Ken Egan Poster

racism in America, Charleston Shootings, race and reconciliation

Sorry Candles in Canberra, National Day of Healing February 13, 2008.

Our intern Shauni Tighe is from Australia and studying Indigenous relations at Montana State University. Her blog post here shares how Australia has dealt with its dark history with its Indigenous people and how efforts towards reconciliation have made a difference.

In light of the recent racial tensions and debates in American society a lot of questions have been raised as to how America can ease this problem. Being an Australian here has been an interesting experience. I’ve gotten many questions lately on why Australia isn’t having the same issues. While Australia certainly has its share of racial tension with the Indigenous Australians, the question was put to me; How has Australia decreased its racial tension in society? What have we done there that America could look at and take note of?

Similar to the United State’s Indigenous people, Indigenous Australians were subject to the European thought of ‘civilization’ and treated as British subjects with no rights to land. Upon Britain’s first landing the ideas of Social Darwinism and the Great Chain of Being were used in Australia and the Indigenous communities were subject to discriminatory laws that would see them lose their homes, their families and their culture. Children were taken from their mothers (Stolen Generation) and adults were required to sever all ties with other family members and their way of life in order to classify as an Australian Citizen and have a chance of surviving in the new (White) European Australia (Dog Tag Policy).

Ever since these atrocities were committed contemporary Australian society has been trying to make amends with the Indigenous community and find a way to ease racial tensions within society.
Socially Australia has seen such initiatives as the National Sorry Day, now known as the National Day of Healing, which was first held on the 26th May 1998 and saw over 24,000 Australian’s sign their name to Sorry books for the atrocities that had been committed, especially the removal of the Aboriginal children. These books were presented to the Indigenous Communities and the National Sorry Day became and annual event. There are also such initiatives as Reconciliation Australia, which works to educate people in schools, workplaces and communities to remove stereotypes and discrimination, and NAIDOC week, which occurs each July and dedicates the week to the recognition and celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Legally and Politically, the road to reconciliation has not always been as smooth. Within the legal systems of Australia steps have been trialed to help the Aboriginal community cope with the laws they were now subject to, this involved applying Indigenous Customary law, rather than Western Common law, however this was advised against in 1986 by the Australia Law Reform Commission that found issues of fairness for the non-indigenous too great to overcome. There are however some adjustments that can, and have been made, such as community elders sitting in on certain cases to advise magistrates for sentencing.

Politically, Indigenous issues have been on a rollercoaster since the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1992 Primer Minister Keating acknowledged the wrongdoing of the Australian government by the taking of Indigenous children from their mothers in the Redfern Address. Four years later however in 1996 the Howard Government overturned this acknowledgement and denied that any damage had been done to the communities affected. Finally on the 13th February 2008 the issue was again brought forward in the Australian parliament, this time by new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who chose to apologize on behalf of the Australian Government. Since then legal claims for monetary reparation, as well as land title claims were brought forward to the courts and have been ongoing ever since.

In my opinion simply the acknowledgement of wrongdoing by the Australian Government proved to ease the racial tensions within Australian society and provided us with that first step that is required toward reconciliation.

For more information on Australia’s social and political reforms please see some of these links:

Shauni Tighe

So what do you think? Do you see some solutions here? Let us know your thoughts below. Lets get a dialogue going about what practical solutions might look like!

Dire Graphic

Collectively we have agreed to tolerate an enormous amount of racism in our everyday lives and environment. Racist images glare at us from our currency, our sports stadiums and even the flagpoles of our state capitals and yet we pass them by every day not even conscious of the messages these images send to those people oppressed by their meanings. We also agree to tolerate radical distortions in the stories of our history which aid in supporting these symbols by misinterpreting, rationalizing and justifying their meanings and state-sanctioned existence. Furthermore, the true stories of the past which would reveal the darker, racist meanings of these symbols are often denied. They aren’t told in our classrooms, addressed in our media or brought up in our public discourse. Such denial further perpetuates the racism which has been institutionalized in our mutually agreed upon, cultural landscape.

But consider the oppression these images cause for those whose ancestors suffered from their existence. Can you imagine what it would be like for a Jewish person to encounter a swastika on a flag flown over a public building? Yet everyday African Americans encounter the Confederate Flag flying over the South Carolina State Capital, a flag that literally reflects their ancestor’s enslavement and symbolizes their current struggle for acceptance and equality.
Every day Native Americans see the face of Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill, a man whose annihilation policies aimed at destroying the Native American population and whose Indian Removal along the Trail of Tears caused the deaths of four thousand Cherokee people and the untold suffering of many more. Jackson’s Indian policy influenced Hitler who also believed annihilation was the best policy for Germany. What message is his image on our currency saying to our Native citizens of this country?

Native people also see their ancestors ridiculed in the images of sports teams like the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians. These images permeate our culture on t-shirts, mugs, merchandise as well as splashed across TV screens across the country. Every day Indian children have to face these symbols meant to denigrate their heritage.

