P O W E L L, W y o. - Jeremy Johnston, an assistant professor of history at Northwest College, was in Oklahoma City, Okla., last weekend to receive the Westerners International 2007 Coke Wood Award at the fall meeting of the Western History Association
The award, honoring the late Coke Wood, goes to the best published monograph or article dealing with Western American history based on individual research, personal knowledge or family records. Johnston won the award for a paper he presented in 2006 at the eighth biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Nestled in a lineup of conference presenters whose topics addressed watershed management strategy, invasive plant monitoring, remote sensing of rock glaciers and the like, Johnston took the conference attendees back to Yellowstone's earliest political days in his paper titled "Progressivism Comes to Yellowstone: Theodore Roosevelt and Professional Land Management Agencies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem."
As fragile as the Yellowstone ecosystem is currently, Johnston reminded his audience of a time in history when it was even more vulnerable because the nation's voting process didn't use secret ballots. As a result, the "spoils system" allowed elected government officials to appoint their political supporters to important posts, regardless of their lack of qualifications.
Johnston creates an image not often associated with the first national park, a picture that includes logging, stage coach robberies, cavalry patrols and Theodore Roosevelt's efforts to bring accountability to national government and civil service. Click here to read his paper online (page 22 of the "F-K Speakers link), or for other writings by Johnston that connect Roosevelt and the West.
Johnston's writings have been published in Readings of Wyoming History, The George Wright Forum, Yellowstone Science, and various regional newspapers. In addition, he has appeared as a Wyoming Council for the Humanities speaker in a number of Wyoming communities. He continues to research Theodore Roosevelt's connections to Yellowstone and the West after writing a thesis on the topic while in pursuit of his master's degree in history at the University of Wyoming.
Johnston's paper was nominated for the prestigious award by the Pahaska Corral, the local chapter of Westerners International. Juti Winchester, another member of the group and a curator at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, was also nominated. She placed second in the Danielson Award category for best presentation to a Westerners group with her talk on Margaret McCormick.
According to their Web site, the purpose of Westerners International is "fun and scholarship related to the American frontier West."
Johnston invites Big Horn Basin residents who are interested in western history to attend presentations by the Pahaska Corral, the local chapter of the Westerners International. He said a quote by the late historian Ray Allen Billington applies to all meetings: "Westerners share a dislike for stuffed-shirtism, over-seriousness, shiftless thinking, and above all ignorance."
The Pahaska Corral meets for a 6 p.m. dinner at the Sunset House in Cody on the fourth Monday of the month. Their programs, which are free and open to the public, generally begin between 7-7:30 p.m.