Natchez Trace Parkway Ranger Honored For Interpretive Excellence

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Jane Farmer, in uniform, was awarded the National Park Service's highest award for interpretation. NPS photo.

A ranger who worked with Native American tribes with ties to the Natchez Trace to create interpretive programs has been honored by the National Park Service for interpretive excellence.

Jane Farmer was honored with the Park Service's Freeman Tilden Award for her role in connecting American Indian students to their ancestral homelands in the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Ranger Farmer established formal partnerships with three tribal nations to provide in-depth park experiences for the students. She also worked with East Central University in Oklahoma to develop a class for those involved in the project.

In August, students from the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma traveled to the park and spent a week researching genealogy, exploring the land, and working on educational projects, including a documentary video.

In the coming months, students from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians will also visit the park. The project is a model that can be expanded to other national parks to provide youth with more opportunities to discover and connect to their own stories found within parks.

Julia Washburn, the Park Service's associate director for interpretation, education and volunteers, presented Ranger Farmer with the award last week during a ceremony at the annual National Association of Interpretation Conference in Reno, Nev.

“The students were able to walk the same land and see the same sights as their Chickasaw ancestors did in the late 1700s,” said Ms. Washburn. “The personal connections they made with their heritage turned a field trip into a life defining event. They have taken hold of this experience and made it their own, and the effects will have ripples far into the future.”

During their visit, the students met with area historians, representatives from the local Chickasaw Preserve, and members of the media. Ranger Farmer coordinated the activities for the week, and traveled with the group to assist with logistics and to introduce them to individual resource experts. She continues to work with the students as they develop materials related to the experience.

The annual Freeman Tilden Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the public through interpretation by a National Park Service employee. Award nominees are judged for their creativity, originality, and positive contributions toward the public's understanding of the National Park Service and the resources it protects. The award is named for Freeman Tilden, the author of The National Parks, What They Mean to You and Me and Interpreting Our Heritage. Tilden’s philosophy and writings have had considerable influence on National Park Service interpretation and education programs.