Natchez Trace Parkway Ranger Jane Farmer has received the 2013 National Park Service Freeman Tilden Award for interpretive excellence, the highest award a National Park Service Ranger can receive.
The award is presented to one Ranger each year in recognition of outstanding contributions to the public through interpretation by a National Park Service employee. Award nominees are judged for their creativity, originality, and positive contributions toward the public’s understanding of the National Park Service and the resources it protects.
The award was presented to Ranger Farmer last night during a ceremony at the annual National Association of Interpretation Conference in Reno, NV, by Julia Washburn, the National Park Service Associate Director for Interpretation, Education and Volunteers.
The honor recognizes Farmer for her role in connecting American Indian students to their ancestral homelands in the park. Farmer established formal partnerships with three tribal nations in order to provide in-depth park experiences for the students. She also worked with East Central University in Oklahoma to develop a new class for those involved in the project.
In August, students from the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma traveled to the park and spent a week researching genealogy, exploring the land, and working on educational projects, including a documentary video.
During their visit, the students met with area historians, representatives from the local Chickasaw Preserve, and members of the media. Farmer coordinated the activities for the week, and traveled with the group to assist with logistics and to introduce them to individual resource experts. She continues to work with the students as they develop materials related to the experience.
In the coming months, students from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians will also visit the park.
The project is a model that can be expanded to other national parks to provide youth with more opportunities to discover and connect to their own stories found within parks.
“Ranger Farmer has worked tirelessly to promote interpretation and education at the Natchez Trace Parkway and within the National Park Service, and this honor is well deserved” stated Acting Superintendent Dale Wilkerson. “We are very proud of her accomplishments and of our partnerships with the American Indian nations. This is the first time a Natchez Trace Interpreter has ever received this high honor and we celebrate with her in this national level recognition of outstanding work.”
The award is named for Freeman Tilden, the author of The National Parks: What They Mean to You and Me and Interpreting Our Heritage. Tilden’s philosophy and writings have had considerable influence on National Park Service interpretation and education programs.