Students shape Wind River virtual tour

TravelStorysGPS Wind River virtual tour (Photo by Kalle Benallie, Indian Country Today)

Kalle Benallie

A tech company tapped local high schoolers to research sites and tell their tribes' stories for a self-guided tour of the reservation

Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

The heart of a new Wind River Reservation virtual tour is a group of local high school students who helped create narratives for 10 significant locations.

Senior Larami Azure, Eastern Shoshone, said the experience changed her as a person and allowed her to dig into her tribe’s history like never before.

“I just wanted to show the reservation is actually a very beautiful place, and there’s a lot of good things here that a lot people take for (granted) and don’t actually think about,” Azure said.

TravelStorysGPS asked the Fort Washakie High School students to tell their tribes' stories for a virtual tour of the reservation, which is available on the company's website and app.

The tour allows people to experience the sights remotely or listen and learn about them as they drive through the Wyoming reservation. Highlights include scenic Ray Lake and the final resting places of Sacagawea and legendary Eastern Shoshone leader Chief Washakie.

Wind River Reservation
(Photo courtesy of Jennie Hutchinson)

Indian Education Director Lynette St. Clair said the project began in the spring of 2019 with 12 students, but the number dwindled to four due to the changing school year.

Azure stayed with the project and said the experience helped her choose her college major. Her role included interviewing tribal elders, selecting locations and taking pictures to include in the tour.

“This really helped me, actually help me grow as a person and get more comfortable with speaking and talking,” she said.

St. Clair said it launched the students to dive deeper into their history.

Wind River Reservation virtual tour
(Courtesy of Monte McCann)

“Once they were engaged and they started to do research on these sites, they just grew wings and they took off,” she said.

And it was a chance to empower students to tell their own tribal history.

“The narratives for a lot of our history and a lot of the things that we have gone through historically have all been written from a different perspective and not from the perspective of the people for which they are written,” she said.

For many years, St. Clair and Story Clark, TravelStorysGPS CEO, discussed the idea. And one of the main reasons it was created was to not only tell Indigenous stories but to drive economic opportunities.

“We’re creating homegrown, authentic information that could help with economic development for the reservation by attracting more people who are really interested in the authentic traditions of the reservation,” Clark said.

Wind River Reservation
(Photo courtesy of Tom Koerner)

TravelStorysGPS currently offers around 130 audio tours in 36 states and three countries. It is a free app that can be downloaded on GooglePlay and Apple’s App Store.

“When you look out the window of your car and you see a mountain or community, our goal as storytellers is to help communities tell those stories in the most inspiring and informative ways,” Clark said.

TravelStorysGPS is also looking to have the Wind River Reservation tour available in the Shoshone and Arapaho language and for future tours for other tribes to be in their respective languages. Currently, it has tours available in English, Mandarin and Spanish.

“Keeping these languages alive is part of keeping the culture alive,” Clark said.

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Kalle Benallie, Navajo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @kallebenallie or email her at kbenallie@indiancountrytoday.com.

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