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Bronte Wittpenn / The Billings Gazette

New West Daily Roundup for Nov. 7, 2016

Today in New West news: Crow language teaching “from the ground up,” USGS to study Yellowstone’s plumbing from the air, and wind news in Colorado and Wyoming.

One of the most interesting political developments in the Rocky Mountain West across the years has been the uptick in indigenous language education. Indeed, the issue has enjoyed increased visibility over the years, between events like the Stabilizing Indigenous Language Symposium and the establishment of places like the Crow Summer Institute, a language immersion summer camp hosted on the Crow Reservation.

Meanwhile, indigenous language teaching during the school year continues to edge toward more immersive practices, such as at Crow Agency Elementary School, according to the Billings Gazette:

Teachers at the small elementary school on the Crow Reservation have informally incorporated Apsaalooke into their lessons for years. But this is the first year the school is coordinating a cohesive approach, anchored by a kindergarten immersion class.

“I started off with their background knowledge,” said kindergarten teacher Lavonna Real Bird. “That’s very important.”


The language learning level in Real Bird’s classroom mirrors kindergarten content. Students sing songs for numbers, months, and days of the week in both English and Crow, swaying just-counted fingers. Math lessons are taught first in Crow, then repeated in English. Reading instruction occurs in English, but everything else is in Crow.

As students practice numbers in Crow, they also work on addition problems. They go over body parts on a diagram with things labeled in Crow.

“Some people think, just talk to them,” Cummins said. “(But) language acquisition is different from language instruction. We don’t just wing it. We need to treat it like any other content area.”

Indeed, the divide between formal (i.e. “professional”) teaching and more informal methods (such as those employed at a school on the Leach Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota; one of the school’s cofounders, Leslie Harper, spoke at the SIL Symposium earlier this year, calling for a repudiation of “ideas of what the American public school system wants us to do”). Jioanna Carjuzaa, a professor at Montana State University, told the Gazette she believes all teachers need training—even if they’re teaching material traditionally spurned by the public school system.

A little further south, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists from the agency (along with reps from the University of Wyoming and Denmark’s Aarhus University) will be conducting helicopter electromagnetic and magnetic (HEM) surveys of Yellowstone National Park throughout the month of November. The purpose? To get a behind-the-scene’s look at Yellowstone’s vast hydrothermal system. From the USGS:

Although the park’s iconic hydrothermal systems are well mapped at the surface, their subsurface groundwater flow systems are almost completely unknown. The HEM survey, operated by SkyTEM, will provide the first subsurface view of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal systems, tracking the geophysical signatures of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, steam vents and hydrothermal explosion craters to depths in excess of 1,000 feet.

A low flying helicopter, about 200 feet above the ground’s surface, will travel along pre-planned flight grids focusing on the Mammoth-Norris corridor, Upper and Lower Geyser Basins and the northern part of Yellowstone Lake. An electromagnetic system, resembling a giant hula hoop, will be suspended from the helicopter’s base. The equipment senses and records tiny voltages that can be related to the ground’s electrical conductivity.

These observations, combined with existing geophysical, geochemical, geological and borehole data, will help close a major knowledge gap between the surface hydrothermal systems and the deeper magmatic system. For example, research shows that the hot water spurting from Yellowstone’s geysers originates as old precipitation, snow and rain that percolates down into the crust, is heated and ultimately returns to the surface. This process takes hundreds if not thousands of years. Little, however, is currently known about the paths taken by the waters.

The data collected from the flight will guide future ground-based geological, hydrological and geophysical studies.

Down in Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, a new wind farm will commence operations outside Pueblo, per the farm’s owner, South Dakota-based Black Hills Corp. Peak View Wind, a 60-megawatt project, was purchased from Invenergy Wind Development Colorado LLC for $109 million. From the DBJ:

“The Peak View Wind Project will help provide customers with a cost-effective solution toward fulfillment of Colorado’s renewable energy requirement that 30 percent of customers’ electricity usage comes from renewable resources by 2020,” said Linn Evans, president and chief operating officer of Black Hills Corp, in a statement.

In October 2015, the Denver Business Journal reported that Peak View Wind project was approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The wind project includes 34 turbines on about 31,000 acres in Huerfano and Las Animas counties.

Finally, over in Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Business Report, Medicine Bow-based Viridis Eolia, LLC has announced a Master Plan for a 1,870-megawatt multi-phase wind farm in Carbon County. The project will use Goldwind America’s 2.5 MV and 3.0 MW PMDD wind turbines; Goldwind, China’s largest turbine maker, is a subsidiary of Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co., Ltd. From the WBR:

Viridis Eolia, LLC, a Wyoming corporation headquartered in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, is a renewable energy developer for owning and operating renewable energy facilities in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 2010 Viridis has been advancing an 1,870 MW facility called the Viridis Eolia Master Plan, a phased wind energy development located in Shirley Basin, WY, which will deliver competitive wind energy to the Western Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) markets, including California. To learn more, visit

The first standalone project of 32.5 megawatts will be developed by Little Medicine Bow Wind S, LLC, and is expected to be commercially operational in 2017. The Viridis Eolia Master Plan’s subsequent phased projects will be commencing operations in years 2018 through 2022.

“Viridis has selected Goldwind as exclusive supplier of its PMDD wind turbines and provider of long-term operations and maintenance services to our wind projects in Wyoming,” stated Juan Carlos Carpio Delfino, CEO of Viridis. “These projects will be one of the most important wind energy developments in North America, serving the Western U.S. energy markets, and will bring substantial economic support to the state of Wyoming for years to come.”

“We are extremely excited to partner with Viridis on this great opportunity to deliver wind energy to the Western U.S. and bring significant economic activity to Wyoming,” Halligan said.

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