Westminster Expedition Students in the Open American West

During the 2017 Fall Semester, 14 students, two professors, and a program coordinator will load books, camping gear, and themselves into a couple of vans and hit the road for a semester-long tour of the American West.

The trip is designed as an exploration into the issues at the heart of the contemporary West. Students will earn 16 credits in environmental studies and history as they study Environmental Cooperation and Conflict, Landscape and Meaning, the History of Public Lands, and the Native West.

This prolonged journey into the field will allow us to learn directly from landscapes and ecosystems, as well as from people who live, work, and study in those places. Together, we expect to build a cohort of impassioned scholars with a particular breadth and depth of experiential knowledge who are equipped to build a better future for the West.

We will visit iconic, protected sites like Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, contentious places like the Little Bighorn and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, working landscapes like the Butte Copper Mines, and communities from present-day Native nations to "New West" towns like Bend, Twisp, and Moab.

Meet the Expedition

Learn More About the Students and Faculty on the Expedition

Read the Latest Journal Entry

Little Bighorn Monument

September 5, 2017

Alex Bochner

As the Expedition crew was walking around the cemetery, I was drawn to a particular headstone chiseled with black lettering which contrasted to the standard white lettering of the other graves. The name read "George Curley Old Elk - PVT, US Army World War II".

A few days prior, we were at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and were given the opportunity to have Hunter Old Elk as our guide through the Plains Indian Museum, and so I reached out to her through an Instagram direct message to see if she had any relation to George.

Hunter responded to my message saying that George Curley Old Elk was her great grandfather who was raised by Curley, the crow scout for General George Armstrong Custer, who led the 7th Cavalry.

Meeting Hunter so recently and learning about the connection she has with the Battle of Little Bighorn goes to show how relevant Western history still is with people living today. This reality makes it important to know and study the past the modern day.

I am so grateful Hunter provided us an atmosphere to ask personal and controversial questions about her culture and family as native people. She made it very easy to learn and understand about the absence of women in history, while also explaining their importance and contributions.

As we visit more historical sites through the West, I hope we will be able to develop more intimate connections with the people we meet and gain unique perspectives.

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Expedition in the News

Two people on a canoe
Group of Students around Campfire

The Route

Our proposed route is an enormous figure eight, heading northwest first (because of potential early winter weather) and including Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Course-related sites include sites of environmental/cultural conflict or cooperation (e.g., Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; East Tavaputs Plateau tar sands; Klamath River dams; the Berkeley Pit, the Nevada Test Site, Owens Lake); National Parks (e.g., Yellowstone, North Cascades, Olympic, Redwood, Grand Canyon, Great Basin); wilderness areas (e.g., Bob Marshall, Glacier Peak); Native nations and sites (e.g., Burns Paiute, Coast Salish, Miwok, the Nez Perce trail, Colville, Pyramid Lake, Hopi); dam sites (e.g., Teton, Grand Coulee, Hoover, Hetch Hetchy, Snake River); and relevant towns/cities (e.g., Bozeman, Bend, Cody, Moab, Winthrop, Page).

Expedition Route

Course Descriptions


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