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Keywords:

  • Cheyenne Nation;
  • Oklahoma;
  • sacred sites;
  • Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

abstract.

Geographers have long attempted to interpret sacred and symbolic landscapes as representative of the ideals of individuals, communities, and cultures. This article assesses the changing historical and contemporary interpretations of the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site and gauges the impact of these conflicting viewpoints. The Washita Valley in western Oklahoma was the location of a November 1868 engagement between U.S. military forces commanded by George Custer and the Cheyenne camp of Black Kettle. Since that date, non-native narratives have dominated Washita interpretation. Today, plans are being developed to emphasize Cheyenne viewpoints of the Washita and to alter the commemorative landscape of the site in order to better present a balanced historical narrative to visitors. Since 1868 three themes have dominated interpretation of the Washita: conflict, indifference, and memorialization.