jump hosted 553 students from 14 schools during the month of May. Jackie Wyatt, president of the non-profit Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation Board that manages the Vore Site noted, “The mission of the board is to ensure that the Vore Site is used to tell the story of the pre-horse bison hunters to a wide audience, and our field trip program is an important part of our effort. We couldn’t have these programs without the support of local volunteers.” The students ranged in grade from the Lead-Deadwood third graders to high school students from Teton County. Most were fourth graders, including the Sundance class. Teacher Karen Disney commented, “The Sundance fourth graders had a great peek into the past. It was a wonderful learning experience.”

During field trips, small groups of students rotate through the site. Volunteers at each station aid in activities. In a message to the VBJF Board, Travis Heitmann, a fourth grade teacher at Gillette’s Lakeview Elementary stated, “Thank you so much for running the Buffalo Jump the way you do! It was an amazing experience and the kids really enjoyed it. I’ve heard from several that they loved the atlatl throw.” At this stop students threw darts at a target using a throwing stick called an atlatl. These weapons were made obsolete by the bow and arrow. All the projectile points found at the Vore Site would have been arrow tips. Eric Stever, Ted Vore, Dan Fairbanks, and Jo Powell were instrumental in setting up the atlatl station; Barry Floyd, Roy Bush and Zach Davis were primarily responsible for keeping the throwers in line.

Glen Wyatt, Ted Vore, Jackie Wyatt, and Roy Bush manned stations where students are told how the hunters jumped the buffalo and about the tribes who likely used the Vore Site and how the archaeology done at the Vore Site sheds light on the activities of these hunters. US Forest Service Archaeologist Michael Engelhart, who worked at the Vore Site as a student, also helped at the bone bed.

Each student takes home a souvenir arrow point. US Forest Service Archaeologists Jena Rizzi aided in upgrading the arrow point dig box to make this station a learning experience. Volunteers Jean Jones, Linda Stagmeyer, Becky Easley, Trudy Durfee, Suzzane Boykin, Jo Powell, Sherry Tryon, Betsy Mahoney, Randy Leinen, Linda Rogers, Barry Floyd and Betty Haiar read stories during the snack stop, helped at stations explaining how the Native American hunters used the bison and how big their tipis were, and aided with hands-on excavation activities.

The Vore Site was discovered in 1969 during construction of Interstate 90. The land that is now the Vore Site belonged to the Vore family. Once it became clear that the site was one of the most important Late-Prehistoric Native American bison kill sites on the continent, the Vore family donated the land to the University of Wyoming with the intention that it be developed into a cultural center. When the site reverted to the Vore family after 12 years in UW hands, the family donated the site to the non-profit VBJF. Ted Vore, who serves as the VBJF board treasurer and who volunteers during field trips stated, “Dad was very pleased when we four kids suggested that the site be dedicated to education and research. His only concern was that it would never become a tourist trap. Mother was a history believer and would be very proud could she understand what is being taught and shared here today. Dad and Mother would be very pleased to know, especially, the number of kids being introduced to this history.”

For those who would like to have a taste of the field trip experience, a good time to visit the site is June 17. On that day the Vore Site will be hosting their third annual Artifact Roadshow in collaboration with the National Grasslands Visitors Center and the University of Nebraska. During this event area residents are invited to bring in personal American Indian artifacts for identification. Archaeologists from the Forest Service, the University of Nebraska and the University of Wyoming will be on site to assist with identification of artifacts and to interpret how these tools impacted past human cultures. There will be no admission charged on June 17. The atlatl station will be operational, and there will be demonstrations of flint knapping.

Submitted by Jacqueline Wyatt