My name is Brian Gendron, and I am interning at the new “Comanchero Canyons” museum in Quitaque, TX through Ogalla Commons. I am a graduate student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, and am currently working on a master’s degree in museum science, with a focus in heritage management more specifically. I am of Nakoda-Cree and Metis descent, which are Plains Indian cultural groups associated mostly with Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana, and North Dakota. I make traditional male arts, like stone clubs, bows and arrows, horse quirts, pipestems, and the like, but also engage in some more traditionally women’s associated arts as well, like beadwork, quillwork, parfleche-making, and jewelry. (Maybe in another blog I’ll post some of my creations…) In addition, I have also been studying the Nakoda language and some Cree as well. With these pursuits, I have been involved in public education about Plains Indian cultures for some time, doing programs and demonstrations at Caprock Canyons, the Center of the West in Cody, WY, and Lubbock Lake Landmark to name a few. For a time, and prior to my affiliation with the university, I was moving furniture and trying to make time for education in my spare moments, until, when chance came, I met some people from Texas Tech who pointed me in the direction of their Museum Science program. I found that as taxing as classes and homework could be at times, it sure beat moving furniture! Now, as I get ready to wind down my third semester, I am so happy that things took the turn that has led me to where I am today…
For those of you that may look at “Quitaque” quizzically, I will, at this time, inform you that colloquially it is pronounced “kitty-kway,” a fact that I was reminded of by some of the local residents in my first days of the internship. In Comanche, it literally means, “pile-of-buffalo-dung,” some of which can still be seen in the nearby Caprock Canyons State Park, courtesy of the state buffalo herd. Quitaque is a small town with frustratingly poor cell phone signal, one grocery store, and an extremely warm and generous community of local residents. While driving the scenic two hours from Lubbock to Quitaque may seem like a hassle, it offers a lot of time for contemplation and an appreciation for the almost completely level–but beautiful–scenery of West Texas. After emerging from the routine of a morning drive to the museum, an emergence often shared with that of the rising sun, the Comanchero Canyons museum provides an inviting opportunity for learning about this region that I lately call “home.”
The Comanchero Canyons museum is an interesting example of local history at work. While my university studies prepare me for work at a museum that the Greeks might term “museum-ness,” the Quitaque example illustrates what “real” museums are often like on the front lines… It is an institution that is really grass-roots in its origins, being composed of primarily locally-found collections uncovered by two town residents bent on preserving the history of their region. While I am certainly a historically-aware individual (I got my undergrad in history), my mental studies and wanderings tend to take me further north to Saskatchewan and Montana, the Quitaque community has inspired me through their extensive knowledge and study of the region that I now find myself in. In fact, I can scarcely drive in or out of the town without contemplating events that are portrayed and represented by the objects in the museum that have been found right outside many of the local residents’ doors. As I help to catalog new objects or discuss the history with museum-goers, I have begun to take a pride in the work that the community has done thus far, and am pleased that I have now become a part of the local history as well [albeit in a vary small way;)].
As my first blog comes to a close, I hope that you came away with some new tidbits of info, most importantly, how to pronounce “Quitaque.” If you are another intern, then I hope that your internships are going well also, and best of luck to anyone anywhere.