Bent's Old Fort, in Colorado

Visitors Might Barter at Bent's Old Fort in New Colorado Museum

Carol Berry
1/25/11

The role-playing personae of Yellow Wolf, a Southern Cheyenne leader, Owl Woman, an influential Cheyenne negotiator, and other frontier-era notables may barter with visitors as part of an interactive exhibit depicting Bent’s Old Fort at the History Colorado Center scheduled to open in Denver in 2012.

Though plans are preliminary at this point for the new exhibits, visitors might barter for such goods as bells, beads and blankets with Yellow Wolf and cigars, compasses, and parfleches with explorer John Fremont. Or museum-goers could trade, for example, for information to be taken to a hypothetical Catholic priest in Taos, now in New Mexico and then at the edge of lands claimed by Mexico.

“We’re trying very hard not to create separate Colorado stories, but (instead) a master narrative of Colorado history,” William Convery, state historian, told an American Indian Advisory Group meeting convened by History Colorado, the Colorado Historical Society.

The group offered advice and suggestions about tribal material that would be important to include in the new museum, as well as the way in which, if at all, it would be appropriate to incorporate sacred songs or other sacred elements into proposed exhibits, including those related to the Sand Creek massacre of 1864.

Bent’s fort was an intercultural convergence on the Santa Fe Trail in the 1830s-40s where “people interacted peacefully,” while Sand Creek represents “a story about the failure of community” which was “the opposite of Bent’s Fort and a real tragedy,” Convery said.

Phase one of the exhibit development is the combined story of Colorado communities, including those of Ute, Comanche and Apache Tribes, as well as earlier sites included in the 10,000-year span contemplated for the exhibits.

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