Historical society takes home several awards

KateLynn Slaamot

Submitted photo

Anika Oleson placed first in the young historian category, grades 3-5. Pictured above is her project “Native Americans of the Plains.” Oleson learned many interesting facts about Native Americans. 


KateLynn Slaamot

NLJ Correspondent


The Weston County Historical Society has been promoting history in Weston County for many years, and one way the society does that is by entering the Wyoming State Historical Society awards program every year. While the local chapter always performs well, according to the society’s awards chairman, Mike Jording, this year was exceptionally successful – with the group taking home a total of 12 awards. 

“We had quality award nominations,” Jording said.

Jording has been involved in the chapter for over 30 years, and he is in charge of nominating and entering projects in the awards program. Nonstudent entries must be made by the end of April, and student entries must be made by May 31. 

Once the projects are nominated and entered, they go to a Wyoming State Historical Society awards committee, which reviews the entries and chooses the awards. Each chapter in the state can enter projects. The virtual awards ceremony can be viewed at wyshs.org. 

Projects are about Wyoming history, Jording said, and they aren’t created with the intent to be entered into the awards program. They are done for other reasons, and it’s the job of the local historical society to be aware of historical projects that are being done, review them and decide which ones to nominate.

Projects of students, who make up a large number of the awards, may start out as a class assignment, and Jording keeps in touch with teachers and reviews the projects. 

Nonstudent awards categories include fiction and nonfiction books, audio visual projects, artwork, etc., and student categories include junior activities and young historian, within the age groups of elementary, middle and high school. There are also a number of special awards, which are quite an honor, Jording said. The Anna Miller Museum took home one such award – the Mrs. Percy Metz Memorial Award – for its “restoration and preservation of the photograph collection of Newcastle High School Graduating Classes.” 

Jording said he enjoys his job as the awards chairman, and he said it’s a pleasure to look over various projects and he sometimes learns things he never knew before.

“It’s refreshing to see the students’ interests,” Jording said, noting that he especially loves seeing the different topics students choose to discuss. 

It’s important to know history, specifically the history of one’s own state, Jording said, and young people need to be educated too. Jording grew up in Wyoming, and he said that he still remembers his fourth grade teacher and the impression she left on him with her teaching of Wyoming history. 

“That’s our job as the Weston County Historical Society too,” he said. 

In addition, winning awards is an honor that greatly impacts students, Jording said, and many students remember the accomplishment for a long time. 

“It is tremendous recognition for these students,” Jording said. 

Hannah Gross, homeschooled senior and intern at the News Letter Journal, won first place in the junior activities category, grades 9-12, with her writings on Newcastle City Hall, part of the History on Main Series in the News Letter Journal. The six-week series recounted the history of Newcastle’s City Hall. 

Something that peaked Gross’ interest was how many times city hall was moved, located at different sites around town at different times in the past. A fence also once surrounded around the building to keep animals and cattle out, which Gross thought was an amusing fact. 

Gross has been writing the History on Main section of the paper for about a year and a half, she said, and she works with local historian Leonard Cash. Cash gives her his notes and research on historical buildings, and she writes it up into a story. 

“It gives something educational for the community,” Gross said. “You can always learn from history.”

Weston County also boasts some young award winners. Fifth graders Anika Oleson and TJ Harrington both won first place in their categories with their projects on Native Americans that they did for Laura Giesler’s Wyoming history class last year. Oleson won in the young historian category, grades 3-5, with her “Native Americans of the Plains” project, and Harrington won in the junior activities category, grades 3-5, with his “Welcome to My Indian Village” project. 

Oleson did a research paper and display board, and she said she enjoyed learning about all the interesting facts about Native Americans. They used every single part of the buffalo, she said, and they even used the tongue for a hairbrush. 

“It was one of my favorite subjects,” Oleson said. The Oleson family even has teepee rings and other artifacts on their land, and they enjoy finding interesting relics. 

Oleson’s parents, Justin and Novi, are excited that Oleson won such an award, they said, and Justin said that learning history is an invaluable tool. 

“I think the kids need to know where they grew up,” he said. 

Harrington has a unique interest in Native American history because he is part Sioux. He is also related to Billy Mills, a Native American who was a runner and won a gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Billy Mills is the great uncle of Brenda Sewell, Harrington’s grandmother. 

TJ put together a display of an Indian village and all the different parts of it. He was intrigued to discover that each village had specific designated spots for horses, teepees and other aspects of the village. 

Kealear and Misty, TJ’s parents, are proud of his hard work and interest in the history that shaped Wyoming. 

“Wyoming history was one of his favorite subjects, so I’m glad to see his hard work and eagerness to learn history paid off,” Misty said. “TJ comes from a large family of Native Americans, and he has been very interested in the history of our people. I think it’s important for kids to know their heritage.”


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