Westminster Expedition Students in the Open American West

During the 2017 Fall Semester, 14 students, two professors, and a program coordinator will load books, camping gear, and themselves into a couple of vans and hit the road for a semester-long tour of the American West.

The trip is designed as an exploration into the issues at the heart of the contemporary West. Students will earn 16 credits in environmental studies and history as they study Environmental Cooperation and Conflict, Landscape and Meaning, the History of Public Lands, and the Native West.

This prolonged journey into the field will allow us to learn directly from landscapes and ecosystems, as well as from people who live, work, and study in those places. Together, we expect to build a cohort of impassioned scholars with a particular breadth and depth of experiential knowledge who are equipped to build a better future for the West.

We will visit iconic, protected sites like Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, contentious places like the Little Bighorn and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, working landscapes like the Butte Copper Mines, and communities from present-day Native nations to "New West" towns like Bend, Twisp, and Moab.

Meet the Expedition

Learn More About the Students and Faculty on the Expedition

Read the Latest Journal Entry

Bears Ears

December 15, 2017

Madi Williams

Do you stand with Bears Ears National Monument? I thought that I did until I visited it. Now I do more than ever. If you live in the Sugar House area you have definitely seen little black signs in front of houses saying "I stand with Bears Ears" and "Protect Bears Ears". As a new resident in Salt Lake City I heard about the controversy with privatizing this public land. I believe in the importance of public land and I thought, sure I support this.

This issue goes so much deeper than many of us non-natives can fathom. Trump wants to dramatically shrink Bears Ears which is filled with tens of thousands of archeological sites, rock art, and other precious historical artifacts that need to be preserved. This red rock landscape contains deeply rooted spiritual and cultural connections that nearby natives still hold close and practice today. The Westminster Expedition had the opportunity to talk to some of the natives of San Juan county this week. Jonah, a Navajo elder, took our group to the top of Bears Ears. He sat down and let the sand run through his rough hands. He felt the sagebrush and bright yellow fallen leaves as he explained the importance of this land. "This is our stronghold, this is our whole life. This sacred spot has served as a coming of age platform for generations," he said. It is clear that Trump doesn't care about protecting native lands and has interests in mining and drilling here.

This experience has sparked an inner dialogue within myself. What can we do to resist? What can we do to be an ally? Can we live in a world for once where the colonizers don't always win? I want this to be a symbol for future justice fighters that collective effort support and compassion can be successful. I believe the first step is to learn the laws. The current administration is making it clear that the Antiquities Act of 1906 has a loophole that is being exploited for purposes not intended by the writers. It is important that when we talk to people about this we must not dwell on the controversy of it but why this is significant. It is easy to get so caught up in the controversy of a movement that the shift of why there is a fight goes out of focus.

If you want to be an ally visit bearsearscoalition.org. You can sign up for updates on this issue and even donate to stand the fight against this precious sacred land. You can make a difference.

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Expedition in the News

Two people on a canoe
Group of Students around Campfire

The Route

Our proposed route is an enormous figure eight, heading northwest first (because of potential early winter weather) and including Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Course-related sites include sites of environmental/cultural conflict or cooperation (e.g., Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; East Tavaputs Plateau tar sands; Klamath River dams; the Berkeley Pit, the Nevada Test Site, Owens Lake); National Parks (e.g., Yellowstone, North Cascades, Olympic, Redwood, Grand Canyon, Great Basin); wilderness areas (e.g., Bob Marshall, Glacier Peak); Native nations and sites (e.g., Burns Paiute, Coast Salish, Miwok, the Nez Perce trail, Colville, Pyramid Lake, Hopi); dam sites (e.g., Teton, Grand Coulee, Hoover, Hetch Hetchy, Snake River); and relevant towns/cities (e.g., Bozeman, Bend, Cody, Moab, Winthrop, Page).

Expedition Route

Course Descriptions

Follow the Expedition's Progress