Mysteries of Yellowstone Lake Prehistory

The Yellowstone Gateway Museum hosts “Mysteries of Yellowstone Lake Prehistory,” a program given by anthropology professor Doug MacDonald and archaeologist Elaine Hale on Thursday, February 20, 6:30 PM, at the Livingston-Park County Library, 228 W. Callender, in Livingston. MacDonald and Hale will present findings of the University of Montana and Yellowstone National Park’s archaeological fieldwork at Yellowstone Lake over the last three years. This is a rescheduled program that was originally slated in February.

The University of Montana and Yellowstone fieldworkers have conducted excavations at numerous sites around Yellowstone Lake, helping archaeologist better understand Native American use of America’s largest high-elevation lake. In a fascinating PowerPoint program, MacDonald and Hale will provide answers to such questions as: How long have Native Americans used the lake? Which tribes used the lake during prehistory? Were there particular areas of the lake that were preferred by Native Americans? Did they fish at Yellowstone Lake? Did Native Americans use boats at Yellowstone Lake? What role did bears play in the lives of native peoples at the lake?

From Yellowstone Archaeology: Southern Yellowstone, edited by MacDonald and Hale and published by the University of Montana, “The prehistory of Yellowstone National Park is rich, dating back more than 10,000 years. To date, Osprey Beach is the oldest archaeological site in the park. This site, located on Yellowstone Lake’s West Thumb, contains a record of prehistoric occupation that is unparalleled in southern Yellowstone.” The book states that there are many other sites around the lake that give evidence of ancient prehistoric use of the lake and southern Yellowstone; so far, archaeologists have identified 285 sites.

Doug MacDonald is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Montana. Elaine Hale is an Archaeologist for the Yellowstone Center for Resources at Yellowstone National Park. They have spent the better part of the last decade studying the prehistory of Yellowstone. MacDonald obtained his graduate degrees from Washington State University, while Elaine Hale received her degree from the University of Montana. Much of their Yellowstone research can be found in their 2-part volume entitled Yellowstone Archaeology, published by the University of Montana.

This program helps dispel the myth that native peoples avoided Yellowstone National Park because of their fear of the geyser regions. In the early history of the park, managers perpetuated this belief in order to promote tourism in the world’s first national park.
The program is free and refreshments are provided.

This is the third program of the Yellowstone Gateway Museum’s Spring Speaker Series. The next program, Stories of the Medical Profession in Park County, features Dr. Lindsay Baskett and Registered Nurse Betty Lahren, and is held on Thursday, May 15. The final program, Yellowstone’s Fossil Forests, is presented by photographer Lee Silliman on May 28. Stay tuned for more details.

Please call 406-222-4184, for more information about this and other programs that the museum offers.