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New York State Parks celebrates Native American Heritage Month with new staff initiatives, special programming


Wed, Nov 22nd 2023 06:20 pm

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced environmental educator and interpreter Yehehnakwáhstha? (pronounced yeh-heh-naw-gwaw-staw) Kim Hill has joined the bureau of historic sites staff as interpreter of Native American history. Hill, Tuscarora Beaver Clan, is from the Tuscarora Nation, near Niagara Falls. 

A press release stated, “Since her arrival in late 2022, Hill has worked closely with staff throughout the agency to establish a framework for incorporating Indigenous stories into historic interpretation and contemporary programming by initiating educational opportunities, providing guidance on projects, and creating a network of content experts. From reviewing and writing materials for exhibitions to hosting workshops and working with Indigenous artists to create interpretive illustrations, she is helping projects of all sizes reflect Our Whole History priorities and building the groundwork for sustainable successes.”

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “As we continue to activate the agency’s Our Whole History initiative, it is essential that we develop authentic ways to incorporate Indigenous stories into the interpretive work happening at our historic sites and parks. Kim has already been a tremendous resource and we value the passion and perspective she brings to all her projects.”

“I am excited to have the opportunity to be the representation I wish I had as a child growing up on the reservation,” Hill said. “I also look forward to illuminating the vast Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing at all our historic sites and parks.” 

The press release added, “Hill’s passion for interpretation, parks and increasing the visibility of Native American communities and cultures through representation and education will support OPRHP efforts to share a more complete and inclusive history with the public through the agency’s Our Whole History initiative. Her priorities will focus on creating Indigenous educational guides, developing interpretive materials, and providing guidelines around Indigenous resources, perspectives and consultations. Hill has already made an impact system-wide, by connecting parks staff with local Indigenous speakers and performers in their regions. Some of her current projects include facilitating the first Indigenous cultural awareness workshops across the state and Johnson Hall State Historic Site’s new visitor center exhibit.

“Hill brings a decade of experience of work and thought on the intersections of park systems, education, and Indigeneity. She is a graduate in natural resources management from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where she was a Fellow in the Indigenous Environmental Leaders for the Future program. She also completed the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at Northern Arizona University. During her studies, she had the opportunity to study, work and lead with Indigenous scholars and mentors. Prior to joining OPRHP, Hill traveled throughout New York as an environmental educator with the Student Conservation Association. She taught at state parks and Department of Environmental Conservation campgrounds and she was later headquartered at Saratoga Spa State Park. Throughout her career, Hill has continued to learn and share her culture, history, and traditions both on and off the reservation.”

Spanning 569 acres, Ganondagan (ga·NON·da·gan) is the original site of a 17th century Seneca town that existed there peacefully more than 350 years ago.

The press release explained, “The culture, art, agriculture and government of the Seneca people influenced our modern understanding of equality, democratic government, women’s rights, ecology and natural foods. Ganondagan’s full-size, Seneca Bark Longhouse is fully furnished to reflect a typical Seneca family from the late 1600s, complete with reproductions of 17th century Seneca objects and colonial-era trade goods. The Seneca Art & Culture Center is a 17,300-square-foot center that tells the story of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) contributions to art, culture and society. The grounds surrounding the center include two signed interpretive trails that educate visitors about the significance of plant life, Haudenosaunee culture, and history.”

For more information, visit parks.ny.gov.

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