Work is proceeding to upgrade the local archaeological site, work the manager says is like a dream come true.
Anna Brumley, who manages the Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump behind the Holiday Village Mall, said workers were installing the new roof on the first exhibit building at the historic site, with work to upgrade another exhibit building close to complete, and a new interpretive center being constructed by the YouthBuild program hosted at Montana State University-Northern expected to be on the site at the Wahkpa Chu’gn entrance by Christmas.
“It’s all coming together, ” said Brumley, who has been operating the site with her husband, archaeologist John Brumley, for 17 years.
John Brumley discovered the site as a youth in 1962.
Anna Brumley said they are still looking for funding for one more upgrade. She is looking into grant funding to make up the about-$30,000 to replace one more exhibit building, in a design similar to what the workers are erecting at the first exhibit.
The other exhibit building at the site eventually will be abandoned due to the high level of erosion at its location.
Brumley said that once all the work is done, all three exhibit buildings will be handicap accessible, and the Polaris all-terrain-vehicle anonymously donated to the site this year also will help with access.
The new building for Exhibit 1 will have access to go down into the excavation, where the people at the site will be surrounded by artifacts, she said.
The new interpretive center, being paid through a Tourism Infrastructure Improvement Grant through the Montana Department of Commerce, will be a 32-foot-by-12-foot building, located by the entrance above the displays.
The project as saved through a unique collaboration when bids came in higher-than-expected on the planned exhibit-building work, more than the $100,000 — $66,000 in TIIP money and $34,000 in county matching funds — available. Much of that overage was due to the requirement that people payed with TIIP money be payed in federal Davis-Bacon wage rates.
With help from Bear Paw Development Corp. and the state tourism department, plans were revised, with TIIP money now going toward the interpretive building, buying the materials so the students enrolled in YouthBuild could construct the frame, and to pay for other interior work.
H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum Foundation money was used for the exhibit buildings, counting toward the required grant matching funds.
Brumley said work on the interior of the Exhibit 1 building will continue once the frame is complete and the old exhibit structure removed.
Once the interpretive center is completed and moved to the site, the interior work will begin. Brumley said the hope is for her, her husband and volunteers to start working on displays in the building in March, with all set to go by next June.
The community support for the archaeological site is immense, she added, in projects like this, maintenance and just general operation of the site and helping with tours and special events.
“It’s amazing, the people who will come forward and volunteer and help, ” Brumley said.