Interview: "Lifting Voice from the Shadows" Oral History Project | Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area

Interview: “Lifting Voice from the Shadows” Oral History Project

The Poudre Heritage Alliance (PHA), nonprofit managing entity of the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area (CALA), is collaborating with the Northern Arapaho tribe, Colorado State University’s Native American Cultural Center, and the National Heritage Areas Program to compile stories from Northern Arapaho women.

PHA Executive Director, Kathleen Benedict, interviewed Yufna Soldier Wolf of the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wind River, Wyoming, to introduce the project and discuss why it is important to record the stories of Northern Arapaho women.

The Northern Arapaho lived in the Cache la Poudre River basin for centuries before the United States military forcibly removed the tribe to Wyoming in the 1870s. It is vital that Northern Colorado communities learn the stories of the people whose historic and spiritual homeland is the Cache la Poudre River. Doing so can help people properly understand the complicated history and ecology of the region. The involved organizations hope that the “Lifting Voices from the Shadows” project will strengthen partnerships, build the PHA’s education and interpretation program, and connect people to their collective Poudre River heritage.

The project is funded by a $25,000 “Women in Parks Innovation and Impact” grant from the National Park Foundation (NPF). The goal of the grant “is to support projects and programs that help the NPS share a more comprehensive American narrative that includes the voices of women.” In particular, the initiative is meant to raise awareness of the 19th Amendment’s centennial this year and to “highlight stories of women who continue to shape the world.” However, as Benedict and Soldier Wolf discuss in the video, Indigenous women did not gain the right to vote in 1920. It was not until the Snyder Act passed in 1924 that Indigenous Americans earned their full U.S. citizenship, though some states continued to deny Indigenous Americans their enfranchisement as late as 1962.

The “Lifting Voices from the Shadows” project is an opportunity for Northern Arapaho women to share their personal experiences with voting and address contemporary issues in a respectful and professional context. Soldier Wolf believes this is the first opportunity that Northern Arapaho women have had to share their stories with the public. The PHA will record 8-12 women’s oral histories in the coming months. Thanks to the grant support, the organization will also create educational videos and interpretive materials, and share relevant content about the promises and failures of the 19th Amendment.

The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area is treasured by a community that values it for a variety of recreational activities and the tranquility of a natural corridor, while also depending on it as a water source for municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses. A wide range of cultural perspectives form our rich Poudre River heritage. This project will help the PHA present creative and balanced interpretation representing the variety of cultures that make up our river corridor and helping citizens find a sense of place and continuity in a rapidly changing world.

To stay up-to-date on events and information related to this project please visit: https://poudreheritage.org/lifting-voices/