Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum Manager Rosemary Devinney speaks
at the LCPD open house on Saturday, November 25.
By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum Manager Rosemary Devinney encouraged those in attendance at the Language and Culture Preservation Department Open House to learn their family history as she told hers.
She explained her descendancy on her paternal side through a mountain man, Maddie Camas, Minnie Snipe and Ollie Farmer. Rosemary’s father is Joseph Farmer. “All of us in this room have history, what is your history?” “Why I believe history is really important and we should all learn about our family heritage,” she said.
She’s worked at the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum for about 27 years. It’s not the Fort Hall museum as some refer to it because that building is in Pocatello at the Fort Hall Replica. The Shoshone-Bannock Museum is run by our tribal people so that why it’s known by that name, she said.
She explained the museum was built with economic development funds when the Tribes had an option of either building a hotel or a museum so the tribal council at the time chose to build the museum. The purpose is to preserve the Tribes culture and heritage and it was completed in 1985. The building was designed after the district lodges, “I believe this to be very significant to our history because the lodges is where we have dances, feasts, meetings, played handgames, other games – a place where our cultural practices and values were passed down to the young younger generation.”
Rosemary thought it was really neat the way they built the museum. The museum was closed a for a time but was reopened in 1993 when the late Joyce Ballard, Delbert Farmer naap, Rusty Houtz naap, Lillian Vallely naap and Drusilla Gould utilized their family heirlooms and photos for the exhibits. In 1995, Ballard passed away and Gould went on to teach the Shoshone language at Idaho State University. Devinney was hired in 1996 and was thankful for the late Rusty Houtz who assisted her as he knew what was in the museum.
She believed the Tribes history needed to be told as the majority of books were by white authors. She came across a book titled, “Shoshone-Bannock and old Fort Hall” written by Anne Merkeley and it had information shared by tribal members Ballard, Gould, the late Ramona Walema and Clyde Hall, so she obtained permission to utilize it to put on museum panels.
Rosemary noticed there wasn’t hours of operation posted for the museum to be open so she did that, along with charging admission. Those who are tribal members of any nation get free admission by showing tribal identification cards or certificate of Indian blood.
She told about the Benedicte Wrenstead photo collection that former museum manager Bonnie Wadsworth helped assist Joanna Scherer in identifying with tribal elders. Wrenstead was a Danish photographer who had a studio in Pocatello from 1895 to 1912 and she photographed a lot of our tribal people. There’s a total of 148 photos she took and they were able to identify over 80% of them. The glass plates of the photos were found at the Smithsonian Museum where Scherer worked – she was working on a Handbook of North American Indians and discovering the photos led her to Fort Hall.
There are two significant documents Rosemary believes tribal members need to be aware of – the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 and the Tribes Constitution and Bylaws. She believes it’s important to also tell about the Tribes beadworkers because she knows many do it for a living.
She also tells visitors about the Shoshone-Bannock Festival to come and celebrate. They ask what the Tribes are celebrating and she advises, “we are celebrating life – grateful we are here with family and friends – prayers are expressed through song and dance.”
The museum has a section where books, beadwork and posters are available. She utilizes local Native authors.
She believes it’s important to preserve the languages as he grandmother told her the Tribes culture and language will be gone one day – it was her foretelling of the future and that’s a scary thought to her. She said language preservation through the Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy is a good start as she has a great granddaughter attending there and it’s neat to hear her talk. The work the LCPD is doing is also important and all of the efforts need to be supported. The museum was moved under the LCPD in 2014.
She said the most important subject is history of the Tribes survival, “the ancient people the hunter gatherers were out there just moving to the food sources so that is basically what our history was.” “Our ancestors had to know how to build our shelters, how to hunt the game, where to hunt, where to gather the plants, like this year, the pine nuts were already open that means when the rabbit brush is in full bloom the cones are going to open, it was too late to go that’s why they didn’t have a successful gathering.” She said that’s something our tribal people passed down to us – when we need to go, when we need to get there. Those are some of things we try to talk about. We come from really awesome people, I often think about how would we survive out there,” Devinney continued.
When the two young girls – Susan Dixey-Avila and Ellanis Stagner – sang the circle dance song at the open house it gave her a really good feeling because young people are learning.
“I know history is really boring, but to me I enjoy talking about history, I get to meet people from all over the world and share the stories of our survival. Thank you for allowing me to speak,” she concluded.