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NWC News Desk

Monday, Oct. 26, "Heart Mountain as Home" brings cultural perspective to familiar landmark

Posted October 15, 2009

POWELL, Wyo. - The silhouette of Heart Mountain changes depending on where it's viewed from, just as the stories and legends about it change depending on whose history they're told from. Mary Keller, a native Wyomingite, will discuss the iconic landmark's many cultural symbolisms in a 7 p.m. program Monday, Oct. 26, in Room 70 of the Fagerberg Building at Northwest College in Powell.

Keller has compiled oral histories of Heart Mountain and other cultural landmarks across Wyoming with assistance from the Cody Institute for Western American Studies, an initiative of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

In her program, she'll talk about the many ways human history has trekked the mountain, starting with early natives who followed animal trails and eventually battled each other on its eastern side. She'll share the story of why the Crows called it Four Top's Father, and the reason it came to be an orienting point for travelers.

The landmark's symbolism took on a new dimension when Japanese-Americans were interned near it during World War II. Keller said this newer emblematic meaning will endure with the presence of a new memorial center.

By recognizing the mountain's many metaphors, Keller said viewers can understand how its diverse meanings actually serve as a unifying message for the icon.

"We're going to have to realize not one Heart Mountain, but many," Keller said. "It's how we belong together in the 21st century that interests me."

Keller, who was raised in Wyoming, received her doctoral degree from Syracuse University and taught five years at the University of Stirling in Scotland before returning home to the Big Horn Basin. She is an online adjunct for the African American Studies Program and Religious Studies Program at the University of Wyoming and continues to teach and write about world religions.

In 2002, she published "The Hammer and the Flute: Women, Power and Spirit Possession" through Johns Hopkins University Press and edited "Re-cognizing W. E. B. Du Bois in the 21st Century" in 2007 with Mercer University Press. Her articles have addressed race, gender and religious identities.

Keller said her next manuscript will explore the souls of Wyoming, beginning with study of indigenous place names and the contemporary relationship between settler and Native American communities. She also writes a weekly column in the Cody Enterprise on progressive rural community development, titled "Looking Backward and Moving Forward."  She lives in Cody with her husband and two children.

Admission is free to Keller's presentation, sponsored by the Northwest College Multicultural Events Series.