By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Third-grade students at Rocky Boy Elementary School got a little hands-on learning about the Lewis and Clark expedition on Friday, thanks to the Montana Army National Guard.
About 50 students listened to a presentation by 2nd Lt. Carla Lott, watched a slide show about the expedition, and even were allowed to examine Lewis and Clark-era artifacts.
"There were some different animal pelts that the kids could touch," said third-grade teacher Tammy Pursley. "One of the things the students really liked were the uniforms Lewis and Clark wore when they met the Indians. They were made of wool, and included their hats. The kids really liked that."
Lott is the Lewis and Clark program coordinator for the Montana Army National Guard. In commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, Lott has been responsible for developing an educational program about the famed expedition.
"The Army decided that the National Guard should play some part in that celebration," Lott said. "It was a military expedition. A lot of people are under the impression that it was a scientific expedition, so one of the things I share with them is that it was done through the military."
Lott, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, applied for the position last year. In April, she was assigned to the project full time. Since then, she has traveled to communities across the state teaching students about the expedition.
"It was really very well done," Pursley said of Lott's presentation. "It was very relevant, and, in fact, we probably need to do more of that. Just being able to touch some of the items - it just brings history alive."
Pursley's class was one of three that attended the presentation. Lott's visit was arranged by third-grade teacher Gweneth Flammond, whose husband is Lott's cousin.
"Gweneth thought it would be good for the kids to have a presentation on Lewis and Clark," Pursley said, adding that the program is especially beneficial because many students do not learn about the expedition until they are older.
As the National Guard's Lewis and Clark program coordinator, Lott devotes much of her time to studying the expedition.
"I'm studying all the time," Lott said. "I minored in history in college. I've attended conferences held by (the U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers. I download information from PBS. I've read books and journal accounts."
Lott also takes advantage of her heritage to enhance her presentations about the expedition.
"I do take from my own culture. I have gone to Browning and talked to elders and to historians at the college there," she said. "It's so that I know I'm telling the story the correct way. I don't just want to give one version - I want to tell several versions.
"I try to pass on the cultural historical information. I try to share with the kids who I am and where I come from, and the importance of the Native Americans in relation to the expedition," she said.
Lott, who is the first woman from Browning to become a commissioned officer in the Montana Army National Guard, said she applied for the job as Lewis and Clark coordinator because she enjoys history.
"I just guess because I'm a history buff," she said. "Plus it's all about Lewis and Clark right now. They're the men of the hour."
Lott said she has enjoyed being able to share Montana's connection to the Lewis and Clark journey with students across the state.
"So far, I've been to Great Falls, Helena, Browning and Rocky Boy, and I will be in Cut Bank and Laurel this week," she said. "I've only been working on this since April. It's just took off. I've had a great time."
Lott said she would like to see the program expand.
"Next year, I hope it outgrows me. I hope to have a complete staff and have people in all corners of the state. Ultimately, I'd like to take it to all the grade levels," she said. "Most of the students I talk to are fourth- and eighth-graders, but I hope to see that change. If you invite me, I'll come talk to you."
Another National Guard group was scheduled to visit Rocky Boy on Friday, but poor weather forced it to cancel the trip. The Guard's Counterdrug Task Force was planning to land a helicopter in Rocky Boy and give a presentation about positive life choices, said 2nd Lt. Barb DeBree, who is the coordinator of the Guard's Drug Demand Reduction Program.
"The program is focused on supporting any community group with their drug education programs," DeBree said.