Readers Respond to the January/February Issue

Your feedback on Yellowstone’s history, Reconstruction and more

Ancestral Lands

As a former Yellowstone seasonal employee, I often imagined Native peoples hunting or telling stories as nearby geysers whooshed and hot springs boiled (“The Lost History of Yellowstone”). In your article, when Shane Doyle proposed a living history encampment of tribal college students in Yellowstone to educate visitors about these original inhabitants, I recalled George Catlin, America’s artistic chronicler of vanishing Native nations in the 1830s. Catlin suggested decades before Yellowstone’s establishment that the government set aside a “Nations Park” with Native Americans displaying their skills and lifestyle. Catlin’s proposal and now Doyle’s would be quite an amazing addition to Yellowstone, provided it ensured education, not exploitation.

—Jim L. Thompson | Bozeman, Montana

Reckoning With Reconstruction

Thank you for your comprehensive and enlightening article about Joseph Hayne Rainey (“First in the House”). How could it be that as a 68-year-old, growing up middle class, public-schooled and college-educated, I was never exposed to this courageous man and his fellow reconstructionist activists until I read your article? We must integrate these stories into our history curriculum as early as possible.

—David M. Corbin | Poway, California

Learning a Trade

“Making the Nation” has a caption—“In the U.S., early apprenticeships perpetuated skills until child labor laws intervened”—that could leave the mistaken impression that apprenticeship is dependent upon child labor. As a retired union laborer, I am most proud of our labor-management apprenticeship programs. Some $1.5 billion is invested annually by the unionized construction industry in apprenticeship, conducted at over 1,900 training facilities. Apprenticeship is a valuable opportunity to join a high-paying occupation with benefits. It requires no student loans or tuition payments—simply the willingness to learn and work hard.

—Mike Matejka | Normal, Illinois

Alphabet Pioneers

I am impressed by the idea (“Inventing the Alphabet”) that “one of civilization’s most profound and most revolutionary intellectual creations came...from illiterate laborers, who usually get written out of history.” Ordinary seamen, slaves and serfs, travelers, midwives, religious laity and millions of others have advanced culture and yet have been similarly “written out of history.” Thank you for celebrating some of the unsung.

—Mallard W. Benton | Woodstock, Georgia

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This article is a selection from the March issue of Smithsonian magazine