The time has come to re-evaluate these symbols and put them to rest. What purposes do they serve us that override the destruction they do to the cultural identity of our fellow citizens? It is our duty, collectively, to no longer tolerate them on our landscape. We must first be aware of them, then we must take action against them. Wouldn’t it be great to have institutionalized symbols that uplift all of us? Can we find new images to replace these archaic racist symbols that unite us rather than divide us? We can make it happen if we agree to Dismantle Institutionalized Racism Everywhere!

walking tour logo

Friday, June 12, 6pm

Join the Extreme History Project for a walking tour of Bozeman’s North Tracy Historic District on Friday at 6pm. The tour will start in front of the Beall Park Recreation Center located at 415 N. Bozeman Ave. The homes along this stretch of North Tracy Avenue illustrate the extensive residential development that occurred north of Main Street. These homes reflect a mixture of nineteenth-century vernacular forms and later bungalows that span from the 1890s through the 1920s. The historic district offers a cross-section of earlier more elaborate homes, vernacular house forms, and later bungalows that sheltered the working backbone of Bozeman’s economy. This cohesive and well-defined neighborhood is today a vital remnant of Bozeman’s early history. Tours are $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children 12 and under. You can register and pay at the time of the tour. For additional information visit our website at For questions email the Extreme History Project at  

Sunday, June 14, 10am

Join the Extreme History Project for a walking tour of Bozeman’s historic Main Street on Sunday at 10am. The tour will start at Soroptimist Park located at the corner of Main and Rouse streets. Put on your walking shoes and explore Bozeman’s historic Main Street with tour guide, Charlie Spray. Learn about Bozeman’s early history through the historic architecture and people that founded our unique town. Tours are $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children 12 and under. You can register and pay at the time of the tour. For additional information visit our website at For questions email the Extreme History Project at  

Sunday, June 14, 2pm

Join the Extreme History Project for a walking tour of Bozeman’s historic Sunset Hills Cemetery on Sunday at 2pm. The early residents of Bozeman laid their loved ones to rest, overlooking the town that their toil and labor helped establish. Join us to learn about Bozeman’s early movers and shakers and the stories that make up the town’s historical narrative. Meet at the entrance to Sunset Hills Cemetery located off of East Main Street directly south of Lindley Park. Tours are $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children 12 and under. You can register and pay at the time of the tour. For additional information visit our website at For questions email the Extreme History Project at   

Wednesday, June 17, 12pm 

Join the Extreme History Project for a walking tour of Bozeman’s historic Bon Ton District on Wednesday at 12pm. The tour will start on the front steps of the Emerson Cultural Center located at 111 S. Grand Avenue. Historian, Bob Lease, will guide you through Bozeman’s finest examples of historic residential architecture spanning from the early 1880′s to the mid-1930s. The Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and other styles are well represented in the district. Many houses display towers, wrap-around porches, and elaborate ornamentation in brick and wood. Bob will tell the story of Bozeman’s early residents through the houses they built at a time when Bozeman was vying for the State Capital. Tours are $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children 12 and under. You can register and pay at the time of the tour. For additional information visit our website at For questions email the Extreme History Project at

Blood on the Marias:  The Baker Massacre

On January 23, 1870, when the temperatures were well below zero, troops of the 2nd Cavalry led by an inebriated Major Eugene Baker came out of Fort Ellis to brutally massacred an innocent band of Piegan Indians encamped on the Marias River in the Montana Territory.  This presentation will focus on what led up to the massacre, including the early formation of a Montana Militia under Governor Thomas Francis Meagher, and the following movement of the U. S. Army into Montana to establish Camp Cooke on the Missouri River and then Fort Ellis near Bozeman and Fort Shaw on the Sun River. The lecture will explore the early targeting by the white settlers and the military of Mountain Chief and his band of Piegans, and it will go into the interactions of the Generals William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip Sheridan, Winfield Hancock and Regis DeTrobriand in planning the attack, and the opposition of General Alfred Sully who was assigned to the Interior Department at the time. Despite the planning to strike Mountain Chiefs band, it was the peaceful band of Chief Heavy Runner that was mistakenly attacked. The presentation will also discuss the killing of Malcolm Clark which precipitated the event, and the involvement of the fur traders and the whiskey trade as a relevant factor.


Set atop a peaceful overlook, Bozeman’s historic Sunset Cemetery offers a panoramic view of downtown while each evening’s sunset reflects the nature of its quiet inhabitants. The early residents of Bozeman laid their love ones to rest in this sanctified ground overlooking the town that their toil and labor helped establish. Bozeman’s early movers and shakers rest here along with others whose stories make up the town’s historical narrative.

Here you will find the Story family plot where Bozeman’s most notorious resident, Nelson Story is laid to rest alongside his family. John Bozeman, the man for whom the town is name is interred there as well and that’s an interesting story . . .

The wife of England’s “Lord” William Blackmore is also here. Blackmore came to tour Yellowstone with his wife Mary in the late 1800s. Mary fell ill while Blackmore ventured into the Yellowstone. She died while he was away and was interred here under a very unique headstone.

The markers and gravestones reflect the immense diversity of the early residents of Bozeman who braved the arduous journey west. Their hard labor and strong sense of community held Bozeman together through its leanest times.

Join us for a walking tour of the historic Sunset Hills Cemetery


Sundays at 2pm – May 31 – until the end of September, 2015

Tours are $7 for the general public, $5 for students and seniors, free for children under 12

Meet your tour guide, Jessica Jones at the entrance to Sunset Hills Cemetery off of East Main Street directly south of Lindley Park. Register for the tour with the form below and you may pay with cash or check at the time of the tour, or with a credit card using the button at the bottom of the page. You can also purchase tickets from the tour guide at the time of the tour.

We will add you to our list and look forward to meeting you for the tour!

For tour dates and times, click here

Click here for a list of all tours

Sorry to report that our lecture this evening has been cancelled. Our speaker is ill. We will definitely be rescheduling, so be sure and check back for that date. Sending wishes for a speedy recovery to Ellen!!

Chinese in Montana:  Our Forgotten Pioneers with Ellen Baumler Thursday, May 21st at 6pm in the Hager Auditorium at the Museum of the Rockies