Westminster Expedition Students in the Open American West

During the 2017 Fall Semester, 14 students, two professors, and a program coordinator will load books, camping gear, and themselves into a couple of vans and hit the road for a semester-long tour of the American West.

The trip is designed as an exploration into the issues at the heart of the contemporary West. Students will earn 16 credits in environmental studies and history as they study Environmental Cooperation and Conflict, Landscape and Meaning, the History of Public Lands, and the Native West.

This prolonged journey into the field will allow us to learn directly from landscapes and ecosystems, as well as from people who live, work, and study in those places. Together, we expect to build a cohort of impassioned scholars with a particular breadth and depth of experiential knowledge who are equipped to build a better future for the West.

We will visit iconic, protected sites like Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, contentious places like the Little Bighorn and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, working landscapes like the Butte Copper Mines, and communities from present-day Native nations to "New West" towns like Bend, Twisp, and Moab.

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Visiting Manzanar

November 13, 2017

Eliza Clarke

When one thinks of the National Parks Service they may drift immediately to Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Arches National Park. However, it goes much further than that. Just a few other things included in their management are parks, monuments, and historic sites. This has become much more obvious the more we explore the American West.

Manzanar means "apple orchard." However, to certain people the word takes on a completely different meaning. Manzanar, California is a place where executive order 9066 allowed over 10.000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants to be held against their will. Many of these people were American citizens. Their ancestry and the United States' fear allowed them to become much more than that. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor anyone that looked Japanese became a threat as inside spies or conspiring. In reality they were small business owners, parents, children, or farmers trying to make it in the world. A total of 120,000 people of Japanese descent were held in camps all across the American West. Today we remember those who were betrayed, dishonored, and confined because of their ancestry.

Two rocks in Manzanar

Manzanar is a national historic stie managed by the National Parks Service. My experience at the site was extremely informative and personal. When wandering through the exhibits you see artifacts, photos, and personal family stories of survivors. The parks service does a great job displaying the injustice in an informative and productive way. With everything they may manage, I was surprised by the efficiency of the visitors center. There wasn't sugar coating or sympathizing with the oppressors like I expected a government agency to do. They obviously recognize and show no support of what happened there. Included in the visitors center was a gift shop, which seemed strange to be a part of the memorial. However, it was filled with propaganda against creating something like this ever again. It drew out the parallels between issues today and executive order 9066.

Memorial in Manzanar

A guestbook in the museum showed a window into the other visitors' experiences by leaving notes of condolences and urging to never let this type of discrimination be carried out by our country again. Let us learn from these mistakes.

Note on a Table

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Expedition in the News

Two people on a canoe
Group of Students around Campfire

The Route

Our proposed route is an enormous figure eight, heading northwest first (because of potential early winter weather) and including Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Course-related sites include sites of environmental/cultural conflict or cooperation (e.g., Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; East Tavaputs Plateau tar sands; Klamath River dams; the Berkeley Pit, the Nevada Test Site, Owens Lake); National Parks (e.g., Yellowstone, North Cascades, Olympic, Redwood, Grand Canyon, Great Basin); wilderness areas (e.g., Bob Marshall, Glacier Peak); Native nations and sites (e.g., Burns Paiute, Coast Salish, Miwok, the Nez Perce trail, Colville, Pyramid Lake, Hopi); dam sites (e.g., Teton, Grand Coulee, Hoover, Hetch Hetchy, Snake River); and relevant towns/cities (e.g., Bozeman, Bend, Cody, Moab, Winthrop, Page).

Expedition Route

Course Descriptions


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